By Omar Bah
Senior business and government functionaries, ex-GCCI chiefs and young entrepreneurs were among a glittering array of high-profile guests at the ground-breaking launch of the first Kerr Jula National Business Plan Competition (BPC) 2022.
The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Q-Group Thursday launched the National Business Plan Competition which falls under the ILO project – promoting formal enterprise and innovative entrepreneurship. The excitement over the introduction of this new competition was palpable at Thursday’s launch following years of transition at the GCCI.
The D1.5 million prize competition will attract 30 auditions, covering 7 regions, 500 contestants which will be reduced down to 35 through a competitive process whiles 19 winners will be awarded. Out of the 19 winners – 11 will win D50, 000 each, 5 will win D100, 000 and 3 will win D150, 000 each under the Japaleh Jula, Baati Jula and Kerr Jula categories. The application to the competition is open and during the program, 200 contestants will be trained to improve their business module. The contestants will be divided into sectors who will present a business idea to a set of four judges while the public will vote at the third audition stage. The participants will also have the opportunity to be trained on business advisory, coaching sessions, mentorship, pitching skills, and other technical support to prepare them for the final.
According to the GCCI president, Edrissa Mass Jobe the idea behind the competition is to equip the emerging business owners in an attempt to encourage Gambian businesses to take the lead in a market dominated by foreigners.
He advised the entrepreneurs to have values and build their reputation which is going to be their biggest asset.
The CEO of Q-Group Muhammed Jah reminded the young entrepreneurs that the competition is not all about the prizes but the engagements that will take effect during the program. Jah promised to create time at least in every three months to engage with young entrepreneurs. “It has always been my wish to see Gambia have more private employees but to achieve that the country should have more entrepreneurs who owns business. This was why we didn’t hesitate when the GCCI approached us to sponsor this laudable program,” he said.
He said Gambian business owners should lead the way in the country’s market.
“At Q-Cell we take owners of youth empowerment with youthful workforce at all levels of our organisation. We are pleased to share similar work demography with the GCCI and hope that more youths will make this a reality,” Jah said.
He advised the young entrepreneurs to be determine, committed and honest in their business dealings.
“You should avoid putting money ahead of everything because business is not all about the money. You should also respect your work ethics and please have values and integrity. This is very important,” Jah, who started his business without a business plan, said.
Roberto PES, the ILO Enterprise Development & Job Creation Specialist, said it is paramount for governments to invest in youth entrepreneurship. Commenting on the awards, PES said in the coming months the young contestants will be trained, coached and challenged and they need to defend their business ideas and eventually the best ones will be supported by the GCCI to start up their business.
“We do hope this initiative will contribute to change Gambian youths’ mindset to contribute to their employability to help them get jobs and to build the society which is based on innovation, merits and eventually a private sector that can create decent jobs,” PES said.
The executive director of NEDI, Abass Bah said Gambian youth should be supported to venture into business or else the country will have itself to blame for price hikes. “I can assure you that the government is committed to work with the GCCI and encourage them to venture into more innovative ventures like this,” he said.