By Tabora Bojang
Nineteen youth entrepreneurs including 13 women on Friday received grants ranging from D50,000 to D150,000 to improve or expand their businesses as winners of the National Business Plan Competition organised by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and partners International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Italian Cooperation and QGroup Foundation.
The young entrepreneurs are engaged in various business activities including agriculture, fashions, creative designing, IT and health. They were honoured at a colourful award ceremony held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Centre.
The National Business Plan Competition (BCP) also called “Kerr Jula Challenge” was launched in July 2022 to support youth entrepreneurs showcase their business plans and compete for grants as capital or supplementary funds to grow or start enterprises.
Some 450 applications were submitted in the competition with a panel of judges selected from entrepreneurs selecting 19 most relevant business projects as winners. The panel of judges took into consideration the entrepreneur’s business model, presentation skill, innovation and plans for using the funds to grow business.
However, the competition was also used to provide the applicants access to mentorship programmes, coaching, pitching, business motivations and other entrepreneurship tools to help them expand and thrive in the growing industry.
Commenting on the awards, GCCI CEO, Sarata Conateh, congratulated the winners and all contestants for positively contributing to The Gambia’s long-term economic vitality and for being inspirational role models for aspiring and upcoming entrepreneurs.
Ms Conateh, who is the first female CEO of GCCI in five decades, said entrepreneurship is key in building a vibrant economy and stated that chamber remains committed to ensure a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in The Gambia by providing opportunities to start-ups and small businesses to succeed and grow.
She added that the Kerr Jula Challenge has exposed the diverse entrepreneurial talents of the Gambian youths, who looked poised to expand their career options and ensure the country long-term economic vitality.
According to CEO Conateh, GCCI will strengthen efforts for more partnership, innovation and connect more entrepreneurs with policymakers and business support organisations to improve conditions of their businesses.
The GCCI president, Edrissa Mass Jobe, expressed his gratitude to the ILO, QGroup Foundation and the Italian Cooperation for generously giving funds and technical assistance to support the economic endeavours of youth entrepreneurs in The Gambia.
Sharing his wisdom with the youths, the veteran businessman said the greatest leaders in the world are not businessmen. “The greatest leaders, the ones I respect most are entrepreneurs and social change makers. Businessmen are profit focus, while entrepreneurs are solution focus. These are the drivers of economic growth and national development. My advice to you is to grow up and be leaders because leadership is the exclusive domain of the young since they have ideas, energy, emotions and the ingredients of good leadership,” Mr Jobe said.
The minister of youths and sports, Bakary Badjie, described the Kerr Jula Challenge as a laudable initiative worthy of commendation and support. He thanked GCCI and its partners for making it a success, and promised that government would continue to work on the enabling environment for businesses to strive, grow and expand.
“The private sector is the engine of economic growth and therefore regarded in job creation. Youth entrepreneurship is one of the ways to reduce the high unemployment rate and create economic independence for our young people that can enable them to be self-sustaining and to be able to contribute towards the growth of the economy. There is so much talent but very limited opportunities accorded to young people. I therefore wish to express the ministry’s continuous commitment in providing the support necessary through our enterprise development agency and also working with other agencies to create employment opportunities for our young people.”
Maura Pazzi of the Italian Cooperation commended the GCCI for supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in The Gambia while assuring of her organisation’s commitment for more partnerships to transform the lives of Gambian youths.
The award ceremony was attended by hosts of dignitaries from the business and diplomatic community including the UNDP resident representative in The Gambia Aïssata De.
The winners are: Ramatoulie Jallow – ITC, Ida Laye – Fashion, Fatoumatta D Jawo – Fashion, Mariama Sarge – Creative, Amie Simaha – Agriculture, Ousman Conteh – ITC, Adama Ndure – Agriculture, Ida Mendy – Creative, Muhammed Lamin Touray – Agriculture, Kebba Sanyang – Health, Mamie S Njie – Agriculture, Baboucarr Janko -Creative, Adama Jobe – Logistics, Omar Jabang – Agriculture, Maimuna Jallow – Creative, Ya Fatou Darboe – Fashion, Muhammed Ceesay – Agriculture, Haddy Kebbeh – Fashion and Isatou Badjie – Creative.