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The Global Youth Innovative Network (GYIN) Gambia Chapter, has begun its 5th annual youth entrepreneurship summer camp dubbed ELIT 2020, at Trans-Gambia Lodge in Lower River Region (LRR).

The annual convergence is an Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and Information Technology (ELIT) package under the organization designed to train young entrepreneurs on skills important to starting or maintaining a successful business enterprise.

This year’s #ELIT2020 organized by GYIN Gambia is supported by the “Make it in The Gambia-Tekki Fii projects implemented by ITC/YEP, IMVF, GIZ and funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF).

The Chairman of Mansakonko Area Council, Mr. Landing B. Sanneh, who officially opened the 10-day youth camping, put on record the strides made by GYIN to provide entrepreneurial skills to youths in the country.

Sanneh, who one time worked in the domain of youth entrepreneurship, informed his audience that there are many untapped opportunities in the country; and therefore challenged youths to take the available opportunities in order to make an impact on themselves and the nation, at large.

ELIT 2020 focuses more on digital literacy. This is as businesses and business owners continue to feel the economic pinch caused by COVID 19.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Executive Director of GYIN-Gambia, Mr. Mamadou Edrisa Njie, hailed the valuable partnership his organization continues to enjoy from partners. He acknowledged that GYIN has, for the past five years, been partnering with the European Union and Tekki Fi [Make it in The Gambia project] to implement ELIT.

The head of GYIN Gambian chapter used the occasion to encourage the participants to take the training seriously, arguing that the seriousness of the participants would determine the continuity of the partnership with the donors.

The Gambia has a market that is largely dominated by foreign investors. According to economic experts, this has a serious economic impact on the country and its people. This narrative should change. The time is now that youths of the country take the lead role in establishing and running businesses in the country.

This, it is believed, will help reduce the unemployment rate and support the economic growth of the country. According to statistics, Gambia’s youth unemployment rate for 2019 was 12.7%, a 0.05% increase from 2018.

Ms. Fatou Faal is a seamstress from Barra, North Bank Region. As a young female entrepreneur in a sector largely dominated by males, Fatou travels all the way to Trans-Gambia Lodge to attend the ELIT 2020. Inspired by the success stories of previous ELIT attendees, she joins the entrepreneurship camp to gather enough experience that could help her sail through the difficult journey of being a successful entrepreneur.

Since joining the sessions, Ms. Faal said she has so far learned lessons that she believes, would be impactful to her business. The story of emerging entrepreneurs in the country is that of an unfavorable economic climate to survive. The same story is shared by the Barra resident. Despite having the passion to widen her business to give opportunities to other young girls to venture into the trade, Fatou has her passion handicapped by weak financial strength.

“If I should have support, I would like to expand my workshop, buy more machines and employ other people”, the young seamstress said. She thus appeals for support from government and donor agencies as she continues to hold on to the weak hope of being a successful entrepreneur.

Mr. Sainey Loum, runs a family farm called “Master Farmer Family Farm”. The young entrepreneur from Toro-Ba has the zeal to improve his family’s food and economic security. With little or no market intelligence, Loum sets out to the ELIT camp to gather the relevant knowledge and skills that could help him stay in the world of entrepreneurs.

Like many small and big businesses that faced the wrath of COVID-19, Master Farmer Family Farm was not an exception. During these trying times, the farm faced low income as the public regulations against the global pandemic practically put them out of business.

Loum has a story that echoes that of many other entrepreneurs, financial instability and lack of support. He believes government should create policies that would encourage young entrepreneurs to tap the available dividends in the entrepreneurship sector.

The government has faced many accusations of not providing financial support to startup Gambian-owned businesses. Many in fact, have said it is not accusations but the unavoidable reality. Sainey used the opportunity to call on Barrow government to extend its hand of favor to entrepreneurs. He also urged donor agencies to be flexible in disbursing funds to entrepreneurs.

At the end of the 10-day camp, participants are expected to gather experience and the entrepreneurship know-how to effectively start or maintain their respective enterprises.

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