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Friday, October 15, 2021

Gina Bass’s new gift and Minister Badjie’s one year success in youth and sports development

Disclaimer: The author of this article is not affiliated with, either support and or belongs to any political party. The views expressed in this article are entirely his perception. He is not a beneficiary of any youth development fund or initiative in The Gambia – and did not receive any money from anyone to write this article

Only highly knowledgeable people can see what is good in what others perceive as fundamentally bad/wrong. The doing of good and evil/bad is like politics — they both share criticism in common. Some things are specifically commendable upon their completion to be denied publicly. Better still, in the words of Professor Beban Sammy Chumbow, Emeritus Professor, University of Yaounde 1 and President of Assembly of Academicians ACALAN/African Union,  ”Ignorance is a disease which only knowledge can cure.”

I am glad to see knowledge curing ignorance and inferiority in my country. It was so very thoughtful and wise to present gifts to Gina Bass and the entire Olympic team upon their return. I hardly write about H.E. President Adama Barrow or anyone working for him, but on this occasion, I write to congratulate the Government of The Gambia on the very timely decision for rewarding Gina Bass and others. When you reward certain people for their talent, hard work, devotion, and sacrifices for the nation – that is not politics. That is not tribalism or a waste of funds, but that is national development and youth empowerment. Support from the government is the key that permits an individual citizen to unlock the key to national and international success/es.

Let me give an overview of few things (certainly not all he has done) but the few things I have personally seen as successes since the appointment of Hon. Bakary Badjie as Minister of Youth and Sports.

Since assuming on 30th September 2020, Hon. Bakary Y. Badjie has moved with the speed of light by changing the dynamics of the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) that is often perceived as not only poorly funded, but problematic and unfriendly to Gambian youths. However, Honorable Badjie’s renewed vigor and desire to succeed where others had failed, visionary innovation and urgency where others had stagnated, have changed so many wrong perceptions about the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS).

Minister Badjie, hit the ground running by dusting up his rich expertise to begin the processes of restoring the confidence of the youth sector with an investment in youth and sports to bring about a revival of the moribund youth and sports sector. Despite all the hiccups, last year has seen fundamental changes in the youth and sports sectors.

Of course, under the leadership of Minister Badjie, PS Saikou K. Sanyang,  DPS Musa Mbye, and DPS Lamin Camara,  the MoYS have received widespread public commendation with well-designed programs; with the objectives of restoring, re-invigorating, and restoring sporting infrastructure to its lost glory, while elevating sports to deliver economic benefits to the youth and generality of Gambians. These innovative initiatives by them ensured podium performances by our athletes like Gina Bass and others. For the first time, Gambian athletes are being recognized nationally and internationally by individuals, corporate bodies, and state governments by providing them with direct funding for the Olympics. In addition, the Gambia National Football Team qualifying for the first time in the African Cup of Nations are but great efforts of Minister Badjie and the Government of H.E. President Adama Barrow.

In the last year, Hon. Badjie has restored confidence in the sector with the revitalization of the Sports Industry Policy, which brings fundamental changes in the sports sector. Badjie has given impetus to the welfare of athletes and youth entrepreneurs. And even during the Covid-19 lockdown, the MoYS distributed welfare packages to athletes and youth and showed solidarity to the family of late Biri Biri, etc.

The MoYS had earlier supported the male and female National Basketball Teams and granted the players to perform in the recently concluded trials. MoYS has also extended the same gesture to the Under-20 and the Female National Team.  Badjie had also lent support to youngsters engaged in agro-business and entrepreneurship under the  Youth Development Fund and continue partnering with NEDI to better the lives of Gambian youth.

As someone who hardly stays in The Gambia, I knew, for sure that another crucial challenge is the interlinkage of youth and sports embodied by the 2030 Agenda; including poverty reduction; social inclusion; health care; biodiversity conservation; and climate change mitigation. But MoYS has addressed this in the past year.  Committed to seeing that the young people are engaged in food self-sufficiency programs, I can fully recall the Government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Youth and Sports and its development partners, making great impacts at the Chamen Agricultural Centre (known as Gambia Songhai Initiative). This is a project that serves as a training ground for many young farmers. Today, we can proudly say that many youths are involved in agriculture because of this wonderful initiative. If possible, I would like to see those youths involved in this agricultural initiative be also honored by President Barrow. This and many other things are what exactly the Gambian youths need.

The National Youth Council and National Enterprise Development Initiative (NEDI) are the two satellite institutions under the Ministry of Youth and Sports which I recently noticed are part of the steering committee of the ROOTS Project of the Ministry of Agriculture.

