The Point (Banjul)

Gambia: 'Be Patient With Us' Youth Minister Tells Young People

After months of shuttling back and forth, the NaYCONF 2012 is now history. On Wednesday January 9, the biennial youth gathering came to a close in the Central River Region town of Bansang, the host for this year's rotational event.

The high point of the week-long conference and festival characteristically was marked by the presentation of the NaYCONF 2012 Resolution to the Gambia's minister for Youth and Sports, Alieu K. Jammeh.

This year's Resolution, signed by the head of delegation of all the seven regions and the NYC executive secretary, dished out a handsome slice of responsibility to a wide range of stakeholders in the development of the country's young people.

Youth demand

The government, as the main duty bearer, naturally takes the lion's share. It is to allocate more resources and to create improved policies and laws conducive for youth.

Bearing in mind the theme for this year's event sought to promote indigenous entrepreneurship, the resolution called on the government to strengthen the regional youth farms programme and develop a National Youth Employment Strategy.

Civil society was asked to provide financial resources for advocacy against social vices; develop rehabilitation programmes for traumatized young people; and initiate youth entrepreneurship pilot projects.

The ministry of Youth and Sport was urged to increase the financial subvention to the National Youth Council, and facilitate the creation of a secretariat for the NYC; the latter was urged to be more responsive in championing youth development issues.

The country's youth did not lose sight of their responsibilities towards creating a youth-friendly Gambia. In their resolution, they task themselves to change attitude towards employability; participate in the productive sectors of the economy, and promote environmental sustainability.

Kalleh's special plea

NaYCONF, according to critics, has an unenviable reputation of dumping one heap of unresolved Resolution upon another, though officials, including NYC, always dismiss such claims.

Perhaps prompted by that concern, the chairperson of the National Youth Council this time round has made what he called a "special appeal" to stakeholders in youth matters.

"Essentially," Fabakary Kalleh said in his closing remarks, "NAYCONF 2012 had been a week of gainful socialisation and ambience, a week of dialogue, a week of experience-sharing, that of cultural integration and, above all, a week of learning, planning and production.

"The theme for NAYCONF 2012 was 'Directing and Re-orienting Youth participation towards the productive sectors of the Economy'. Reference to this theme, conference delegates, comprising young people from all the seven administrative regions and municipalities, the national youth organizations, stakeholders and participants from the sub-region had been engaged in a five-day productive and interactive dialogue.

"The conference has developed resolutions relevant to the attainment of the aims and objectives set forth in the National Youth Act and Policy. I would, hereby, like to make a special appeal to the MOYS, the government of The Gambia, partners and all other stakeholders that we must not allow this very hard labour of youths to gather dust in office drawers."

Minister hears

Hear the youth the line minister claimed he did. However, he asked them to be patient with his government. "We are embarking on a road that will be challenging," Minister Jammeh told the conference delegates. "There will be difficult days, but we are committed. All we ask from you is patience.

"Rome, as the saying goes, was not built in a day. And may I add that it is practically impossible for two nation states to develop simultaneously at the same time and in the same way.

"So let us not take things for granted. Do not imagine things beyond the shores of the country, and believe they should be automatically available here. Remember that those people have gone through a long and various histories. There are scenarios beyond our borders that are eye-catching, but let us remember that it took them time to work on them."

Speaking further, with the theme for this year's event seeking to spur young people to take up livelihoods skills and dominate the productive sectors of the economy, Minister Jammeh did not fail to drive home this call.

"From here, you should go en masse into participating in the productive sectors of the economy," he said. "That way, you could live a life that will be more decent than that of the one sitting in the offices. We know for a fact that someone, say, in Tanji takes home in a day what someone in the offices has for a monthly salary."

Meanwhile, according to Minister Jammeh's rating, the NaYCONF 2012 had been a success. His views were shared by many participants, including the chairperson of the conference sub-committee of the 2012 NaYCONF, Bakary Badjie.

In a cool and collected appearance characteristic of him, Badjie gave a rundown of what transpired during the five-day intensive deliberations which he presided over.

"Having attended NaYCONFs in Brikama and KMC, I can certainly say that this year's NaYCONF is one of the most successful.

"Yes, we did have problems here and there, but the way the NOC members behaved themselves this time round has been unprecedented. Also, for the first time in the history of NaYCONF, we have come up with an action plan so as to be able to measure up our achievements."

He continued: "The conference had been a learning place for all the delegates. We have had the opportunity to listen to presentations mainly from key government departments on the new development framework, the PAGE, and also on the youth policy.

"The UNDP also had a presentation on the UNDP Youth Dialogue which took the delegates through what the UNDP has on the employability of the youth.

"Progress made by youth associations from the last NaYCONF was also discussed, showing young people that opportunities are available in the country and that it is for us to march towards them. There were people who confessed receiving loans from, for instance, NEDI, and they have been doing well."

Meanwhile, the keynote address of the conference was delivered by the deputy Permanent Secretary for youth matters at the ministry of Youth and Sports.

Jawo informed his minister that 'young people of this country are aware of our development agenda. They are in line with what we as the ministry of Youth and Sports have for them'.

He remarked though that the demands made in the resolution are huge, yet with collective approach towards the resolutions, he added, they are achievable.

"This resolution requires a lot of work. As a ministry we are aware of the problems, hence the transformations such as the setting up of a directorate for monitoring and evaluation at the ministry of Youth of Sports. With that now in place, we will be able to monitor youth programmes.

He told the youth: "Yes, we have your Resolution. We will work on them. However, we will further examine how NaYCONF is conducted. We will look into the efficiency or otherwise of it - even if it means doing it better. Whatever the outcome, we will come back to you because you own NaYCONF."

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