“If they (Gambian youth) are not unemployed, then many are stuck in low wage work with no protection in the informal economy, while many others find that their schooling has not equipped them with the tools for today’s job market,” said Ade Mamonyane Lekoedje, Resident Representative of the United Nation Development Program (UNDP), during the launching of the National Human Development Report at the National Youth Conference and Festival (NAYCONF) on Monday, 14 December.2014 in Jenoi Lower River Region (LRR).
Madame Lekoedje said the youth are disproportionately affected by unemployment in the Gambia. “Without investments that create conducive environment and opportunity, a demographic dividend won’t be realized. The alternative isn’t appealing either- a generation with much unemployment, alienated, and disengaged youth is not a recipe for peace and harmony for any country,” added Madame Lekoedje.
Youth unemployment in the Gambia, according to the Report, is at 38% while the national average for all adults stands at 28.9% in 2012, according to the National Human Development Report
“This means youth are 1.3 times more likely to be unemployed than an average Gambian and of course joblessness is the tip of the iceberg,” said the UNDP Resident Representative.
It is, however, expected that the report will serve as an instrument to inform the implementation of the Gambia’s medium term development strategy blueprint, PAGE, as it is providing information on the state of youth development in the country.
The UNDP Rep further said that more than 62.8 per cent of the Gambian working age population are working as self-employed in the informal sector with limited support.
She noted that the youth play a pivotal role in the future of any country. “The energy, enthusiasm and innovation of this large youth generation can bring a huge demographic dividend to countries and to our world,” she said.
She stressed that in order for the country to realise dividends from its youth population, it has to make investments in education, skills training, sexual and reproductive health services, availability of credit- and in all the other services which widen opportunities.
Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President of the Republic of the Gambia, for her part, acknowledged that youth development is a task that no country can afford to ignore.
“In the Gambia, according to statistics, youth accounts for 67 per cent of our population making the country a very youthful population,” said Vice President Njie-Saidy.
She said the young people have a critical role to play in the attainment of development blueprints of the government of the Gambia particularly in the area of food self-sufficiency, adding the enabling environment continues to be created for agriculture since the onset of the second republic.
Alieu K Jammeh, Minister of Youth and Sports, said the youth should value agriculture; fishing; petty trading; the distributive trade; turning sanitation and cleansing service into a trade and sports as viable enterprises that can gainfully employ a good number of young people.
The Youth and Sports minister said a good number of those resolutions the youth came up with at the NAYCONF in Bansang have been addressed.
Fabakary Kalleh, Chairperson, NYC said the conference will be focusing on sports as enterprise development and green economy and skill development for employment and employment creation.