Friday, June 9

President Barrow says skills and entrepreneurship are critical to Gambia –

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By Masa Sheriff

President Adama Barrow has said that for a country like The Gambia, skills, and entrepreneurship are critical enablers of speeding up socio-economic transformation.

He made the statement on the occasion of the 15th convocation ceremony of the University of The Gambia on Saturday.

To realize this, however, he said higher education institutions must function as essential drivers for enhancing learning, skills development, and nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship for sustainable development.

“As a guiding definition, it suffices to argue that sustainable development implies working progressively to persistently meet the current and emerging needs of society, without compromises on the optimal advancement of future generations.

“Thus, we expect sustainable development programmes to be suitably progressive, in line with the economic, social, and environmental concerns of the nation,” he said.

He added: “Over the years, we have seen strong economic growth in developing countries without corresponding decreases in unemployment rates or critical increases in employment opportunities to meet the labour market needs.”

“This mismatch raises the question: Are the knowledge and skills acquired from our institutions appropriate enough?”

He emphasized that higher learning skills are essential to pursue sustainable visions of the future and mindsets and skills for problem-solving, decision-making, teamwork, and critical thinking strongly correlate with sound education and training for national development.

“These skills are fundamental and necessary for the attainment of our national goals and the global Sustainable Development Goals. Higher learning skills contribute to increased efficiency and productivity, and this opens up better opportunities to achieve sustainable development.

“Education and training are, therefore, at the heart of socio-economic transformation because they facilitate progress through increased creativity, civic involvement, and contribution to national development for a stable future,” he said.

President Barrow said the university systems in many African countries still reflect the legacy of the past. They are systems characterized by academic curricula that tend to produce graduates for positions in government.

“We must reverse the trend to allow our countries to take their rightful places and participate actively in the integrated global economy,” he said.

He noted that it was quite clear that “our stocks of graduates with secondary and tertiary education level skills lean mostly towards the humanities and social sciences”, noting that the proportion of students in science, technology, and engineering could be much higher.

He stressed that female representation in science and technology-related courses and professions needs an obvious boost, saying that new skills are constantly required in the technical areas, as technological capacity and economic growth are mutually interconnected.

“Harnessing new technologies increases productivity, employment opportunities, and the ability to move up the production value chain. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is, therefore, a big component of the solution to our development challenges,”  he said.

The Gambian leader pointed out that entrepreneurship is an acknowledged agent of change for sustainable development, saying that “on account of this, the youths need to be encouraged to become innovative entrepreneurs”.

“If they grow with entrepreneurial mindsets, they will develop new business development and growth ideas. This would lead to independent, self-confident, innovative, and creative youths.”

“Youths with these endowments can surely create jobs, bridge the unemployment gap, and contribute positively towards the socio-economic transformation of The Gambia while solving crucial societal challenges through their enterprising ventures.

“My government recognizes that entrepreneurs are essential for economic growth, wealth creation, and employment. Indeed, entrepreneurship can play a huge role in combating the global crises that slow down progress. This is more so if entrepreneurial efforts are combined with a public-private partnership, which is critical for sustainable development in developing countries,” he said.

He said that COVID-19 exposed the need for innovation. It is necessary, therefore, to prioritize entrepreneurship education in the curriculum of higher education institutions.