With the exodus of Gambian young people seeking greener pastures in Europe, efforts are being intensified to create job opportunities in the country through entrepreneurship.
One of such initiatives came up on Tuesday when the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry The Gambia, through a US embassy funding, kick-started the first ever start-up business incubator programme for the country’s young people.
According to the US chargé d’affaires, for a start, the project targets between fifty and hundred youth, from 18 to 35 years.
“We believe that by offering [young people] expertise and support to start their own business here in The Gambia, we can convince youth that their future is here, not at the end of the dangerous and expensive ‘back-way’ to Europe,” Joseph Stafford said.
He added: “We believe that it will give new entrepreneurs access to affordable financing as well as the essential legal, financial and technical support necessary to grow a small business.”
Stafford was speaking at the Law Faculty of the University of The Gambia, where a batch of 20 young people will undergo three months training on enterprise development.
The participants, drawn from a wide range of business professions, will also benefit from mentorship and coaching as well as an opportunity for access to finance as part of the business incubator programme.
For Mr Alieu Jallow, programme manager of the youth incubator project, the business incubator breaks away from traditional business training models that have failed to deliver for young people.
Also the coordinator for association of young entrepreneurs in the country, he said the programme responds to the need for a shift which requires youth to become job creators instead of job seekers.
“We need much, much more than training,” Mr Jallow said. “We need much more than people giving you loans; we need that guidance, that mentorship, those people with experience to come and sit with you and guide you every step of the way.”
He added: “Building these people, we want to create an eco-system; an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, people helping and partnering amongst themselves in moving forward. I think entrepreneurship should be more of solving a problem than a way of just finding money. It should be a way of giving services. We should build an eco-system in The Gambia where entrepreneurs can network amongst themselves and move forward.”
Meanwhile, the 20 participants are all drawn from the Greater Banjul Area of the country, selected out of 160 applicants. According to officials their selection was based on merit. They have also pledged that the project will be extended to also include young people in rural Gambia.