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EU Ambassador says youth employment becomes a pressing priority

Oct 18, 2019, 1:30 PM

(Tuesday 15th October 2019 Issue)

European Union (EU) Ambassador who doubles as head of EU delegation in The Gambia, His Excellency Attila Lajos has said youth employment becomes a pressing priority-not just for The Gambia but for the whole African continent.

European Union (EU) funded Tekki Fii Grant at a tune of one million euro equivalent to Fifty-five million dalasis to support young entrepreneurs access finance.

Ambassador Lajos was speaking during the launching of the Tekki Fii Grant, at the National Association of Cooperative Credit Unions of The Gambia (NACCUG) head office in Bakau.

“Tekki-Fii” (a Wollof word meaning ‘Make it in The Gambia’) seeks to contribute to socio-economic development and to nurture positive prospects for the Gambian youth, including returning and/or potential migrants by promoting attractive employment and income opportunities.

As the EU’s top diplomat to Banjul observes, current forecasts on youth employment are not encouraging.

He pointed to the African Competitiveness Report revealing that Africa would need to create 450 million new jobs by 2035, yet current policies are expected to create only 100 million jobs.

“Economic development and employment opportunities are the cornerstones for realizing the full vision of The Gambia’s National Development Plan(NDP).

The key objective must be on economic development that benefits the young people of this country who indeed make up the vast majority of the population,” said Lajos.

With a growing number of young people entering the labour market and limited job opportunities for them, the EU Ambassador cautioned that, unemployment is threatening sustainable development and could pose a risk to social stability, adding it is thus, crucial that “we accelerate our efforts to generate quality jobs for the young generations”.

Translating the Gambia’s youth bulge into a demographic dividend, the head of EU Delegation believes, requires a number of action, as he pinpointed the need to invest in quality education and skills development that prepares young Gambians for the job market with the right skills sets.

Still on the required number of actions, Lajos charged, “We need to create an enabling business environment that facilitates investment and private sector growth, support small businesses to become more competitive and grow.

We need to foster innovation and entrepreneurship”.

He said when they talk about business development in The Gambia; they need to talk about access to finance.

The EU diplomat added that the cost of borrowing money is high and it is hard to access funds in the country; and that this is particularly true for young entrepreneurs who often lack the collateral to get credit.

Ambassador Lajos acknowledged that many young Gambian entrepreneurs have good ideas, relevant business knowledge, that they are determined and hardworking, but are not able to start their business because they lack seed capital.

Based on these factors, the European Union (EU) is pleased to fund the Tekki Fii Grant geared towards scaling-up and expanding the scope and size of businesses in the country.

The diplomat has indicated that the Tekki Fii Grant they launched was only one of the many support measures that the EU, in collaboration with the Gambian government and its partners like the International Trade Centre (ITC)/Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zussammenarbeit (GIZ), the Instituto Marquês de Valle Flôr (IMVF) and Belgian Development Agency-Enable, is providing under the Tekki Fii-Make It In The Gambia.”

He said the Tekki Fii programme includes training opportunities on skills development, entrepreneurship and business growth, and it also provides support to micro, small and medium sized companies in different sectors through the provision of equipment, capacity building in quality and packaging product development, market linkages and many other support measures.

In addition, the Tekki Fii provides social support for young Gambians and returning migrants through sports and other activities.

Lajos was confident that the combined effect of all these measures would have a transformative impact on the business opportunities in The Gambia, and thereby {improving} the lives of young Gambians.

On the scope funding of the Tekki Fii Grant, the Ambassador said the grant has two windows- Solar and Agribusiness.

The solar grant will have a maximum threshold of two hundred and fifty thousand and is supported by GIZ.

The agribusiness grant also caters for applications up to two hundred and fifty thousand dalasis and is offered by IMVF.

The Tekki Fii Mini Grant will continue to provide support of up to fifty thousand dalasis  in all sectors and across the country and is supported by ITC/YEP, GIZ and IMVF.