By Yusef “Flex Dan” Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Gambian youths played a monumental role in voting President Adama Barrow as President of The Gambia after more than two decades of Dictatorship. Earlier this week the Revised Budget from here on referred to as the budget was laid in Parliament and is facing intense scrutiny and debate in the House of Representatives. In the absence of a blueprint, the budget gives a clear indication which pot is being prioritised economically. If the blueprint is the strategy and plan that will sail us on to #NewGambia’s shores then the budget is the fuel in the tank which propels our engines to this unknown destination.
In any normal business, organisation or government the plan will be laid out, then the budget would be apportioned appropriately. However, in The Gambia’s case, there may be sufficient reason to say “a delay was inevitable having adopted a broken system”. Some still point that six months to begin formulating a blueprint is excessive. Nevertheless, it’s time for us to run the Youth Rule on the budget because the plight of the Gambian youths rests precariously on how well the new government prioritises youths and unemployment. The total sum of the budget is just over D21 Billion Dalasis. The table below highlights the government’s four highest priorities together with youths and employment. The lion’s share of the budget is allocated to the National Debt and Education. In a 29 item schedule Employment and Youths rank 17th and 21st respectively.
Presidential commitment to Youths?
In the President’s July 2017, trip to the African Union, he included this section in his speech “Our citizens, especially our youths are important facilitators to this change. Their thinking could yield enriching ideas for the reform process. The discourse being undertaken on the reform process should not be confined solely to the AU. There needs to be a proactive engagement with our youths to seek their input.” It gives me great hope to hear such words and I expect the President to commence soliciting the input of youths to face our collective challenges. Gambian youths are energetic and capable of providing meaningful contributions to the AU, however, we will always have one Gambia to return to after many a journey.
Taking a closer look at the percentage of the budget allocated to youths produced some very revealing findings on where the Governments priority lies with Youths. The actual amount allocated to Youths and Sports is an astonishingly low 0.48% of the budget. Gambian Youths, Trade, Employment (which shares the same pot with Industry and Regional Integration) have been allocated a combined 1.22% of the total budget. Education has 13% which directly goes towards educating pupils to Secondary Education, its assumed any vocational training will come from the Ministry of Higher Education’s pot. Meanwhile, the President’s Office is allocated over D700 million Dalasis while youths are allocated a paltry D58 million Dalasis, this is totally inadequate and insufficient to solve our pressing problems which happen to be a matter of life and death, simply put The Gambia is facing a national crisis.
It’s high time that Gambians begin thinking smarter and working faster to fix the damage perpetuated over the last two decades. Or have we forgotten the battering which our beloved dear Gambia suffered at the hands of the Merciless Tyrant? He’s wickedness still calls out from the numerous graves of his victims today, even from the depths of the Mediterranean seas, from the dusty Sahara Desert and the highly volatile African state Libya. While the Dictator plundered and indulged in jamborees and the lavish splendour of his gala dinners it was you the Gambian youths who suffered. How much longer shall you refuse marriage for lack of the house you were denied?
At face value, it’s a breath of fresh air to have such a well-mannered President as Adama Barrow, I like many believe he means well for Gambians. However as the honourable member for Serrekunda argued in the recent seating “political discipline is essentially important.” We must cut our coat according to our size and right now the Economy’s hand (the youths) is tied behind its back. It’s high time the Barrow Government unleashes the full potential of the youths. I’m confident that by adopting the right approach and explaining our concerns and requests to our reasonable political leaders we should be able to mitigate our predicament.
Youth and Unemployment requests for NAMs and Politicians
If the Government is really committed to tackling the migration and unemployment crisis then they should adjust the budget to reflect this. After working hard to vote in this new Government, Gambian youths cannot survive on beautiful speeches. It is for this reason I call on all Gambian youths to immediately begin engaging their local Members of Parliament and Political Leaders as a matter of urgency and raise two demands with them about the budget. The revised budget should;
- Allocate At least D300 Million Gambian Dalasis to Youth, Sports and Employment alone (approx. 3%) this is essential to provide the tools to stem the flow of illegal migrants
- Aim to allocate at least 4% of the budget to youths in subsequent years to boost efforts in tackling unemployment and the migration crisis
Currently, less than 0.5% of the Budget is being allocated to Youths which will certainly not provide sufficient job opportunities considering the fact that more Gambians are being deported from Europe and the rest of the World. The main problem has always been how do we create jobs? If we focus on creating jobs which solve our problems then we will surely take a bold step towards progress and prosperity. Take the electricity black-out (NAWEC), recently the Akon Light Up Africa initiative provided Solar for one Village in The Gambia. Where Gambian Youths trained to maintain solar systems in the future to gain some meaningful employment? (I hope this is the case) Could a training school suffice with the assistance of the Akon Light Up Africa initiative? Can more youths be trained to fit more villages with electricity? Can the Government encourage a solar factory for the main components of a Solar Panel? In the #NewGambia every challenge can become opportunities, wind turbines can be erected along the coast to generate electricity. How about the water crisis? I’m sure many capable Gambians can come up with more feasible solutions to tackle this problem. The bottom line is Gambian youths need more vocational training which can provide meaningful employment at the end of a day’s work.
If the Solar panel idea sounds a bit farfetched let’s look at a less complicated one. There are many commodities which the Gambia imports that could be manufactured in the country such as; candles, pins, stationary, and tomato puree to name a few. The government can encourage citizens to open up factories and businesses to provide these products locally which will help drive down the cost of everyday goods. In the future, such fledgeling companies can begin exporting in the neighbouring countries.
I wrote this article determined to highlight the concerns and problems facing Gambian youths, however, I also wanted to leave you with the belief that we can do it. We can turn it around, but it will need a concerted effort from all stakeholder. Engage your local MP and Politicians to prioritise youths in the budget. I may be just one passionate Gambian hoping that one day we can demonstrate that we are as strong as the sum of our parts. If we rise up together as one nation, determined to change our predicament one day we won’t even consider embarking on the precarious backway searching for pastures new. That day we shall walk on the shores of today’s unknown destination, #NewGambia.