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Empowering Youths in ECOWAS

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Economic Community of West African States initiates various programmes designed to equip youths in the region with entrepreneurial skills

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Nov. 19, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

YOUTHS in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are being empowered through various training programmes to improve their entrepreneurial skills in different sectors of the economy especially in the agro-based industry. Thse youths constitute about a third of the 300 million population of the 15-member countries of the ECOWAS who are mostly employed in the agriculture sector. Since 2007, about 361 youths have been trained in integrated agricultural entrepreneurship at the Songhai Centre, Porto Novo, Benin Republic, under the youth capacity building programme of the ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre (EYSDC). To ensure continuity, the Ouagadougou-based EYSDC has a monitoring/evaluation system to provide appropriate support measures for trained youths to enable them to follow through on their individual post-training business plans. It will also set up a web-based network for trained youths to exchange and share ideas on best practices in entrepreneurship.

More than 200 other community youths have also been trained by the EYSDC in building and electrical wiring at the Soufouroulaye Centre in Mali between 2008 and 2010, while another set of youths is to be trained in air conditioning, refrigeration and motor mechanic at the Burkina Faso’s Reference Centre for Professional and Vocational Training in Ziniare.

The latest training exercise, the sixth edition of the EYSDC, which lasted for one month, ended in October and saw 73 young men and women from 13 ECOWAS member states receiving certificates for successfully completing an intensive entrepreneurial training in integrated agriculture. Although the training period appeared short, the organisers believe it was enough for the trainees to acquire the necessary capacity for a successful entrepreneurial career. Justin Lekoto, the director of Training and Production, who represented Godfrey Nzamujo, a reverend father and the Songhai Centre’s director general, at the closing ceremony reminded the youths that an entrepreneur was not only an innovator and inventor, but a business leader, who makes the most of every opportunity.

Adrienne Diop, ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, who was represented by Francis Njoaguani, EYSDC director, urged the trainees to take their destiny in their own hands by making discipline their watchword.

[caption id="attachment_713" align="alignright" width="374"]Youths undergoing poultry training Youths undergoing poultry training[/caption]

“Success in any profession proceeds from self-discipline and respect for laid down rules and regulations,” he said, stressing the Centre’s determination to strengthen and ensure strict adherence to the selection criteria for its training programmes. This, according to the director, is because “a wrong candidate selected for a training programme equals misplaced training and could in fact be a source of distraction for other trainees.”

On behalf of the trainees, Gilbert Jassey thanked ECOWAS, through the EYSDC and the Songhai Centre for the training, describing the event as very important in the history of youths in the region. He called on ECOWAS and partners to provide trainees with start-up capital and also to support the formation of an Africa Youth Network on Agribusiness Development for the actualisation of the objectives of the training.

The ESYDC’s capacity-building programme seeks to contribute to the Community’s youth empowerment and employment initiatives, including the ECOWAS Volunteer Programme, which also caters for young people between 18 and 35 years of age.

In addition to the promotion of sports, the centre is also involved in the training and capacity building, collection and management of database and network administration, collection of information/data relating to youth associations as well as information, communication and telecommunication (ICT) training.

The Centre’s programmes also contribute to youth employment and poverty alleviation, youth on the prevention and settlement of conflicts and peace consolidation, as well as development and promotion of traditional sports and games.

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