3 May 2019

Sierra Leone: President Bio Promises Robust Action On Youth Unemployment

President Julius Maada Bio, has yesterday during the State Opening of the Second Session of the Fifth Parliament promised to address the security challenges of youth unemployment across the country.

"In the New Direction, we shall continue to view youth unemployment as a human capital development and security challenge and will adopt a holistic, integrated and coherent approach to create jobs. This was the explanation for the adage in 2008 "global" and now "de gron dry". It is imperative that we robustly address the challenge of youth unemployment," he promised.

He said youth (persons 15-35 years) account for about 33% of the country's population and representing about 63% of the economically active population, of which 67% are unemployed partly because they are untrained for the job market and due to limited job opportunities in the narrow private sector.

President Bio stated that during the past 12 months of his administration, some of the initiatives of the Ministry of Youth to create jobs include the training and certification of 510 young people in different live skills programs and the commissioning of 200 youth corps to facilitate national cohesion and support program delivery to all regions and districts across the country.

He said they will continue with the Free Quality Education to increase access of youth to secondary education, provide both grant-in-aid and loans to the youth in tertiary institutions, provide technical and vocational education for youth who have little or limited education as well as those that cannot enter university.

He said they will soon launch the Youth Empowerment Fund to promote youth entrepreneurs and non-farm activities.

"Secondly, through the Livelihood Skills Programme, the Ministry has started the construction of ten car wash centres across the Western Area (Rural and Urban) and intends to roll it out to other districts. Thirdly, with support from the ADB, SALWACO recruited youth plumbers who have received refresher training in SLOIC and Eastern Polytechnic to actively undertake service connections for domestic and public consumers. Fourthly, we have launched the Career Advisory and Placement Service Centres in Eastern Polytechnic and the Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology (EBKUST)," he said.

He said with support from the United Nations Development Programme, the National Youth Commission piloted that project at the University of Sierra Leone and Njala University with the overarching goal to empower university students and alumni to achieve lifelong success through seamless access to transformative global experiences, comprehensive and holistic career services that will improve the pathways from universities to employers.

He noted that the African Development Bank was supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to implement a three year Youth Entrepreneurship and employment project with funding from the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA) and the Transition Support Facility (TSF).

President Bio continued that the specific objective of that pilot project was to provide career guidance and counselling to 2,400 youth; train 20 TVET instructors; enhance supervisory skills of at least 100 graduates in collaboration with private sector partners; train 150 youth in three selected priority trades needed by the private sector and be linked to employers or capacitated to become entrepreneurs; support 60 youth to start and manage businesses through mentoring; and to enhance the image and attractiveness of Technical Vocational Education and Training.

He said regarding youth in agriculture, they will support youth through provision of tractors, training and extension services, improved seedlings and farm implement and post-harvest support every chiefdom in the next 4 years to enable them establish youth farms.

However, President Bio said 12 months ago, his government laid out a strategy for reversing the low compliance of Sierra Leone in terms of aviation safety, which, according to the report of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), is estimated at 18.5 %, far below the 60% safety threshold set by "Abuja Safety Targets".

He stated that enforcement of regulations by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) continues to be lax and that the CAA was not economically sustainable given its inability to generate revenue and its low level of competency and capability.

"To address this, Government has secured US$500,000 from ICAO to establish an effective safety oversight system in Sierra Leone and strengthen its safety oversight capabilities. It is envisaged that this will increase our safety ratings from 20% to the minimum target of 60% thereby being in compliance with the Abuja Safety Target," he said.

He also stated that a 60% compliance level will enable the state of Sierra Leone to fulfil its responsibilities under the Chicago and Montreal Conventions on International Air Transport in the areas of certification, licensing and surveillance with special emphasis on the areas of issuances of air operators' certificate and the certification of Freetown International Airport Lungi.

He noted that in the interim, the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority has entered into a technical cooperative agreement with the Banjul Accord Group Aviation Safety Oversight Organization (BAGASOO) for the provision of services in the area of Flight Operations and Airworthiness, staff training and capacity building.

"This will lead to the issuance of Air Operators Certificates which will enable the state to resume the registration of aircraft on the national aircraft register of Sierra Leone."

He said his government has established a Presidential Infrastructure Initiative to support his office in the selection, design, planning and management of road projects, mobilization of resources, and the provision of implementation support.

"This unit has recently completed a national feasibility study on the Lungi Bridge and has initiated actions to mobilize resources through a competitive process that does not impose huge contingent liability on Government," he said.

The Chamber of Parliament which has been on renovation since Feburary 1st, 2019 till yesterday, March 2nd was opened by President Julius Maada Bio for the state opening of the second session of the fifth Parliament.

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