By Amadou M Jadama in URR
The Gambian Leader President Adama Barrow has called on youths of the country to come up with tangible and relevant actionable programmes and projects across the core thematic areas of the Nayconf.
He said this in a speech read on his behalf by Dawda Fadera, Secretary General and head of the civil service at the official opening of the 12th edition of the National Youth Conference and Festival (NAYCONF held in URR Basse.
NAYCONF is a biennial event which brings young people from all over the country to share their experiences and dilate issues that affect their lives and compete in sports.
The President said under the theme of this year’s evetnt ‘The New Gambia: Challenges and Opportunities for Youth, the youths are expected to come up with tangible and relevant actionable programmes and projects across the core thematic areas as set out in their programme of activities for this week.
He urged youths to share experience and best practices while exploring challenges with the view to turning them into opportunities for sustainable growth and national development.
“It is sad and shocking to note that given our size, global data from International Organisation for Migration and other international development agencies have shown that Gambians account for a substantial share of youth irregular migration to Europe in the last decade.
“This sad scenario is showing a rising number of our healthy and talented youths fleeing the country instead of staying and actively participating in nation building adding that they went out not only in search of greener pastures but also out of political and social frustration meted out by the previous regime.”
He said this situation, which has led to deaths of so many young people in the high seas and enslavement of many others, cost the country dearly.
“Over 70% of Gambia’s population is under 35 years of age. During the last two decades the youths of the country who resisted the fear and temptation to flee the country became largely victimized marginalized and traumatized,” said the Gambian leader.
According to him, some were used as political tools, some as thugs and the majority who resisted faced severe consequences including moving into exile, jailed and persecution.
President Barrow described the Nayconf event as special in many ways given that this is the first such conference organized by the youths of this country under the new democratic governance that the young people helped to install.
He noted that the rational for this important youth event commonly referred to as NaYConf is to among others foster understanding and cooperation among the youths and create awareness on the critical contribution of the youths in nation building and particularly the fight for restoration of democracy and good governance.
“This has been steady and inspiring and was clearly evident before, during and after the December 1, 2016 Presidential election,” he said.
He stated that the event invariably offers youth and the nation an opportunity to reflect on the young people’s critical roles, commitment and responsibilities in our drive for socioeconomic development.
“The week also serves as a platform for you as young people to communicate your ideas, contributions constraints and concerns relating to nation building and your welfare.”
He also explained that the current National Youth Policy (2009-2018) prioritizes and seeks to address economic empowerment and skills development, quality and relevant education for youths through uninterrupted cycle of education in such areas as youth in agriculture for employment and food security, youth irregular migration, youth in ICT among others.
“These are in line with identified Thematic Pillars of African Union Road Map aimed at harnessing the Demographic Dividends through Investment in Youths.”
He pointed out that 60 per cent of Africa’s population currently is 24 years and below.
He said this underscored the importance of ensuring the youths are placed at the centerpiece in the implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal.
He further noted that young people are not only representing the hope for the future of the Gambia but form the largest part of the population.
He said this is why it is important for the government, parents and partners to invest in youth especially in capacity building to enable them serve effectively as the channel of growth and prosperity.