Gambia: 'Unemployment Continues to Be Major Youth Challenge'

The speaker of the National Youth Parliament has spoken of the challenges confronting youth development in the country, acknowledging that high unemployment rate continues to be one of the biggest challenges youth face.

Omar Cham made this disclosure in a recent interview with this medium.

The high unemployment rate, he observed, has always and is still a major problem Gambians face most especially the youth.

"A clear indication has shown lot of the people engaged in criminal activities are within the age bracket of 18 to 39. This is as a result of frustration of not finding a job for themselves. If job opportunities are created and all is included there is a high hope that the frequent crimes we hear on a daily basis will reduce."

Ousman Taal, 35, and a concerned Gambian, said for over five years now the government did not have any tangible plan for Gambians especially the youth.

The youth, he added, made a significant move in the 2016 presidential election that saw the ouster of the country's long term dictator, Yahya Jammeh.

He noted that they made similar efforts in the 2021 presidential election by voting massively for President Adama Barrow.

Years down the line, it's the same youth who continue to face challenges in various areas most notably 'unemployment' under the Barrow administration.

"So far, the government hasn't shared any kind of roadmap that will address the issue of youth employment and this has led to increase in irregular migration and illegal trades among youth." He said.

Aisha Ceesay, 26, and an advanced diploma holder in Business Management can't still find placement in the job market since her graduation in 2019.

She observed that the employment system in the country is such that it's not inclusive as people hire who they know and like and not based on qualifications.

"Even with the government, when job or skills training opportunities arise, you only get to know of it when the deadline is almost due. " she said.

Another concerned youth, Ali Jawo, 26, expressed similar sentiments.

For him, government has special sectors they focus on.

"Government don't invest in youth dominated sectors, there are sectors that when investment is made the unemployment rate in the country will fall but the government is always negligent of youth dominated sectors." He added.

Jawo noted that fewer youth are currently employed and even those that were able to find job, a significant number are working under challenging conditions with low wages that may not even guarantee sustainable livelihoods and a prosperous future.

Considering the role of youth in national development, they continue to face numerous challenges that forced some to drug abuse and other criminal acts.

A survey conducted by the Center for Policy, Research and Strategic Studies (CepRass) in April 2022 revealed that government performance on youth development is not promising as 75% of their respondents rated it as 'poor and very poor.'

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