I am writing to weigh in on youth and entrepreneurship development in The Gambia which has been a subject of great focus for many institutions across the country. It has often been said that Gambian entrepreneurs lack the needed support and are faced with constraints to make their businesses grow.
Let me start by saying that poverty is one challenge which manifests itself in the form of multiple deprivations which has trapped many young business people in The Gambia. The capacity of these youth to improve their livelihood security through entrepreneurship has been found to need urgent attention and strengthening in The Gambia. Many of the constraints embedded in the establishment of a business enterprise relate to the structural environment such as distortions in some policies that favour formal and large scale enterprises in terms of credit, export markets, human capital, support services, and market information.
Moreover, factors related to economic status have also led to weak capacities of youth at the enterprise levels resulting in low levels of productivity, insufficient access to factors of production, obsolete production techniques, un-organised work processes, low levels of skills and education and inadequate access to a viable market. Lack of managerial and entrepreneurial skills, lack of access to appropriate technologies as well as lack of professional and technical knowledge, and inadequate access to credit are considered to be the biggest constraints to the development of young Gambian entrepreneurs. One of the biggest challenges to economic empowerment of young business people in The Gambia is the undeveloped capacity to create value in the products or produce they manage. The most urgent need identified by young Gambian entrepreneurs already producing a good or service at the informal level is the need to transit to higher levels of business operations entering high-value production sectors, especially related to exports, with appropriate skills for packaging, labeling, marketing and sales and after sales service. The potential role of information, communication and technology and the electronic commerce for economic growth and sustainable development is widely recognised.
However, the role of institutions like the American Chamber of Commerce in support of young Gambian entrepreneurs to make their businesses grow is commendable in this direction. This is because many of these youth lack choices if not opportunities to start a business enterprise or become a successful entrepreneur. In recent times, we have seen AmCham ramping up on interventions to deliver specialised support and training to these people. This is an institution established to address challenges facing Gambian business people. It also is common knowledge that Gambian entrepreneurs often suffer from weak market linkages internally and outside the country. AmCham therefore has expressed its willingness to provide Gambian businesses with opportunities to explore businesses around the world by establishing contacts and connections of its own. Training has been deemed as especially critical and this was made manifest at the Youth Entrepreneurship Week organised by the institution two weeks ago. This was part of the drive to empower young entrepreneurs in the country for collective benefits in terms of access to training, information, markets, financing, etc. This will not only drive the promotion and development of small and micro enterprises both in the formal and informal sectors but it will also lead to poverty reduction.