The Global Youth Innovation Network Gambia Chapter (GYIN Gambia Chapter) is a household name for youth empowerment, the network is a National Youth Organization that was launched at an international workshop held from 8th to 10th October 2011 in Cotonou, Benin. GYIN is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the government of the Republic of Benin and registered with the Attorney General’s Chambers at the Ministry of Justice. The organization was also registered with the National Youth Council (NYC) on 21st May 2015 to operate as a National Youth Organization. It has a membership of over one thousand (1000) young people across the country. The organization has regional chapters in all the six agricultural regions of the country.
Since its formation in 2012, the network has worked with different partners such as the National Land Water Management Project Nema, Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), International Trade Center (ITC), GIZ International Services, UNDP, International Organization for Migration (IOM), ROOTS Project as well as UNESCO.
In this article, we will be interviewing the Founder of GYIN Gambia Chapter, Mamadou Edrisa Njie, about the activities they have implemented and how they have impacted the lives and livelihood of young people in the country. We will also feature testimonies of beneficiaries on how GYIN programs have improved their employability.
Speaking to our communication team, Mamadou Edrisa Njie said GYIN Gambia has been implementing meaningful projects and programs in the country which include Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, Rural Youth Awards, Business Advisory Service, Coaching, and Mentoring, Digital Literacy Training as well as Market Linkages.
The Entrepreneurship Leadership and Information Technology ELIT youth summer camp is an annual boot camp designed for young people to expose them to the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
In this methodology, GYIN Gambia believes that more jobs will be created especially in the rural areas by addressing the root causes of irregular migration by inculcating the spirit of entrepreneurship in them. In addition to that, the ELIT seeks to upgrade entrepreneurial skills and will immensely contribute to addressing the unemployment trend among young people
ELIT 2020 has built the culture of creating equal opportunity for both male and female young people on the theme of the camp. Previous ELITs have imparted greatly by changing the livelihoods of young people especially those in the rural areas- to become job creators in the poultry, animal husbandry, rice value chain, horticulture, and small ruminants.
One of the core values of ELIT is to transform knowledge and skills into performance-oriented ventures. Therefore, this strategy will not only address the crisis of unemployment but will also bridge the gender gap in the labor market thus addressing several other social ills such as irregular migration (back-way) and rural-urban drift.
From 2016 to date, GYIN Gambia has trained three hundred (300) young people in entrepreneurship and leadership and today we can proudly say this program has successfully created small and medium business enterprises and others who were trained in leadership have also established sustainable community-based organizations that are helping their respective communities.
Rural Youth Awards
Mr. Njie said the idea of the First-Ever Rural Youth Award 2017 stemmed from recommendations from the National Youth Summer Camp held in Jenoi, Lower River Region of the Gambia. One of the 11-point recommendations was to organize a Rural Youth Awards- providing mentoring and entrepreneurship training, celebrating youth in Entrepreneurship, Agribusiness, and Agro-marketing.
In an attempt to address irregular migration, access to finance, and create more rural youth enterprises through the mentorship programme, GYIN Gambia annually organizes awards to celebrate the achievements and success of rural youth in agriculture in a drive for them to venture into agribusiness thus see agriculture as a viable business.
Previous award winners were supported with the award of prizes through GYIN Gambia buying assets/goods directly from vendors according to the invoices submitted.
These winners have established businesses while others expanded their businesses. The Award winners have created jobs for themselves and others through the Rural Youth Awards.
Fifty (50) enterprises have been created by young people. Some of the eighty (80) nominees were inspired by the award winners to expand their own businesses by creating another business venture while some of them created their enterprises through the award’s money.
In 2017, fifteen thousand dalasis (D15,000) cash grant was given to ten (10) young people;
in 2018, a grant of twenty-five thousand dalasis (D25,000) was also given to twenty young people; in 2019, a grant of D30,000 and 2020 a grant of 50,000 was also distributed to ten young people respectively.
Business Advisory Service and Youth Mentorship Programme
The Business Advisory and the Youth Mentorship Programme on Enterprise Management is considered to be a period of six months in which mentees undergo the recruitment exercise. The youth are driven from the ELIT programme.
Participants into the programme must undergo selection criteria, attend the start-up training, and subscribe to all the demands of the programme throughout the six months with one-to-one mentoring and access to finance.
These programmes have assisted rural youth in identifying viable business opportunities and being more successful in accessing the national and regional market, approaching microfinance institutions, and using available financial services and products. The program has provided rural young entrepreneurs and farmers with opportunities to participate in local, national, and regional workshops/fairs on rural youth entrepreneurship to showcase their products and services, network, forge a business partnership as well as share and learn among their peer’s best practices and successful rural youth-led enterprises/models.
