The lack of access to employment opportunities among Gambian youth is widely cited as a major contributing factor to irregular migration. According to the 2018 Gambia Labour Force Survey, 95 per cent of Gambian irregular migrants surveyed cited “lack of work” as their primary reason for migrating.
In response to this, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched a vocational training programme aimed at equipping Gambian youth with the skills to engage in entrepreneurial ventures or seek employment.
“If I equip myself with skills in information technology, I can open my own company and employ Gambians. There would be no need for me to consider the backway (irregular migration),” said trainee Sidia Hydara.
The programme was designed after a baseline assessment to identify market gaps, demands and opportunities in the West Coast and Upper River Regions – which represent the first and third highest, respectively, origin of Gambian migrants. While laptops and satellites are more widely used in the peri-urban West Coast Region, the demand for mobile phone repairs and solar panels was higher in the Upper River Region.
Sidia joins a total of 100 youth who will participate in four separate vocational training courses at the Gambia Telecommunications and Multimedia Institute (GTMI): satellite installation and laptop repairs in the West Coast Region; and solar panel installation and mobile phone repairs in the Upper River Region. Lasting 6 to 12 weeks each, the courses will see 50 young men and 50 young women learn both technical and entrepreneurial skills, including business administration, financial management and customer service.
After completing their courses, each of the students will receive a toolbox to enhance their ability to engage in income-generating activities. In addition, with the support of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), IOM will establish a revolving micro-credit fund which the students who develop viable business proposals after the training will have the opportunity to access.
“Many youths embark on irregular migration journeys because they have no hope. They can’t find employment,” said Malick Bah, GTMI Director. “With an increasingly digitized Gambia and with training opportunities like this, there is renewed hope.”
“Since 2017, IOM has assisted in the voluntary return and reintegration of over 4,000 stranded Gambians,” says Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia. “We recognize that many youths without economic opportunities are still tempted to engage in irregular migration. So, the launch of this inaugural vocational training is aimed at addressing the root causes of irregular migration.”
Following this, IOM will establish a training programme in the North Bank Region, the fourth highest origin for Gambian migrants, based on the identified market opportunities.
This initiative forms part of a larger IOM project, funded by the AICS, aiming to bridge together youth, diaspora and local authorities to promote employment and address irregular migration in The Gambia.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).
25 youth are being trained on satellite installation. Photo: IOM/Miko Alazas