Some Gambian youths are using entrepreneurship as an alternative to address unemployment through the registration of several startups in the country. But the dreams of these young entrepreneurs has been largely stunted by the lack of a market to sell their products, particularly those in agribusiness sector. According to The Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce (GYCC), this is due to the substandard quality of local products which discourages potential clients such as hotels, supermarkets and restaurants from considering home-grown products.
To search for a solution, GYCC, a body established to facilitate conducive growth for young entrepreneurs, is currently engaging stakeholders including producers and clients to discuss the basic required standard needed to penetrate their platforms.
“The commitment of GYCC within this two-day market linkage workshop is to prepare, develop, nurture and support the establishment of functional youth-led micro enterprises and generate employment opportunities across the country through the implementation of the micro enterprise activities,” its president Ismaila Sambou said at the event on Tuesday.
He argued that getting young people into entrepreneurship is essential for the future of local communities, the country and the global society in the quest to create employment and employability in realizing Agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development Goals.
“With almost 60% of the population under the age of 25, startups can play an important role in the economy, as a driver of economic growth, employment, diversification and transformation,” he said.
The Gambia’s youth unemployment rate has increased from 38% to 41.5%, according to the 2018 Labour Force Survey conducted by The Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS).
The CEO of the organization, Baboucarr Kebbeh, said in an interview that the event will create a platform where young entrepreneurs can have physical interaction with potential large-scale buyers.
“Finding a market becomes a challenge to many of them [referring to young entrepreneurs]. We are able to bring 50 young entrepreneurs from all the regions to have a conversation with hoteliers,” he said.
With this event, Kebbeh believes producers will have direct links with potential clients [hotels, restaurants and supermarkets]. He urged the producers to increase their networking in order to widen their market scope.
The program manager of National Youth Council (NYC), Alagie Jarju, challenged the startups to improve the quality of their products in order to facilitate penetration into larger markets. He emphasized that quality must not be compromised in any way, be it for hotels or local sales. Jarju indicated that selling products that do not meet required quality standards may lead to health issues for the consumer, who may think of buying medical drugs instead of the product – leading to the collapse of one’s business.
Fatou Secka, manager of a catering and food-processing startup in Ebo Town described the interface with hotel officials as a timely and crucial one. “It will link us with hotels, supermarkets and all those outlets which we need to have a breakthrough in the business. It is really important considering our focus areas of catering and food processing.”
A poultry farmer, Ousainou Saine, who is from Njawara, in the North Bank Region, decried the lack of a market to sell his broilers. According to him, he would always start incurring losses anytime his birds reach maturity stage of 45 days without being sold. He lamented that local customers, such as butchers, are not enough to buy-off the more than 150 birds in each badge of broilers and so he needs a bigger market to boost his sales.
“Finding a market is a big problem especially for us in the provinces. In poultry, where you fail is when the broilers get up to 45 days and you don’t have the customers to sell them. At the end of the day, it starts eating up your profit. If they get up to 45 days, any feed they eat is part of your profit. This is because your target is to dispose them once they reach 45 days which is when the birds are expected to weigh 1.5 to 2 kilos. But when it is more than 45 days, it is out of duration that you are supposed to keep them and therefore you must continue feeding them which comes at a cost. You keep failing,” he told The Chronicle.
Muhammed Kebbeh is a young animal husbandry farmer in Janjanbureh, the administrative town of Central River Region. He rears sheep but said one of his biggest challenges is difficulty in accessing a market for his livestock.
“I sell sheep normally during Tobaski feasts or for certain social needs like christenings. There is a big challenge to find clients because you will have to travel up to Brikama-Ba to attend a weekly Lumo to sell the sheep. My sheep are home-bred animals which most people prefer to foreign breeds. Sometimes we do sell our sheep to butchers but we need more buyers.”
Kebbeh challenged authorities to design policies that will help provide a market base for their products while assisting in promoting these products to various destinations around the world.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, large scale businesses such as Paradise Suites Hotel and the restaurant and catering services of National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) have offered to GYCC on behalf of the young entrepreneurs dealing with vegetable and poultry products to have stalls around their premises to boost their sales including the Senegambia hotel. This is in reaction to another constraint of startups which is the difficulty in finding shops due to the expensive cost of rent.