‘500,000 youths can be empowered if SLPP revisit its policies’ Amb. Felix A. Koroma
In Sierra Leone, unemployment rates remain relatively high, as the vast majority of employable youth cannot secure jobs. The small number which secures jobs regularly suffers from under-employment and lack of decent working conditions.
There is a significant gap, the former ambassador said, between the number of young people seeking work and the limited employment opportunities available to them. The widespread youth unemployment in the country Ambassador Koroma attributed to several factors, ranging from inadequate policy making, poor infrastructure, financial crisis, mismatch between education and the needs of the labor market, lack of entrepreneurial skills to lack of access to capital, among others.
Furthermore, he added, the current statistic on unemployment in the country began to degenerate when children were used as ‘Child Soldiers’ during the war; and at the end of the war, little effort was made to rebuild the structures that could have enhanced youth development, he pointed out.
Today, the youth population in our country is growing, which means more youth are on standby, ready to enter the workforce each year.
There is no unique determinant of the youth employment challenge in the country. Rather, a combination of factors contributes to compound a situation that has become a top political priority for the country.
Without action, many young people will face challenges finding employment to improve their livelihoods.
Government should focus on how to secure development and drive economic growth with inclusion. We must look beyond the macro fundamentals of growth to diversify our economies and create jobs. Many employment opportunities will emerge in different areas such as technology and innovation, agriculture or farming, automation, construction, banking, tourism etc. To achieve all of these, Sierra Leone must not become a breeding ground for continuous political victimization, violation of fundamental human rights and the rule of law as that undermines development. Such an atmosphere will frustrate the potential to create 500,000 jobs for the youth on a yearly basis.
Government should know that when political instability grows in the country, it hampers the desired economic development of the country. Economic growth and political stability are strongly related. The uncertainty associated with an unstable political environment may decrease investment and the speed of economic development.
Speaking of economic inclusivity, ambassador Koroma illustrated that there are many citizens who worked in the former government and have made strong international connections and acquired ideas that could have helped in the development of our country. However, the political atmosphere has forced them to remain quiet or stay out of the country. Similarly, the continuous violation of the Constitution, the rule of law, fundamental human rights, the sporadic killings, the high political tension, the barricading of court perimeter during trials of opposition members, the suppression of press freedom, the withdrawal of licenses from companies, the naming of citizens as terrorist etc. will go a long way to frustrate development.
In view of all of these, Foreign Direct Investors look into various factors before making investment decision in a country. However, a stable Government is an essential prerequisite for any investment. The investor will always look for a government which is supporting investment and which will not take any steps that are anti-investment. In it words, investors are looking for their security. They will not want to see a government that will take over companies as that will threaten their security or an atmosphere that shows sign of imminent violence, or work in a country whose citizens have been classed as terrorists.
While we are fighting the current Corona epidemic, we must not forget that lockdowns and restrictions measures intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus had taken a huge toll on the economic activity. Local investors and citizens who rely on their day-to-day survival are optimistic that the authorities will lift lockdowns and relax restrictions. This, among other reasons, has escalated the tension in the country. Taking all of these into consideration, the responsibility continues to rest on government to create the right ambience to enable the economic growth of the country. Government must not feel that they could do all of these in isolation. They need the opposition who are relevant actors for development in a democratic dispensation. This will expand the economy, foster cooperation, promote stability and above all development. With the continuous flow of development, the youths will continue to have jobs.
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