By Crusoe Osagie
President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone has invited the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to assist his administration in building institutions and structures that would permanently address the scourge of poverty and unemployment, admitting that the West African country has “serious problem of youth unemployment”.
President Koroma, who was in Abuja to attend the inauguration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s President, announced the invitation at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel during a meeting with the Director-General of SMEDAN, Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar and the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed. The meeting was held at the instance of the country’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, His Excellency, Mr. Henry Macauley.
“We need to set up institutions and structures that will address poverty and unemployment, not with a cosmetic approach, but on a permanent basis”, he said.
The Sierra Leone President disclosed that his administration had already established Youth Commission, an Agency considered critical to solving the problem of unemployment. Profiling the country’s population of unemployed youths in Sierra Leone, he disclosed that they were made up of largely the unschooled, school drop-outs and then graduates.
According to him, agencies like SMEDAN and NDE could facilitate the establishement of similar institutions and structures in Sierra Leone, adding that the target of his administration was creating enabling environment for self-employment.
He acknowledged that all over the world, no country can develop without micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which are the biggest employers of labour. “We need to learn from your experience”, he said.
Speaking at the occasion, the Director-General of SMEDAN, Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar, stressed the agency’s preparedness to partner with Sierra Leone to develop the country’s potentials in the area of micro, small and medium enterprises, saying SMEDAN would not want Sierra Leone to repeat the mistakes of Nigeria which ignored the development of MSMEs in the past.
The SMEDAN Chief Executive pledged that the agency would conduct a Needs Assessment Study of Sierra Leone and then produce a Blueprint for the emergence of a vibrant MSME sector in the country.
Meaningful engagement of youths, according to Umar, is a panacea to youth restiveness and that no nation can develop without developing the MSME sector. While calling for enabling environment and good incentives, the SMEDAN Director-General emphasised that the business community in Sierra Leone has a great role to play in the development of the country’s MSME sector.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Director-General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Alhaji Abubakar Mohammed, assured President Koroma that the Directorate would also submit a road map for establishment of a imilar Agency in Sierra Leone, adding that the relationship would be mutually beneficial.
While commending the SMEDAN approach, which he believed would address unemployment, President Koroma stressed the determination of his administration to address the problem frontally.