By Olimatou Coker
Unemployment is threatening sustainable development in The Gambia and within Africa, and could pose a risk to social stability, according to Attila Lajos, the EU Ambassador to The Gambia.
He said with a growing number of young people entering the labour market and limited job opportunities for them, it is crucial efforts be accelerated to generate quality jobs for the younger generations.
He said: “Translating The Gambia’s youth bulge into a demographic dividend requires a number of actions: We need to invest in quality education and skills development that prepare young Gambians for the job market with the right skill sets; we need to create an enabling business environment that facilitate investment and private sector growth; we need to support in particular small businesses to become more competitive and grow, and we need to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Lajos was speaking last Friday at a Tekki Fii Grant Scheme launch organised in Bakau.
He said current forecasts on youth employment are not encouraging.
“The African competitiveness report reveals that Africa will need to create 450 million new jobs by 2035, yet current policies are expected to create only 100 million jobs.”
He also talked about access to finance in The Gambia, and said the cost of borrowing money is high and hard.
“This is particularly true for young entrepreneurs who often lack the collateral to get credit.
It means that in spite of good ideas, relevant business knowledge, determination and hard work, many young Gambians are not able to start their busineeses because they lack the seed capital,” Lajos lamented.
He praised the Youth Empowerment Project’s mini-grant scheme for directly creating “200 jobs” in 18 months, with a grant volume of 200,000 EUR or 10 million dalasis.
“I am therefore very optimistic that we can create another 1,200 jobs in the next 2 years by rolling out this additional funding support under the Tekki Fii programme,” Lajos said.
Lamin Jobe, works and trade minister, said the Tekki Fii project is a flagship initiative under the National Development Plan and the grant scheme, a key pillar of the programme.
“A key objective for our national development is the creation of jobs, quality jobs for Gambians,” he said.
He also disclosed that his ministry has earlier this year, validated the 2018 Labour Force Survey.
“The survey revealed that youth empowerment in this country is 41.5 percent,” he added.
Foday Sanyang, general manager of National Association of Co-operative Credit Unions of the Gambia (Naccug), said since 2018, Naccug has been partnering with ITC to implement the YEP mini grant project.
“Funded through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the project was able to train many Gambian youths on different entrepreneurship skills,” Sanyang stated.
Fabio Germano, team leader of EU-GIZ Tekki Fii project, said the project seeks to contribute to socio-economic development and nurture positive prospects for Gambian youths.
“…Due to increasing demands for the scheme, the Tekki Fii partners called for concerted efforts to expand the scheme into a wider initiative under the Tekki Fii umbrella,” Germano posited.
Other speakers were Hadramme Sidibeh, Minister of Youths and Sports, and young entrepreneurs Fatou Saine and Baboucarr Janko.