By Kawsu Sillah

Dawda Fadera, the Secretary-General and Head of Civil Service, launched the National Youth Development Fund on behalf of Adama Barrow, the president of the Republic of the Gambia during the official opening ceremony of 12th National Youth Conference and Festival (NAYCONF 2017) currently underway in Basse, Upper River Region.

The launching of the National Youth Development Fund (NYDF) is in line with The Gambia National Development Blueprint 2017-2020 and the African Union's roadmap for the year 2017, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”, the Government of the Gambia is fully committed in contributing to properly harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth and facilitate access to finance for youth groups.

The trust fund is earmarked for empowerment and development of the Gambian Youth. Through the initiative, the government will work with development partners to enhance opportunities in domains that are critical to youth development. As a first step to implementing the action, The Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) in partnership with National Association of Co-operative Credit Unions of The Gambia (NACCUG) has allocated 250,000 US Dollars as mini grant scheme to promote young people’s empowerment and boosting opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship in the Gambia. The mini grant scheme launched by the Secretary-General on behalf of the president will:

  • Enhance the employability and self-employment opportunities for youth
  • Focuses on vocational training and the creation of micro and small-sized enterprises, and creating and improving employment opportunities in selected sectors through value addition and internationalization

The allocations of the funds are as follows:

  • Phase 1: $50, 000 will be granted to 50 young people
  • Phase 2: 100, 000 will be granted to 100 young people
  • Phase 3: 100,000 will be granted to 100 young people

The beneficiaries of the grant are Gambian youth between the ages of (15 to 35 years). Suitable applicants must be willing to meet the following minimum criteria:

  • Commitment to save regularly – having a savings account would be an advantage
  • Business plan (format to be provided by the grant administrator – NACCUG)
  • Accurate record keeping
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Willingness to attend further training
  • Legal and environmental friendly business
  • Certificate of business registration
  • Innovation – innovative plans would be an added advantage

At the opening of Youth Conference, Mrs. Fatou Mbenga Jallow, Project Coordinator and Senior Technical Advisor at the Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) said, ''the mini grant scheme will facilitate access to finance for startup entrepreneurs and small scale businesses in The Gambia. Beneficiaries of the grant will go through an extensive financial management training and coaching on setting up budgets, managing accounts, and monitoring and reporting business results to ensure proper management and sustainability of businesses and initiatives funded under the mini grant scheme.''

For his part, Lamin Darboe, the Executive Director of the National Youth Council of The Gambia said: ''The mini grant will go a long way in addressing the perpetual problem of access to finance by young entrepreneurs. It will undoubtedly impact lives and livelihood of the many poor and vulnerable young people who are trying their best to make ends meet.''

Young people’s expectation on the Gambia YEP mini grant

Mr. Baboucarr Kebbeh, Chief Executive Officer, Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce shared: ''I expect the mini grant scheme to address youth unemployment by supporting youth entrepreneurship and development of marketable skills. Development of youth friendly technologically based financial products and services to overcome barriers and increase access to financial services and education for youth. The young entrepreneurs don’t need any financial support in a form of loan with interest, we don’t need loans, all that we are interested is grants, and we should be trained and supported in the financial management of the grants, this is what the New Gambia needs.''

Mr. Dawda Jallow, a delegate from Basse, Upper River Region also shared: ''As a rural youth myself, this initiative by YEP to enable youth to access finance is timely and a step in the right direction. I commend the team for the putting young people first. However I challenged them to ensure the grant; empowers youth across the Gambia by increasing their awareness of social and economic rights and improve their access to financial services, have the opportunity to accumulate savings, and improve their skills to find employment, earn a livelihood and ultimately make wise financial decisions to break the cycle of poverty.''

Mamadou Edrisa Njie, Executive Director of the Global Youth Innovation Network Gambia Chapter (GYIN Gambia Chapter), expressed his gratitude to YEP for launching the mini-grants, which according to Njie, will boost the livelihood of youth especially those in the rural areas.

''The mini-grant is first of its kind in the history of our beloved nation, to have a grant for youth and managed by youth. If you look at the composition of the YEP Project Steering Committee, Grant Committee members is chock-full of youth as well as the project implementing partner organisations. These are some of the initiatives, young people are yearning for and thanks to the YEP project for the great initiative. I just don’t want to do a comparison, but if you look at the approach the YEP has taken, one can strongly say that YEP is one of the finest projects our country has ever benefitted from all the grants that we are implementing right now. The project’s involvement of youth, youth organisations and even its management team, is per excellent, simply because, the YEP team listens to the voices of the youth and do considers recommendations made by the youth.''

In a smiling mood, Njie, expressed his profound gratitude to the YEP team for launching the mini grant at one of the biggest youth gathering which clearly manifested the interest YEP has for Gambia youth. He finally, called on youth especially those that will be lucky to benefit from the grant to make best use of the grant.

''If you know or suspect or have in mind that if you are given the grant and you cannot manage it, please don’t associate yourself with YEP mini-grant.''

Mr. Njie also recommended for the grantees to be provided with coaching and mentoring skills, which will avail them the opportunities to become ambassadors in their own regions. For the YEP mini-grant, Njie pointed out that, they are only looking for youth who are ready to become successful entrepreneurs and change their lives as well as the lives of others.

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