This project is specifically designed to help young farmers in The Gambia. Unlike other projects, ROOTS will provide grants up to 10 million Dalasis to aspiring young farmers who meet the requirements. The government is aware of the fact that most of our young farmers are financially challenged, thus, the more reasons why projects like ROOTS are conceptualized and funding secured to assist. A total of D2.9M was distributed among different youth entrepreneurs in the West Coast Region, KM, and North Bank to kick start the initiative. According to the Minister of Youths, the scheme targets youth entrepreneurs in agriculture, fisheries, mechanics, catering, tailoring, and petty trading. I think all these are good steps in investing in youth for national development.

Additionally, four women groups in Banjul also benefited from the Women Enterprise Fund worth more than half a million Dalasis- an initiative that seeks to boost the socio-economic status of Gambian women.

Under the unique leadership of Bakary Y. Badjie, the Youth Act was reviewed which was in place since 2000, noting that so many things have changed since then. Although I recently returned to The Gambia, I did know that the Youth Council Act was also amended so that we focus on what is going on right now and what is currently affecting the youths to be added to the Act.

On sports, Minister Badjie is pushing Gambian sports forward starting from the grassroots. The Ministry of Youth and Sports got a plan to transform the fields into mini-stadiums where young people can go and play not just football but basketball among other sports. If you look around, many sports such as wrestling and volleyball, are not even present in the rural areas because of lack of infrastructure. This initiative does not exclude school sports among other things. But hopefully, I know this will change with time.

Furthermore, I read that the MoYS is spearheading the already existing and ongoing programs of the government to create employment for the youths. The government in general has plans for industrialization to create factories where youths can get employment. To be honest, the government cannot give everybody jobs but it can create an environment that would encourage the production and creation of jobs by different economic actors from home and abroad to absorb the youths into the labor market. I want to use this article in my capacity as an author to kindly ask the government to support and promote skills training for the youths because this can make them more easily employable.

It is clear that the National Youth Policy 2019 – 2028 has been presented to the cabinet for consideration and approval, and a massive popularization program on the policy will follow suit among all stakeholders and partners, as the policy serves as the main guide for intervention on youth development.

Knowing fully well that the main function of establishing NYC is for the council to be coordinating all youth programs in The Gambia and advising the Government on all matters affecting young people among others, with the changing times, perhaps, the greatest impact is the repositioning of sports from mere recreation to business. This would open limitless opportunities in the public-private sector, infrastructural development, merchandising, sponsorship, television rights, marketing, branding, content, and ultimately better welfare for the athletes.

 As a youth, MYSELF, I will be so glad to see the Government’s goal for the youth sector to be premised on secured sustainable livelihood for youths through skills development, decent work, and excellence in youth and sports, and not just sports.

Nobody can deny that the government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports is committed to youth and sports development in the country, but we want to see more commitments in spoken word poetry, which is new art in The Gambia. We want to see more commitments in music, drama, film, and arts and crafts. If possible and maybe later in the future, I would like to see President Adama Barrow reward young people such as Lamin Jobe (the painter and artist), Sona Jobarteh, Omar Champion Cham (poet), Janha Dukureh (peace activist), Mariama Cham, Jama Jack (human rights activist), Mariama Colley ( the Hollywood awardee), Cherno Gaye (poet), etc – given the tab on the back for their generous sweats and respective contributions to national development.

We want to see more investment in youths and not just sports -and more success stories to be told by the youth themselves under the Barrow Administration. To have a place where young people and children are availed with the opportunity to learn skills on how to play football is vital. This is what has been missing in the past. Academics help nurture good talents that can move the country to another level. We must put a high premium on education.

The creation of a Hall of Fame for Youth and Sports will not only create an enduring legacy but inspire the younger generation to emulate past sporting heroes. The establishment of the Outdoor Hall of Fame will not only symbolic but an enduring legacy to immortalize The Gambia’s sporting legends. The berthing of the Sports Industry Policy would bring fundamental changes to the sport’s development in The Gambia with its attendant impact on the national economy.

Sport in The Gambia has grown from a humble beginning as an entertainment and recreational pastime to a prominent phenomenon whose influence is felt in all facets of the lives of the citizenry. Gambians are sports-loving people with a very high appetite for winning. Success at competitions creates a euphoric atmosphere with an injection of vibrancy and pride in the citizens.

Sport is a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and networks. In addition, the sport has been proven an effective catalyst for promoting ideals crucial for peaceful, locally-driven development.

In conclusion, I want to wholeheartedly commend Hon. Bakary Y. Badjie and his entire Ministry for spearheading the recent changes and successes in our country’s youth and sports sector, and call on the President of The Republic of The Gambia to continue rewarding young people in their endeavors for national development. I hope that anyone who reads my article will pick the senses from it and thereafter provide solutions to problems – rather than negatively criticizing the government or simply attacking people on social media. The purpose of having wisdom is to share it positively with those it can benefit.

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