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This is the best time to be a young person, despite the challenges – Youth Envoy at the Youth Empowerment Project in The Gambia

Banjul, February 6, 2018 – The Envoy on Youth was invited to speak on a panel during a Validation Meeting for the Youth Empowerment Project in Gambia. Speaking alongside the Minister of Trade, the Head of the European Union Commission, the Head of the Youth Empowerment Project and the UN Resident Coordinator in the Gambia, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake called on young people to take advantage of the access to information that has been made possible by technology and connectivity in the world today to develop and harness their potentials.

“This is the best time to be a young person,”, she stressed while delivering her remarks at the project validation, noting that with the changing world of work, young people must embrace the challenge of new skills demanded by an evolving labor market space.

The Gambia, a country where more than 60% of the population are people under 25, and who’ve had to rely mainly on two sectors – agriculture and tourism, needed to find more innovative ways of tackling its unemployment issues. The YEP is a four-year project, which started in January 2017, and funded was funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund. As a country in democratic transition, and which looks increasingly more open to the world, the YEP provides an institutional framework that aids human capital development in The Gambia, by providing standardised ICT training that is relevant to the agri-business sector. The program has seen some measurable successes, supporting up to 1,000 youth and strengthened the capacity of micro-enterprises.

The meeting which had a number of partners in attendance was a platform for youth to voice their concerns, and for policymakers engage in discourse on how the initiative has been able to tackle unemployment issues in The Gambia. It was noted that one of the key issues to tackle in the ICT sector was the lack of standardisation, training that lacked the required technical ingredients, and lack of tech hubs that provided spaces where new ICT businesses can develop. In the Tourism sector, it was noted that youth unemployment has come as a result of lack of adequate investment in the sector, which has meant much less possibilities of hiring labour. Secondly, there were limited tour operators due to lack of tourism activities in the country sides.

In her vote of thanks to the YEP, the Envoy stressed on the fact that being present on the occasion was an honor, and that while the world presently is seeing the continuous growth of the largest number of young people, most of them in the developing world, there is need for soft skills in a rapidly changing world. Hence, as policymakers are enjoined to create enabling environment for young people to pursue their dreams and thrive, it is important for young people to develop soft and adjustable skills in order to better negotiate their way around the labour market that is constantly changing.