By Bekai Njie
In his State of the Nation Address to the National Assembly last week, President Adama Barrow has decried the rise in unemployment in The Gambia and outlined crucial intervention plans by his government to create over 10, 000 jobs over the next three years.
President Adama Barrow laments the fact that the youth make up the largest proportion of the Gambian population. “36.7% of the 1.8 million Gambian population are aged 13-30 years; yet, youth unemployment has risen to 38%,” he said, maintaining that it is cause for concern for his government. The acute frustrations and lack of opportunities for the youth and the results of thousands of youths who undertake risky journeys, often with tragic consequences, in search of greener pastures elsewhere are key challenges his government inherited.
He went on to outline various government programmes and activities which are deliberately designed to offer employment opportunities for the youths in the country. The president urges youths to take advantage of these opportunities and become active participants in the nation building process being aggressively pursued by his government. From education and trainings in vocational and skill sets, to other jobs in the hospitality, the construction, agriculture, arts and culture sectors, over ten thousand jobs will be on offer in a bid to reduce the unemployment percentage among the country’s youths.
“Implementation of the 11Million Euro Youth Empowerment Project from the European Trust Fund is ongoing. The overall objective of this four-year project is to tackle the economic root-causes of irregular migration through increased job opportunities and income prospects for the youth. The project has trained over one thousand (1000) youngsters in various skills within one year. This is complemented by the Fourteen Million Dalasi (GMD 14,000,000. 00) Skills for Youth Employment Fund launched this year, which aims to equip another one thousand (1000) Gambian youths with relevant technical and vocational skills in partnership with local training institutions,” the president told the Assembly.
There is also a partnership programme between the International Labor Organisation and the government of Japan to support the establishment of a USD $3.9 Million project on “Employment Creation for Youth to Build Sustainable Peace in The Gambia.” The goal of this project is to promote employment opportunities for the youth through infrastructure construction, together with skills training and entrepreneurship support. Particular focus is put on women, migrant returnees, the Diaspora and refugees. The project is expected to employ 2,500 young people in infrastructure construction works, and within the Agriculture, Fisheries and Tourism sectors.
Additionally, 250 youths are expected to complete skills training and receive entrepreneurship support in relation to the construction sector. At least, 30% of the project beneficiaries would be women.
The higher education subsector has set a policy target to train 65% of all graduates in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Agriculture, Health and other related sciences. These will all be employable within the formal sectors of the economy.
Works are about to begin on the 48.3 km Basse-Fatoto-Koina Road project, which includes the 150 meter-long Fatoto-Passamas Bridge, as well as the 200 meter-long Basse-Wuli Bridge. The Stink-Corner Access Road, the Soutouma-Sereh-Gambissara Road Project, as well as the reconstruction of the Wellingara-Sinchu Road, the Nusrat High School Road and Master Jatta Road are completedand in full use, the president further told the Assembly.
Construction of 400 kilometers of rural roads using PRO BASE Technology is also set to commence. It involves 104 kilometers of Feeder Roads over a three-year period, at a cost of €10,346,746.
A US$442,000.00 Programme on Aquaculture for Women and Youth, supported by Food and Agriculture Organisation, the president said that his government has secured a Technical Cooperation is focusing on three key areas: establishment of four hatcheries at strategiclocations in the country, with a capacity 800, 000 1Million fry or small fish per hatchery annually. It will also include the establishment of three feed mill plants at strategic locations in the country. The capacity per mill will be about 500 kilograms per day to produce different types of feeds for different categories of fish. The President said capacity development for the production of quality seeds and feeds. Particular preference will be given to youth and women associations
“It is projected that close to 1 billion dalasi will be invested in the tourism sector within the next three years, to be matched by the creation of at least 4,000 jobs. All these investments seek to enable a year-round tourism sector. The Movinpick Gambia promoters have renewed their commitment to construct a five-star hotel valued at $55 million,” he said.
The artistic sector is also key to the president’s development plan. Policies are being formalised to protect Intellectual Property, ensure effective copyright procedures, and the establishment of a body for the collection and distribution of royalties to creators and artists.