Young farmers and entrepreneurs drawn from Lower River Region have recently ended days of youth entrepreneurship exhibition in Soma.
The exhibition, which was organised by the GYCC in partnership with the youth empowerment project, YEP, is the first youth exhibition to be hosted in provincial Gambia.
The exhibition, according to experts showcases the need for the country to focus more on agriculture and entrepreneurship.
Speaking at the opening ceremony the chief executive officer of the Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce, GYCC, Baboucarr Kebbeh said the week-long event has already exceeded expectation.
He said the need for government to invest in agriculture and entrepreneurship, especially on the young people is eminent.
On the exhibition which brought young farmers and entrepreneurs together, Kebbeh said: “We are really overwhelmed by the response and commitment of the young people of LRR in the way and manner they have embraced the event.”
The exhibitors, he said are very happy that, they were able to make a lot of difference during the few days of the exhibition.
This, he said is clear indication that Gambian youths are ready to take up the initiative to pursue their own destinies.
“More importantly I believe this is a clear signal that government has to start working the talk and stop talking the work. The young people of this country have been patient for a longtime now, enough is enough,” he said.
He urged government to shift their priorities to the young people.
He said if government refuses to take their responsibility the young people will take-up the initiative to solve their own problems, “gone are the days of rhetoric without any meaningful action. If they (government) continue to be reluctant towards solving our problems we will do it ourselves.”
He said the exhibition, which started from a pre-training session has exceeded the targeted number of 30 participants.
“The event has so far been reassuring for us and we hope we can replicate this in all the other regions in the country. We look forward to our donors, if they are impressed with this we want to extend the exhibition to NBR, CRR, URR and other regions,” he said.
Kebbeh further stressed that over the years there have been a lot of skills training for the young people, “but, there has been little or no impact economically in their lives.”
He said the commitment of the Gambia Youth Chamber Commerce is to prepare, develop, nurture and support the establishment of functional youth-led micro enterprises and generate employment opportunities across the country through the implementation.
“We are also determined to promote and network youth entrepreneurs in the field of commerce. To consider legislative and other governmental measure affecting trade, commerce or industry and mark representations to government and make suggestions on grievances, if any in collaboration with Gambia,” he said.
He said encouraging entrepreneurship is one of most impactful steps government can take in addressing some of the disparities the country is facing, “empowering young men and women to become not only wage-earners but also job-creators is imperative for achieving the 2030 Agenda and for eradicating poverty.”
To realise the demographic dividend, he said government and the private sector must invest in the empowerment, education and employment of the young people.
He said 64% of the country’s population, but yet too many of them are trapped in poverty, with few opportunities to learn or to earn a decent living.
“This year’s World Youth Report, focusing on youth civic engagement, noted that globally young women are still less likely than young men to become entrepreneurs, in part due to cultural and societal barriers. In this, exhibiting eminent young men and women entrepreneurs and leaders will share their experiences and recommendations for promoting young women entrepreneurship,” he explained.
He continued: “We all appreciate the massive the waste of human capital in our world when 74 million young people cannot find work. In our case, 38% of our youth are not either employed or don’t have a decent job to be able to realise their individual dreams and aspirations, the unprecedented rising rate of these circumstances is unacceptable.”
Kebbeh further stressed that young people are hungry for better options, “they are rejecting the status quo and demanding a better future. Many of them are claiming their right to a decent living, and they are willing to take risks to do so. We have seen in recent times the high numbers of young people taking risk in the Mediterranean, trying to reach a better life.”
“I will conclude by thanking the GYCC board and staff, the regional youth committee who had been providing all the technical support in the process, EU through the YEP project for providing funds and technical support to GYCC, NYC, NEDI, GYIN-Gambia, GIEPA and GCCI for partnering us,” he concluded.
The governor of Lower River Region, Fanta Bojang Sanneh Manneh said the Government of The Gambia considers employment, skill development, and entrepreneurship among others as an integral component in the nation development agenda.
This, she said will be achieved through the Ministry of Youth & Sports which is mandated by government to promote and protect the wellbeing of the young people.
Governor Bojang said Gambia will hardly attain its economic development goals and objectives for economic stability, “without the participation of the youth who represent more than 60% of the country’s population.”
“The Gambia is pre-dominantly a youthful country and knowing very well the category of youth age continues to grow rapidly. In the country’s recent population census the need for concerted efforts and meaningful actions to prepare the ground for them is increasingly becoming a matter of necessity,” she said.
The Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce, she said being an umbrella body and the voice of the youth entrepreneurs in The Gambia has shown its commitment to lead the way as the advocators and creators of an enabling environment for the Gambian youth which LRR is not an exception.
“They are taking these steps in complementing the efforts of the Government of the Gambia to ensure a productive youthful population by building their capacity, in enterprise competency and skills relevant to their lives,” she explained.
She challenged Gambian youth to stand strong to adhere to the aims and objectives of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce.
The exhibition which is the first of its kind to be held in provincial Gambia and LRR in particular, Governor Bojang added is an historic one in the annals of Gambian history.
This kind of initiative, she said if supported will impact significantly in reducing the trend of irregular migration.
She reassured that the government will continue to give its maximum support towards youth employment.
She reminded the youth Martin Luther King’s famous quotation: “If you cannot run, walk, if you cannot walk crawl.” which she said means that one should not have any reason to say, he/she will not try.
Meanwhile, the Youth Empowerment Project, representative and associate expert division of country programmes office for Africa Elisa Luotonen said YEP is designed to reduce migration pressures in the Gambia, strengthens existing youth and entrepreneurship support structures.
She said among their interventions is partner with domestic and international skills development institutions; and work hand in hand with private sector partners to develop the local economy and enhance employability and self-employment opportunities for youth.
She said a lot of other initiative, such as trainings will be conducted by the Start-Up Incubators, EMPRETEC and NEDI in the coming days and months in LRR.
YEP, she said would not have been possible without the partnership of other institutions, like the GYCC and others. “I cannot say our history has been long but for sure it has been really pragmatic.”
She said the eco-entrepreneurship in the Gambia is amazing and the communication and collaboration between partners is very reassuring for YEP as partners in youth empowerment.
“The exhibition should not only be a place where the exhibitors should sell their products, but to also share ideas of their challenges and progress made so that they would be able to have mutual understanding,” she added.
She reminded the entrepreneurs that one doesn’t always need funding to start his/her business, “save your benefit and use that benefit to develop your businesses.”
She disclosed that the four-year project which started in January 2017 is funded by the European Union, EU Emergency Trust Fund for stability with a total budget of EUR 11 million.
“We also support training institutions in their offering development and management. We believe partnerships between industry and training institutions will help to keep up with changing market needs,” she said.
Entrepreneurship, Elisa added is promoted among youth through business skills training and support programmes.
“YEP through developing enterprises and the Gambian private sector as a whole aims to provide more and better quality jobs for youth. The project concentrates on sectors that have largest potential for employment creation, such as agribusiness, services and tourism,” she explains.
All the exhibitors who spoke to the LRR Governor during her visit to their various stores express their satisfaction over the way and manner the program was organised.