By Kebba Jeffang
Landing B Sanneh, General Manager, National Enterprise Development Initiative (NEDI), has said there cannot be any meaningful enterprise development ventures without agriculture.
“Probably one will agree that most of what we do in enterprise development is linked or are linked to agricultural value chain,” he said while opening a 5 days ‘Hand On’ Business Development Clinic for 40 youth at the President’s International Award in Bakau.
Mr. Sanneh told participants that NEDI is charged with the responsibility of supporting young people and women in entrepreneurship development.
The training funded by Gambia Agricultural Value Chain Management (GAVC) is meant to scale up youth involvement and participation in the agriculture value chain through the relevant projects under the ministry of agriculture.
It will also help the participants on how to structure a business plan so that investors and funders will see and accept to help them access funds to start businesses.
“In that respect partners like NYC, NEDI and GAVC conceived the mind that it is important to see how to involve and promote the participation of young people in the agricultural value chain management process and those critical stakeholders must be involved in promoting and also accelerating the process,” he said.
He added that the young people have the energy and power to participate in agriculture and in that case their participation in the sector is important.
He noted that this will improve youth involvement and effective participation in the agricultural value chain for food security and job creation.
“By the end of the day we are expecting to produce 30 winning business plans that should be presented to the various projects under the ministry of agriculture and we expect by the time these business plans are submitted we expect them to win so that the young entrepreneurs will participate in agriculture,” he said.
According to him, this is a way to facilitate the process, because in the past they realized that the participation of young people is relatively low and as institutions charge with the affairs of young people, they could not sit back and relaxed and see the projects come and go.
“It is indeed our responsibility to engage young people so that they can benefit from these projects under the ministry of agriculture, like GACV, FASDEP, NEMA and others,” he said.
He added: “Working with young people is investing in the future, because we know we want bright future for our country and in that we are obligate to identify ourselves in working with young people for a brighter future of our country.”
Mariama Njie, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said for a long time now her office has been preoccupied and concern with the situation of the youth, namely their lack of skills un-employability which has prompted them to undertake dangerous journey to Europe.
“As a result, the ministry developed a five year strategic plan (2014-18) which aimed to bring out the best in our youth by providing them the skills that would give them entrepreneurial skills to guarantee their employability and ensure their wellbeing through sports,” she said.
She said this training aim to fulfil one of the objectives of the strategic plan. “Our youth has limited or no skills to engage in any type of business, they have limited knowledge on how to develop a business plan. It goes without saying that a good business plan is key in convincing banks, financial institutions and funding agencies to lend or fund any business venture,” she said.
She said this has been a big challenge for those youth who are endeavouring to participate in the economic development of our country.
“More often than not they are unsuccessful in their business endeavours. In addition they did not know the right doors to knock for funding of their projects and this training aim to correct the situation,” she remarked.
Lamin Darboe, executive director, National Youth Council, said the ministry of youth and sport has gone through series of transformation including transforming their various satellite institutions, repositioning them to respond to the critical needs of young people of The Gambia.
He said this training will help transform their business ideas into tangible business projects, that stand the potential to be marketed with various stakeholders and gain funding from the donors.
“When we talk about employment, we also talk about employability and make sure that young people are not only able to acquire jobs, but are also able to create jobs for others through their various businesses,” he said.
According to him, the unemployment rate in the Gambia according to recent statistics stands around 28 percent, but unfortunately for young people, the rate among them is around 38 percent which is in fact higher than the national percentage.
“This is alarming and it calls for urgent attention for all stakeholders,” he said.
Banki Njie, business development officer, NEMA project, said farmer folks are getting old, they are old and they are getting older and their activities are not market oriented.
“What agriculture calls for now is commercialization and in order to do that we need innovation skills sets and competencies in order to do that and no other set of people can do that better than the youth of today,” he said.
By Kebba Jeffang