Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Commissions 70 Boats to Support 1,400 Youths in Seven Fishing Coastal Communities

Aberdeen Beach, Freetown, Tuesday 17 November 2020 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has handed over 70 fishing boats to support 1,400 youths who live in 40 communities across the 7 coastal districts of Western Area Rural and Urban, Port Loko, Bonthe, Moyamba, Pujehun and Kambia.

Giving an overview, Project Manager of the Youth in Fisheries Project, Joseph Lahai, said that the initiative established by government was to help reduce unemployment, promote self-reliance, economic diversification, nutritional upgrade and empower the youths in the rural communities to discourage youth migration.

Minister of Youth Affairs, Mohamed Orman Bangura, said he was pleased to be part of the handing over of the newly constructed fishing boats and its accessories. He added that the project was to empower and capacitate young people under the cluster of the Medium-Term Development Plan that sought to address issues of unemployment while also ensuring that the youth were self-reliant enough to contribute positively to the socioeconomic development of their communities.

“His Excellency, we appreciate your leadership, mentorship and the political will you have shown to help change the narrative around youths in the country. We appreciate the fact that you loathe corruption and love transparency and accountability,” the youth minister said on behalf of the beneficiary youth groups.

Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr Patricia Nyanga Laverley, said that the Youth in Fisheries Project was a presidential initiative established to support the government’s agenda as a means of reducing the unemployment rate in the youth sector and to promoting self-reliance.

”The project will adopt a revolving loan scheme to recover costs, fishing ponds and boats. Its accessories will be given out to youth groups with a clear understanding of repaying the loan to the Ministry of Youth Affairs, in a separate account distinct from the operational account. The revolving loan scheme will ensure that youth groups pay back the loans on a quarterly and monthly basis, as an agreed percentage of their quarterly and monthly earnings to the Ministry,” she said.

Before his formal handing over, President Julius Maada said they did not just distribute boats and walk away as some people had done in the past, but as part of his government’s commitment to Human Capital Development, the Project Implementation Unit in the Ministry of Youth Affairs had already started training fishing youth groups nationwide in entrepreneurship around fishing, sea safety, minor repairs to outboard engines, national fisheries laws of the sea, and the use of ultra-modern fishing accessories.

“This training will equip them with a complete skillset to ensure safety at sea, running and servicing fishing boats and equipment, and managing the whole spectrum of fishing as a business. This skills and training component will also have positive implications for the wider artisanal fishing community. The new skills will make their livelihood more profitable and more productive.

“And the figures matter. My Government has constructed 70 standard fishing boats with ultra-modern safety and fishing accessories for just under Le5.5 billion. Our predecessors put the cost of the same number of boats (seventy boats) for a similar project at Le14.8 billion. This says clearly that my Government believes in transparency, accountability, and value-for-money,” he said.

“My Government sees youth as an asset. To us, youth are agents and drivers of sustainable and inclusive development. Ours has been a coherent and integrated approach, consistent with our human capital development priorities, and long-term national development goals as outlined in our medium term national development plan.

“We seek to engage youth as stakeholders in making decisions about and building their own future and the future of this nation. We seek to invest in the priorities they identify and that are most germane to our national development goals, including mitigating climate change and loss of sea biodiversity,” he concluded.

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