The minister of Youth and Sports has reaffirmed that the government of The Gambia, through his ministry and satellite agencies, has provided platforms for the fulfillment of the rights of youth to participate in decision making at both local and national levels, preparing them to value dignity in labour, whilst enhancing their employability.
In a statement addressed to the young people across the country and beyond, as the country joins the rest of Africa to commemorate Africa Youth Day, Alieu K. Jammeh said that The Gambia government continues to recognise the important role young people play in the socio-economic and positive cultural development of the country and towards the maintenance of a highly cherished peace and social cohesion.
The theme for this year’s celebration is, ‘Africa Year of Human Rights towards Agenda 2063 – the Africa We Want’’, and focuses on the fulfillment of the fundamental human rights of youth particularly the rights of girls and young women in shaping the future we want for Africa.
“The recent establishment of the modern innovative agricultural value chain training centre in Chamen, North Bank Region, called Gambia Songhai Initiative Centre, is one of our deliberate efforts, in partnership with our development partners, to build the skills and competence of youth in agriculture both as means for self-employment and to improve food security in the country,” Minister Jammeh said.
The day, according to him, is set aside by the African Union (AU) to promote and celebrate the immeasurable contributions of youth towards national and continental development; to increase the recognition of youth as key agents of social change, economic growth and sustainable development in Africa; and to acknowledge and remind duty bearers the magnitude of challenges facing youth which calls for collective responsibility.
About 65% of the total population of Africa is below the age of 35 years, and over 35% are between the ages of 15 and 35 years – making Africa the most youthful continent in the world. By 2020, it is projected that out of every 4 people, 3 will be on average of 20 years old. Each year, about 10 million young African youth enter the labour market. This demographic reality point to the need to invest and transform our youth into bankable assets to sustainably transform our continent as highlighted in the African Youth Charter and Decade Plan of Action on Youth, which are both in line with the AU agenda 2063.
“As we celebrate this day, let’s recognise that in The Gambia our Government continuous to register remarkable successes in making it possible for young people to go to school from primary to senior secondary uninterrupted. Furthermore, the establishment of the University of The Gambia, existence of other private universities in the country, provision of health care services and information to young people, go a long way in our human capital development drives,” the Youth minister stated.
Nonetheless, he said they remind themselves during this celebration of the commitments made in the African Youth Charter, which was endorsed by the heads of state, and Government of Africa at a summit hosted in The Gambia in 2006 and ratified by the country in 2009.
The nminister said it was in fulfillment of those commitments in the Charter and the need to capture the emerging needs of our youth that the country’s National Youth Council Act is being revised and the National Youth Policy 2009-2018 is also being reviewed midway.
“It is our conviction that young people and all other duty bearers including development partners, civil society, local government councils, parents and young people will align their programmes with these instruments and continue to support their effective implementation for the greater good of our young people,” he said.
Moving forward, he added, they shall work hard to successfully host the commemoration of the 10th year anniversary of AU African Youth Charter (Banjul +10) in May 2016. Through partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and UNDP, he asserted, they will pursue to strengthen The Gambia Songhai Initiative to be centre of excellence in Africa for youth socio-economic entrepreneurship development in agriculture; with the Ministries of Higher Education and Basic and Secondary Education, hoping to pilot a compulsory national service in 2016 to give young graduates the opportunity to earn job experience while serving their communities for employability.
“With the Ministry of Interior, we are exploring further methods to positively address migration issues of our youth; with the Ministry of Trade and Employment, we shall ensure that there is a coordinated approach to employment creation for our youth; with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, we will continue to promote healthier lifestyles of living for our youth that encourages physical exercise; and will as well strengthen our collaborations and forge partnerships with other Ministries and development stakeholders to deliver our promised mission to the youth of the country,” he further assured.
The Youth minister hinted that this year’s commemoration would be characterised with a caravan match past, symposia, validation of the medium term review of the National Youth Policy 2009-2018, sensitisation of youth on the Decent Work Country Programme, and the launch of The Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce.
Minister Jammeh further reaffirmed that in The Gambia, more than 60% of the population is below 35 years, of which 36.7% are between ages of 13 – 30 years. Youths in The Gambia, just as in other parts of Africa have numerous and diverse needs, indeed sometimes very urgent needs, that demand for the collective attention of family, community, state and non-state actors and civil society participation in addressing them. For example, the need for a proper upbringing, access to education and health, self-fulfillment through employment in order to earn a decent wage, are rights of our young that society in general has to ensure prevails.
The Youth Minister then applauded The Gambia leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh Babili Mansa and the entire government for creating the conducive environment and services for youth development in The Gambia, while equally saluting other partners such as: UNDP, UNFPA, UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, FAO, WFP among others, for their continuous support to youth development.
“We acknowledge the efforts of AU towards youth development among which is the formulation of the African Youth Charter; Decade Plan of Action on Youth; Youth Volunteers Corps; inclusion of youth and women in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP); establishment of the AU Youth Hubs; among other positive endeavours,” he concluded.