By ITC News

(Gambia) – More than 150 participants attended the Gambia’s first Youth Employment Forum, which was held in Banjul on 2-5 April. The Youth Employment Forum is the first major initiative to be launched as part of the recently launched Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), which is funded by the European Union and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Participants at the forum, representing a variety of public and private organizations, explored a range of issues related to sectors including information and communication technologies, agriculture and agro-processing, and tourism. The Forum also provided an opportunity for youth associations from across the Gambia to review existing business opportunities for youth, assess potential skill gaps and identify actions to kick-start the implementation of the YEP activities.

Addressing the Forum, Ms. Isatou Touray, Minister of Trade, Industry and Employment, expressed the full support of the government to unlock the potential of Gambian youth. The Minister highlighted the benefits of working together in identifying such opportunities and emphasized the role of ICT in creating more jobs in the agricultural and tourism sectors. ‘Creating strong linkages between the priority sectors is crucial,’ she said.

Mr. Ashish Shah, ITC’s Director for Country Programmes, said that recent political changes had opened up new trade and investment opportunities in The Gambia. ‘Making trade work for the youth will be a powerful engine for socio-economic development,’ he said. ‘ITC’s Youth Empowerment Project is here to support the wind of change and to provide the means for young men and women entrepreneurs. YEP is for the youth driven by the youth.’

The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s youngest employee, Aji Fatou Gaye, said: ‘We are not aiming to be the Singapore or the Dubai of Africa. We want to be The Gambia, and us the youth, will work towards building that Gambia.’

The Youth Employment Forum was organized by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MOTIE) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) in partnership with the International Trade Centre (ITC). The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) also joined the forum to assess main challenges faced by young entrepreneurs to access finance and to identify avenues to strengthen financial inclusion.

At the margin of the Youth Employment Forum, YEP successfully held its inaugural Steering Committee Meeting. The committee is chaired by the Minister of Trade and includes high-level representatives from the public and private sector with a strong presence of youth. Committee members approved the project’s key performance indicators and gave the go-ahead for the establishment a mini-grant scheme under the project. The committee will meet again in late May – at the end of the project’s inception phase – to review and approve the work plan for the first year.

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