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Presidential speech at the launching of the World Bank funded youth employment support project

Presidential speech at the launching of the World Bank funded youth employment support project

Speech by His Excellency, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma during the launching of the World Bank funded youth employment support project, Miatta Conference Centre, 17 March 2011.

Mr. Chairman
Hon. Vice President
Hon. Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Hon. Members of Parliament
Your Worship the Mayor of Freetown
The Executive Representative of the UN Secretary General
The World Bank Country Director
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Stakeholders in Youth Development
Ladies and Gentlemen

Today, we are all here to witness the launch of the Youth Employment Support Project, initiated by my Government with the support of the World Bank. The project targets the empowerment of over 30,000 young people throughout the country.

Mr. Chairman, gainful engagement and employment of youths has been a major policy objective of government. My Government’s Agenda for Change places youth employment as a core outcome of the huge investments we are making in the prioritized sectors of agriculture, infrastructure/transport, energy and human development. We are also committed to macroeconomic stability, robust economic growth rate and development of the private sector. This will lead to the creation of employment opportunities that will eventually absorb the large number of unemployed youths.

Today Agriculture is my government’s number one priority. It is the sector where the vast majority of our people, including youths are engaged. Huge investments in the sector will definitely translate into hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities for our youths. That is why we have increased budgetary contribution to agriculture from 1.5% in 2007 to 10% today; that is why we have increased the number of tractors in the country from under 30 when we took over to nearly 300 today; and that is why we have launched the Small Holder Commercialization Programme involving tens of millions of dollars investment in the sector.

Our investment policies are also attracting huge investments in the mining sector. Now thousands of jobs are being created that will hugely benefit our youthful population. We are also building vocational centers in every district to train youths and ease their transition into gainful employment

Mr. Chairman, Sierra Leone is a country of youths. Young persons are the mainstay of our society; they are our strongest hope for the continued survival of our country. That is why during the 2009 London Consultative Meeting and Investment Forum, my Government, in collaboration with various stakeholders, presented a new strategy on Youth Employment (2010-2012). Based on the key national development strategy – Agenda for Change, four major intervention strategies were developed;

  1. Focus on employment creation
  2. Linking interventions in Labour Supply, Labour Demand and Matching of Supply and Demand for synergies and sustainability
  3. Systematic inclusion of private sector needs and contributions (Public Private Partnerships)
  4. Careful balance of quick wins and long-term development

The strategic shift from employability-oriented to employment-oriented interventions, coupled with developing the area of matching the supply and demand for labour were highly recognized as key for the sector by the new strategy. Another major strategic shift in the sector is to focus on stimulating economic development – including private sector development and local economic development – as a catalyst to creating the demand for jobs.

It is this strategic shift that this project and other on-going and planned interventions seek to address in a systematic and sustainable manner. As you can see, all these activities would require the appropriate institutional framework to coordinate the sector. This is why my Government is taking steps to facilitate the operations of the National Youth Commission to take the lead in promoting coordination and harmonization in the youth development sector. To further strengthen our commitment to the youth of this country, I have established a separate Ministry of Youth Employment and Sports to support the work of the commission.

May I take this opportunity to appeal to our international development partners for substantial support to the Ministry and the Commission. The commission will require substantial resources- financial, material, as well as technical, to be able to carry out its functions effectively. My Government will endeavour to provide the required leadership and commitment in ensuring that the commission succeeds in accomplishing its objectives.

I wish to express my sincere thanks to the President of the World Bank, who made a commitment to support our efforts at addressing youth employment during a visit to Sierra Leone. I wish to applaud all those institutions (principally the Ministries of Finance and Economic Development, Youth Employment and Sports, the National Commission for Social Action and staff of the World Bank) and individuals who contributed immensely in getting this project started.

Mr. Chairman, Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Honourable Members of Parliament, Your Worship the Mayor of Freetown, The Executive Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, The Country Director of the World Bank, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, My Youth Leaders, I wish to formally launch the Youth Employment Support Project.

Thank you for your attention.

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