The Business Advisory and the Mentorship Programme assist and helped rural youth to find out opportunities to apply for funding needed for their businesses to either start or expand their businesses. In best-practice mentoring programmes of GYIN Gambia Chapter, begins with mentors and mentees agreeing on a set of learning objectives that they will pursue together. Setting clear goals for activities and outcomes establishes’ the pair’s priorities from day one to graduation and after graduation of mentees, guiding their agenda and providing a shared sense of purpose. The network has provided business advisory to sixty (60) youth and mentored hundred (400) young people some of them who were part of our IOM Standing for Youth Initiative Programme and were given cash grant support of One hundred and twenty-five thousand dalasis D125,000 to 300 hundred young people.
Digital Literacy Training
According to Njie, the beneficiaries are exposed to digital literacy, with the aim of helping them better understand, and find opportunities in the ways technology is changing the face of business today. He said COVID-19 has taught them a lesson so there is a need to get used to technology and train the young people especially those in the business sector.
In 2020, at the peak of the novel Coronavirus (COVID19), GYIN Gambia organized online training for 30 young entrepreneurs on Proper Records Keeping and Business Taxation Payments in The Gambia which was fully funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Enterprise Private Sector Development Project (EPSD) focusing on women and youth.
Lesson learned from the training is young people lack knowledge on the use of digital knowledge to market their products online, creating a business Facebook page, LinkedIn, business WhatsApp, accounts for their business and Twitter handle, a similar training was conducted for 30 young people. The Training was funded by the ROOTS through IFAD and the Ministry of Agriculture to equip participants with the requisite digital skills to navigate and excel in the course of running their businesses. It also exposed them to current trends, opportunities, and strengths of technology in the Business World.
The Thirty (30) Participants were selected by region – in each region, five (5) were selected and either operate a business in Horticulture or Rice-Value Chain. GYIN Gambia has, so far, trained 160 entrepreneurs on digital marketing and some of them were supported with a cash grant to help in their business.
The first of its kind, the Rural Incubation Hub for young entrepreneurs and startups have been launched in Jarra Soma.
Implemented by GYIN and funded as a micro-project by the German, the hub presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to conduct market research, improve their digital marketing skills and connect with mentors and peers alike.
In a bid to grow their share of the country’s agricultural value chains, smallholder farmers and food processing startups can use the hub to learn about the right branding, labeling, and advertisement of their products – an endeavor that is strengthened by expert mentors of the GYIN network, who offer advice and guidance.
As a 2021 micro-project, the hub has been up and running since the end of last year, and is well received by youths of the area. It offers a platform for other organizations to hold their training and may inspire the implementation of more incubation hubs across the country.
On market linkages, Njie said the Network has implemented two value chain projects targeting youths and/or youth-led micro-enterprises, aiming at increasing employability in selected value chains and increasing economic opportunities in selected high-growth sectors. More specifically, in a bid to offer young Gambians and/or returning migrants concrete perspectives for socio-economic re/integration and development, the project intervention envisages to a couple of technical skills training with business development support, the Project’s two main components. Renewable energy solutions were proposed to trainees and micro-enterprises as a means of securing innovative job opportunities and boosting productivity. In addition, a special emphasis was placed on gender, i.e. ensuring equal opportunities both for male and female youths.
The first project was the agricultural value chain platform a two-year project supported by National Water Land Management Project Nema Project. In a project that supported women and youth farmers in vegetable and rice production along the value chain in marketing their products by themselves, farmers were in group platforms, and in the platforms, you have the producers, traders, transporters, and processors. All were interacting among themselves and making income for themselves.
The second project was the mass cassava out-growers scheme which is a one-year project supported by GIZ International. The project rolled out the Promotion of Market Linkages for Cassava and Maize Out Growers under the Tekki fii Project. This initiative has linked industrial users of cassava and maize (Aspuna and UNIGLOBAL respectively) with 615 youth farmers in the Project’s 3 intervention regions.
The Network was able to;
- Mobilize and sensitize 615 youth farmers
- Create and streamline database of the youth farmers
- Cluster farmers by village, wards, district, and regions
- Promote collaborative networking and linkages with existing farmers’ associations
- Created a platform for participants to negotiate and dialogue on envisaged partnership.
- Assess the capacity of the youth farmers
- Improved technical and entrepreneurship skills of the youth farmers
- Support the provision practical training for youth farmers based on the developed program.
Agri-Food Value Chain Program is the third market linkage which is designed to promote locally processed, labelled and packaged products to make rural youth the drivers of more productive and environmentally sustainable agri-food activities that respond to changing consumption needs and provide them with decent jobs aligned with their expectations.
