Banjul – On 22 May, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the British High Commission (BHC) organized a trade fair at the High Commissioner’s residence aimed at promoting youth entrepreneurship. Featuring 25 young aspiring entrepreneurs, the event allowed them to showcase their products and services and network with potential buyers and financiers.
The trade fair comes after the 10-week Standing4Youth entrepreneurship programme, in which IOM supported 364 youth with professional coaching, mentorship and a cash grant to overcome challenges associated with launching and sustaining a business. IOM and BHC organized the trade fair as a platform to give additional networking opportunities for the entrepreneurs.
Selected as outstanding programme participants, the 25 featured entrepreneurs displayed a wide range of products and services, including fashion and textile, food and poultry, beauty and wellness, art and more. “It’s good to be here today along with the other participants to advertise our products and services, in order to attract new customers and make our business known,” remarked Mama A. Banja, one of the participating entrepreneurs selling biological cosmetics and providing therapeutical massages.
The entrepreneurship programme was funded by the UK Government through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and implemented in three regions: Kanifing Municipality, Lower River Region and Upper River Region.
Each of the 364 participants was guided by a professional coach to create their own business plan through one-on-one coaching. This provided them insight into government services, the regulatory environment, industry know-how, market networks and access to further capital or support.
The program also had group coaching sessions, where participants met on their own to support each other, and mentorship sessions, where professional with industry experience guided participants on the reality of the Gambian market. “Thanks to this training, I learned how to manage my business, how to be a good entrepreneur, how to manage my funds and how to attract customers,” said Maimuna Sey, another participant of the trade fair whose business specializes in baking and catering services.
Finally, the programme enhanced participants’ soft skills essential to managing a business. “I gained confidence and I learned a lot,” explained Judith A. Foon, who sells handmade products using local material and textiles. “I believe this program will help many people. They might have rough ideas, but they need guidance and coaching to get a vision of how their business will take shape.”
I am pleased to support this initiative. It is important that we give young people the opportunity to thrive economically in The Gambia and an alternative to the perils of irregular migration,” remarked H.E. Mr. David Belgrove OBE, British High Commissioner to The Gambia. “These young entrepreneurs represent an important part of The Gambia’s future; people who can create wealth at home and employment opportunities for others.”
Finally, participants with sufficient attendance and progress were granted access to two tranches of cash grants for a total value of GBP 1,755 (roughly GMD 125,000).
“This entrepreneurship programme was unique in its approach to providing young entrepreneurs with soft skills on business development and management. This was also complemented by one-on-one mentorship that was designed to provide practical skills and build their self-confidence to survive and thrive in the entrepreneurship industry,” explained Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia. “We are grateful to the British High Commissioner for hosting this fair and providing space and opportunity for our Standing4Youth graduates to expand their customer base and grow their businesses. We are confident that the fair will have a multiplier effect for the entrepreneurs far beyond the profits they made that day.”
This initiative is part of the "Safety, Support and Solutions along the Central Mediterranean Route" programme funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the United Kingdom's foreign policy and development agency.
For more information, please contact Miko Alazas, Media and Communications Officer, IOM The Gambia (Tel.: +220 330 3168, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).