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Gov’t buys innovative scheme to address youth unemployment

Aug 5, 2014, 10:57 AM | Article By: Bakary Samateh

The Gambia government through its Ministries of Youth and Sports, and Agriculture, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has been making efforts to concretize the planned establishment of a replica Songhai Center in the country in its bid to address youth unemployment.

The Benin-based Center is an innovative project that is active in the areas of training, production, research and development in agricultural entrepreneurship and agribusiness, and has over the years trained a lot of youth that are now job creators.

Its founder and director, Fr Godfrey Nzamujo, is currently in the country to make a follow-up on the earlier visit made to the Center by the Gambian Ministers of Youth and Sports, and Agriculture courtesy of the UNDP and the government.

The founder’s visit, which was facilitated by the UNDP, according to officials, is to also see the selected sites identified by The Gambia for the project and advise on the way forward.

Speaking recently at a briefing session held at the UN House in Cape Point, Bakau, Youth and Sports Minister Alieu K. Jammeh recalled their earlier visit to the Center on a study tour for its possible replication and contextualization in The Gambia.

“We have seen how it assisted in helping to turn young people from the state of unemployment to job creators. We have also seen how it could enhance our drive towards food self-sufficiency,” he said.

The minister said the study tour availed them the opportunity to see for themselves from production to value addition and to retailing in one unit.

“So we want to make our young people believe that in agriculture through entrepreneurship you can make a decent living. The Songhai Center has trained our youths and we have learnt that the great number of youths who have gone through Songhai have proven a lot than many of the youths who were trained in our sister countries,” he pointed out.

The Youth minister expressed optimism that if the country contextualizes such an innovative agricultural center, all of her unemployed youths could be turned into job creators, thus making the idea of ‘back-way’ syndrome a thing of the past.

He used the opportunity to commend the UNDP for trying to complement the efforts of the government by sponsoring the visit of the Songhai director.

He informed that the director had gone around the country to see selected sites including Kanilai for this project so he could give advice on where to kick-start it.

The director and founder, Fr Godfrey Nzamujo, affirmed that Songhai is an innovative institution that seeks to look at the major challenges of development.

He outlined the challenges facing African countries such as youth transition and unemployment, poverty in terms of food insecurity, health and quality and environmental degradation.

Addressing these challenges, the director opined, requires what he calls broad-based inclusive economic development.

He said people could address the symptoms of most of these challenges, but hastened to suggest the need to develop a comprehensive systemic approach.

Nzamujo said each of the Center’s four components has the potential for youth transformation.

He spoke of their desire to bring it here and equip young people with all the needed techniques.

He asserted that Songhai is not a demonstration center, but a place where trainees immediately translate acquired skills into production systems.

One of the components of the project, he explained, is incubating and training young people to be productive, while repelling the idea of entitlement and transform their minds to become more and more productive.

The UNDP resident representative in The Gambia, Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, underscored that the project has the potential to create enormous opportunities for young people in this country, thus discouraging the ‘back-way’ syndrome.