The Agri-Food Value Chain Program was introduced for the supply of locally made agro-products available in Mini markets in the North Bank Region (NBR), Central River Region (CRR North and South), Lower River Region (LRR) and Upper River Region (URR).
This program enrolled fifty (50) beneficiaries in two batches of twenty-five (25) where a ready market was provided for them. GYIN Gambia secretariat, before the training began, had met with Mini Market Owners to discussed on possible ways of creating Market linkages for the supply of locally made agro products by young Agripreneurs.
Featuring the beneficiaries, we had talks with three entrepreneurs from three regions and one partner association. Below is the excerpt:
Ahmed M Ceesay
According to Ceesay, his decision to join GYIN Gambia’s Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Information Technology(ELIT2018) program became the turning point in his career.
ELIT2018 was the first business training I attended, he said. The training program exposed me to entrepreneurship, the ecosystem and available opportunities which I was never aware of prior to the training. I was later selected by GYIN to participate in the Second Edition of Six Months Youth Mentorship Program on Enterprise Management and I graduated as the best Mentee of the Cohort.
Since then, I have attended numerous business and leadership trainings that enhanced my business skills. I now manage my poultry and garden business called Fansoto Farm at Sukuta, West Coast Region.
I work as business trainer at Buzz Women Gambia. As an experienced entrepreneur, I also serve as a freelance business coach and provide advisory services to other Business Support Organizations.
Alfu M. Sarr
Featuring our second entrepreneur, Alfu M Sarr is an Agriprenuer, social entrepreneur and youth mentor from Ndofan, Lower Niumi District, North Bank Region (NBR)The Gambia
He is the Elected Chairperson of NBR Young Entrepreneurs Association, an association where he helps over 100 rural youths to formalized their businesses ideas and plans. As a mentor, he has been instrumental in guiding Rural youths to have access to entrepreneurship trainings and financial support to start, improve and scale up their businesses.
Mr. Sarr is an Ambassador and Committee Member at Gambia Chamber of Commerce and industry. Through GYIN, he’s been able to build on his business acumen through the training and mentorship provided within the Gambia and outside.
He has won several awards and grants 2018-2021 including The Rural Youth Award of GYIN, the Mashav Entrepreneurship Grant from the State of Israel through its Embassy in Dakar in November 2020 and others.
As a progressive Agripreneur, he owns 90 percent of his Agribusiness Company called the Sarr Green Hectares Gambia Limited. His Company engages in sustainable agriculture through organic Production and Commercialization of Nutritional and Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, animal husbandry and trading farming inputs to boost food security and youth employment.
He is currently working with a Board of Directors that comprises Professionals from the Diaspora and The Gambia. At present, he works with 8 youths and is also coaching many Rural youths to engage in Agripreneurship
Since 2017 up to date, GYIN has helped him to accelerate his entrepreneurial journey and since then as regarded GYIN ELIT summer camp as the powerhouse to his success and now has become a globally recognized progressive entrepreneur and youth leader in his community.
The final entrepreneur is Mariama Krubally an entrepreneur from Basse in the Upper River Region of The Gambia. Krubally is into catering. She owns and runs a restaurant in her native town of Basse. Currently, she employed three young people to help her to run the business.
Krubally is the CEO of MK enterprise. she attended GYIN Gambia’s first edition of ELIT youth summer camp, and she was also a nominee for the famous rural youth awards in 2017, unfortunately, she did not win any of the categories but through GYIN Gambia help desk who help her fill out a grant application, she was able to win the GIZ solar grant.
“I am a proud GYINer all the business success I have made today was because of GYIN Gambia’s continuous support. They always give me catering contracts whenever they have programs here in Basse and even in other regions; through that, I was able to make savings to pay staff salaries, and settle my personal errands”
Bulock Kapongha Youth Development Association
Bulock kapongha Youth Development Association is a community-based association in Bulock, Foni Berefet District West Coast Region is part of the many associations affiliated with GYIN Gambia. The Association carried out yearly activities impacting the lives of its community members.
Speaking to us, the Vice President of the Association, Madam Isatou Badjie said her association is glad to affiliate with GYIN Gambia and pay dues on time. “Over the years, the GYIN has assisted the CBO in providing cash support through our farming activities supporting our tree planting exercise and today we are standing on our own carrying out activities bringing projects and programs in the community. Through our partners, we have distributed 50K of rice to 1300 hundred families in five villages in Foni. We have lobbied for a 5hectare garden for our community to produce a market and help their families. In partnership with GYIN, we have rehabilitated a community market and today 25 women are benefitting from it by either buying vegetables from the garden or traveling to Brikama to buy products and reselling them to the community market to gain income. Thank you GYIN Gambia for paving the way for us,” she said.