Golakai, deputy resident representative of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), has said that a key characteristic of poverty is high
She said the labour force survey report 2012 indicates that 38 per cent of youth were unemployed compared to the national unemployment rate of 29 per cent.
She made this remark at the graduation ceremony of 52 youths from Gambia Songhai Initiative agricultural training centre in Chamen, North Bank Region.
The Gambia Songhai Initiative is implemented based on the Songhai model, an innovative institution.
It is a two-component initiative to develop a functional agricultural system, and to incubate agro-entrepreneurs and promote services. The ultimate aim is to build a critical mass of successful young entrepreneurs throughout the country.
Madam Golakai said poverty and unemployment are the biggest development challenges in The Gambia and the youth are a disproportionate segment of this segment.
She noted that youth unemployment and poverty are largely associated with little opportunities to access quality skills training, livelihood opportunities and access to credit and other assets.
“Due to unemployment, most of the youth leave the country through irregular migration leaving the burden of development in the host communities on the shoulders of their ageing parents,” she opined, adding that the situation places a lot of pressure on those left behind, especially the elderly.
The UNDP official said the formal sector cannot employ all the youth and therefore strategic choice must be made to absorb the youth in productive engagement.
She pointed out that a sectoral analysis conducted in The Gambia indicates that agricultural transformation and modernisation can be a viable part of the response to the youth unemployment challenges.
“It is important that the new Gambia delivers on its promises for which youth employment and diversification of the economy is critical and is a must,” she stressed.
Henry Gomez, minister of Youth and Sports, said The Gambia government recognises the role of young people in the rapid development of the country.
He said the rapidly rising population of young people in the country poses development challenges but could also be transformed into an opportunity for effective contribution to national development.
“Without the relevant investments in youth to realise their full potentials, young people can easily be exposed to vices such as forced migration, radicalisation and violent extremism,” he warned.
The Gambia has witnessed massive migration of young people from the country to Europe using perilous routes. Many young lives have been lost in the process of trying to reach Europe.
“The Gambia can however reap the benefits of a bulging young population by investing in youth empowerment programmes,” the youth minister disclosed.
He added that harnessing the demographic dividend of Gambia’s youthful population would require effective investments in health, empowerment, education and employment of youth through public and private sector involvement.
“Investing in young people living in rural areas is key to enhancing agricultural productivity and food security, boosting rural economies, and reducing rural-to-urban migration,” Mr Gomez said.
Young farmers and producers, he continued, often have greater capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship than older adults.
“This capacity may better equip them to address the emerging requirements of agriculture and the rural non-farm economy,” he said.
“Our most important resource as a country is our young people. With the right investments in this resource, we will realise our development aspirations.”
Jude Nwachukwu, coordinator of the project technical team in Chamen, said Gambia Songhai Initiative (GSI), in two years of operation, has enrolled 137 people, 47 per cent of which are females and 53 per cent male.
Out of the 137, 80 trainees graduated and 35 are already in the employ of Food and Agricultural Organisation, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and GSI Chamen.
Another batch of 40 youths has been recruited and is undergoing training; it is the 4th batch.