Government not communicating opportunities according to Gambian youth
The effectiveness of the Gambian government in combating the problem of irregular migration was under scrutiny at a recent panel discussion that brought together a diverse cross section of Gambian society.
The event, which was televised and filmed in front of a live audience, was hosted at the University of The Gambia. Speakers including entrepreneurs, businessmen, government officials and representatives from civil society, among others, frequently locked horns on the assessment of the coalition government’s efforts to provide opportunities for young people.
Representatives from the ministries responsible for employment and youth matters squared off against political and social activists on the availability, or absence, of adequate business opportunities to entice young people to stay and engage in meaningful development in the country. Alieu Bah, co-founder of the youth movement Occupy Westfield, said young people are still trapped in ‘’hardcore poverty, dispossession and disenfranchisement.’’ Bah called into question the state’s commitment to assisting in the reintegration efforts of returnees, asking, ‘‘what are they returning to?’’
Government representatives on the panel interjected, stating that youth remain a key priority to the Barrow government. The first project signed off by the new government was the USD 13 million Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) funded by the EU to address the root causes of migration, according to Mamadi Dampha, the Director of Employment. He outlined an array of initiatives and programmes being undertaken by the government to discourage migration, including the National Youth Service Scheme, which empowers young people to acquire skills and knowledge through technical, vocational and entrepreneurship training.
Kemo Bojang, a young entrepreneur who runs a beverage business, expressed concern that young people do not know about the existence of these projects. Mr. Bojang indicated that there are a lot of projects that young people are not aware of, and called for improved communications regarding these initiatives from the state.
There is a “great disconnect between the government and young people,” admitted Lamin Darboe, the Chairman of the National Youth Council. To illustrate this, the Chairman highlighted incorrect information such as the widely held misconception that the EU gave the government EUR 30 million to run the YEP project, instead of USD 13 million. He also clarified that the YEP project is being implemented by the International Trade Centre, not the government.
Marcel Mendy, Executive Director of the National Sports Council, also agreed that there is a need for a more enhanced flow of information, “Having all these projects and people not being aware is tantamount to nothing,” he said.
However, after an at times tense debate, both panelists and members of the audience ultimately agreed that the new government and its partners are indeed making headway in championing numerous projects aimed at combatting poverty. However, participants also agreed that more needs to be done in communicating and informing the public about these initiatives.
TMP – 16/05/2018
Photo: The panel of speakers at the migration debate at the University of The Gambia