Jan 13, 2017, 10:04 AM
most developed countries, the youths remain an important focus in areas such as
economic development, sustainability and nation building. When organisations
and the government drive conversations and activities around social
investments, these discourse are usually focused on empowering young people as
they hold the power to drive growth across all levels of the economy both
locally and internationally.
In a country like The Gambia, almost 60% of the population are under the age of 25. According to a recent World Bank Report some of the key long-term development challenges facing The Gambia are lack of skills necessary to build effective institutions, high population growth, and lack of private sector job creation. There is an existing gap in connecting education, employment and entrepreneurship within the youths, creating a great layer of social inequality.
Globally, more than 200 million young people are either unemployed, or they have jobs, but continue to live in poverty due to low income. This social and economic inequality is a challenge shared by many countries. Infact, it is estimated that 1% of the world’s population will own two thirds of its wealth. This level of inequality stifles growth and creates disharmony. It significantly affects disadvantaged young people who often can’t access the skills and opportunities needed to close this income gap.
The question for us now is how do we build a sustainable development agenda, spearheaded by young people now and in the future. How do we invest in them and equip them to learn, earn and grow?
Achieving a more developed and sustainable society as a nation, calls for youth inclusion in closing the obvious existing inequality and prosperity gap. Heavy and consistent investment in the youth through education, employment and entrepreneurship will contribute greatly to tackling this challenge.
Youths are often referred to as social actors with the abilities to bring revolutionary changes and improvement in any society so there is a need to implement long term strategies to invest in future economies. Active youthful engagement in the labour market is a necessary prerequisite to generating a young people pool of resources for both government and private entities.
In Standard Chartered Bank, we believe that education, employment and entrepreneurship are three key pillars through which young people can be empowered. We do this through our Future Makers project, which seeks to tackle the issue of inequality and promote greater economic inclusion for young people in our communities. We encourage young people especially from low income households to take part in programmes focused on education, employability and entrepreneurship.
Our strong ambition is focused on raising USD50 million through fundraising and Bank-matching between 2019 and 2023 to empower the next generation of young people. We also realized that the success of some of our existing community programmes are projective to include expanding our goal to education programme for girls, incorporating financial education into all of our programmes and developing new global community programmes in employability and entrepreneurship.
We must not also forget the entrepreneurs in our communities, who remain valuable assets. There is a need to inspire and encourage them to their greatest potential as they possess what it takes to change the dynamics of how we live and work. Their innovations may improve standards of living and also create wealth.
Despite the strides made in technology, the “gender digital divide” remains a major concern. There is significant difference in access to technology and financial services for women owned enterprises than men.
In The Gambia, female population comprises of 50.4 per cent of the total population of The Gambia. With fewer income generating opportunities for the population at large, this leaves over half of the Gambia population constituting women deprived of economic empowerment through employment, professional growth and livelihood opportunities. For us at Standard Chartered, this just isn’t good enough.
Similar to several emerging markets like Pakistan and Brazil, The Gambia is currently passing through a demographic transition, which has resulted in an increase in the working-age population i.e. youths comprising over half of the population, as a share of the total population.
To reap the ‘demographic dividend’ of this change, the economy needs to provide education and create productive and remunerative employment for young workforce entrants. Moreover, innovation through digitisation and entrepreneurship is a crucial and workable element in human capital development.
The bank has recently launched the Women in Tech Incubator programme (WiT) to help close this divide. WiT Tech targets female-led entrepreneurial teams and we provide them with training, mentorship and seed funding. The incubators includes mentorship with the Bank’s own staff, connecting Women in Tech to other prominent brands like Google and Apple, and providing a platform for them to engage with experts so they could learn how to grow their business. The programme creates tangible and measurable impact to ensure that female entrepreneurs have the right opportunities to grow and nurture their business.
We are optimistic about the impact this programme will have on the socio-economic empowerment of female led entrepreneurs in The Gambia. The support the beneficiaries will get will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of the businesses while creating employment for more women and youths in the country. This initiative builds on the Bank’s track record of increasing women’s access to entrepreneurial finance, employability and supporting adolescent girls and women through financing and capacity building.
From our standpoint, the development and sustenance of a good economy in any nation is dependent on the level of quality education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities especially available to young people.
Conscious steps must be taken towards equipping the youth regardless of class and economic status, with access to opportunities needed to realize their full potential to foster greater economic inclusion.
(Mustapha John is the Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand & Marketing Standard Chartered Bank, Gambia)