Packaging is a key determinant of competitiveness. It drives value addition, sales, and growth. Good packaging also increases food safety and reduces post-harvest losses.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) through its European Union-funded Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) launched a packaging hub to improve the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in The Gambia. This is the first of its kind.

In The Gambia, poor packaging is one of the main contributors to the failure of locally manufactured products to compete with imported ones. The lack of knowledge in addition to existing challenges faced by entrepreneurs makes the selection of the appropriate packaging style difficult.

The YEP packaging initiative led in partnership with the Gambia Horticultural Enterprises (GHE) has been rolled out in different folds, all geared to complement value addition, facilitate the exportation of Made in The Gambia products, and internationalisation of small businesses.

In the beginning, the project assessed the packaging needs and challenges of MSMEs and conducted a training of 25 youth trainers and a step-down training in different regions of the country. The training advanced to sector-focused training and coaching for fashion, agro-processing, poultry, horticulture, honey, crafts, and cosmetics. A packaging guide and manual were also developed as a reference to improve the knowledge of entrepreneurs.

For the final phase of this initiative, the inauguration of the Packaging Hub, YEP has provided 40 semi-automated filling machines for food products and cosmetics, 65,000 plastic containers, and 36,000 stand-up pouches with a zip to the Packaging Hub. This complements previous shipments of glass jars, bags, and other materials. The Packaging Hub will provide easy access to materials and services to youth enterprises in different sectors.

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Ms. Dorothy Tembo – Deputy Executive Director International Trade Centre, said: “Our investments have already generated a positive impact. Small businesses have improved packaging of their products, accessed new markets at home and abroad, and demonstrated an impact on sales and growth.”

According to Hon. Baboucarr Ousmaila Joof, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MOTIE), the launch is timely. The hub he said: “will add more services in support of small businesses, & fledgling businesses can now use the machines at the hub to add value & package their agricultural & cosmetic products.”

EU Ambassador, H.E Pampaloni is hopeful of the significant role the hub will contribute to the development goals of The Gambia. “The hub will boost the growth of small businesses in The Gambia & help entrepreneurs transform their ideas into quality products.” He continued: “The right packaging solutions also help The Gambia to transform more products and add value. And value addition means not just more jobs but also better jobs.”

“The Packaging Hub we are launching today in partnership with ITC under the Youth Empowerment Project and supported by the European Union will go a long way in addressing the packaging challenges faced by the youth entrepreneurs, start-ups, and MSME processors. This will include the provision of quality affordable packaging materials and semi-automatic filling machines provided by the YEP project. These machines will enable small processors to package hygienically and safely at a small operational fee.” Momodou A. Ceesay – Managing Director GHE.

The Packaging Hub is expected to improve the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) in The Gambia. The initiative is supported by the International Trade Centre through the European-Union-funded Youth Empowerment Project (YEP).

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