Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 November 2022:
At the Freetown International Conference Centre yesterday Tuesday, President Julius Maada Bio addressed over 500 final year students, graduates and young entrepreneurs from across the country, who took part in a three-day career fair. He challenged them to be innovative and focused.
“I am informed that about six hundred young people, about fifty companies, and over two hundred entrepreneurs are participating in this fair. This fair not only connects young people to opportunities but also provides a platform for engaging all stakeholders about designing a cohesive, integrated, and sustainable job-creation strategy,” the president said.
President Bio said that since 2018, twenty-four manufacturing factories producing food, beverages, toiletries and more, have hired thousands of young people, while word processing, furniture, plastics, and metal-work factories have also hired thousands more.
He noted that water-processing and packaging factories have generated more jobs and that as a result Sierra Leone is now exporting vegetable oil, soap, and other essentials to the sub-region markets.
“There are more mining-sector jobs, agriculture-value chain jobs, fisheries-sector jobs, renewable-energy jobs, infrastructure-sector jobs, tourism and entertainment-related jobs, youth-empowerment-focused jobs, and more sports-related jobs, among others.
“More businesses have been registered in the last four years than in any four year-period before. My government has provided more soft SME loans including the MUNAFA loans to Sierra Leoneans right across the country to start up and invest in their businesses,” he said.
He emphasised that the National Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Fair is therefore, not only hoping to build a bridge between his government’s Human Capital Development investments and job creation, adding that it will also put young people directly in touch with potential employers.
“Potential employers will have an opportunity to listen to and take account of the voices and concerns of young people and also be able to support and advise them on navigating the job market. These interactions will help young people connect and build relationships that will enhance their employability.”
He encouraged the young people to make use of the opportunity provided by his government and build the skills and networking that they need to get jobs and also start their own businesses.
“Let me close by thanking entrepreneurs, businesses, and service providers who are here today and who have supported this initiative. As a Government, we are grateful for this initiative and look forward to working with businesses to develop the sector.
“I want to personally thank the Vice President for collaborating with Ministries, Departments and Agencies in rolling out this maiden edition of the National Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship Fair,” he said.
Vice President Dr Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh said the event is designed to invest in the young people of Sierra Leone and to help them unleash their full potential in terms of creating and accessing jobs.
“Your Excellency Sir, we also have tutors and facilitators who will help youths and guide them in starting their own businesses, as there is a training component of the event,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of development partners, World Bank Country Manager, Abdu Muwonge, said the youths of the country make up a major component of the development agenda of any country. He encouraged commercial banks to take risks and support young entrepreneurs, especially through access to loans with favourable interest rates.
Minister of Youth and Culture from Rwanda, Rosemary Mbabazi, praised the event and encouraged young people to take advantage of the opportunities to secure their future, adding that her country will continue to engage the government on possible exchange programmes for young people and businesses.