Mr. Barrow, while delivering his statement on the State of the Nation 2020 Legislative Year at the National Assembly on Thursday, noted that the Bill seeks to strengthen industrial relations in the country by ensuring the efficient functioning of the labour market. MoTIE is also dedicated to improving the business environment, promoting private sector investment and supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
President Barrow revealed that the sector is currently building an Employment Service Centre to facilitate linkages between job seekers and employers.
“The purpose is to develop trade and create employment openings, in addition to strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation within the context of private sector development as an engine of economic growth,” he stated.
He added that the sector is currently building an Employment Service Centre to facilitate linkages between job seekers and employers, construction works of the Centre which commenced in 2019 and is due for completion this year.
He continued that earlier this year, the Ministry completed the framework for bread regulation to enforce the Essential Commodities Act. This, he said, relates to the production and distribution of quality bread in the country. The regulation was signed and gazetted in February, 2020.
President Barrow added in his address that through GIEPA and support from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has begun reviewing the National Export Strategy 2013. The activity began in October 2019 and completion of the new National Export Strategy 2020-2024 is expected to end soon.
He emphasised that the review of the National Employment Policy and its Action Plan is complete and a validated draft Policy and Action Plan are near finalisation.
The president also touched the area of investment promotion, saying “the government has amended the GIEPA Act 2015 to maximise public engagement and benefits in key priority sectors. The amended Act will now help to widen the scope of domestic taxes and reduce over-reliance on trade taxes.”
He noted that government, in another development, is strengthening collaboration with the private sector through the National Business Council, which is now fully operational. He added that the Council has adopted an Action Plan to implement short and medium term key business climate reform measures – implemented and monitored by the Doing Business Taskforce established in 2019.
He reminded the assembly that in the last two quarters of 2019, four Special Investment Certificates (SIC) were issued. “They have a combined investment potential of Twenty-Eight Million, Eight hundred and ten thousand US Dollars (US$ 28,810,000) and a combined employment potential of over five hundred (500) workers,” he disclosed.
On Small and Medium Enterprises and Entrepreneurship Development, he said through the Entrepreneurship and Private Sector Development Project, capacity building has been intensified for youth and women entrepreneurs. Two hundred and seventy (270) youth have been trained on marketable skills, and one hundred and forty-four (144) persons were trained to improve their entrepreneurial skills.”
He explained that the sector is working concurrently with eighty (80) She Trades companies to support women to improve their production capacity and the quality and packaging of their products. The Youth Empowerment Project and TekkiFii meanwhile remain very useful in supporting MSMEs and youth development initiatives.
On job creation, HE Adama Barrow said in 2019, a total of eighty-five (85) MSMEs, two hundred and thirteen (213) youth and one hundred and sixteen (116) entrepreneurs were supported.
“The YEP project was able to create nine hundred and twenty-eight (928) new jobs, and one hundred and thirty-two (132) jobs were sustained. Currently, three grants; namely: YEP Mini-grant, TekkiFii Solar grant and the Agro-Grant, continue to provide financial support to young entrepreneurs,” he noted.
According to his address, at the regional level, The Gambia maintains its position to participate effectively in the African Continental Free Trade Area negotiations, following its adoption in May 2019. And “negotiations at the ECOWAS level to agree on the sensitive and exclusion lists in the ‘trade in goods’ negotiations are almost complete. Trade-in Services negotiations, under the AfCFTA, started in 2019. However, they have been suspended due to the threat posed by the pandemic,” he stated.
Further to that, he said a quick assessment conducted by the ministry in partnership with The Gambia Bureau of Statistics on the labour market, reveals that job loss is estimated at fifty-two thousand, seven hundred and fifty-two (52,752) people in both the formal and informal sectors as a result of the lockdown. This will worsen the already high unemployment rate of 35.2%, as reported in 2018.