Swedish Government, Mercy Corps join forces to expand opportunities for youths
The Swedish Embassy near Monrovia and Mercy Corps have signed an agreement intended to expand their work in the country to improve job opportunities for young people and stimulate the markets.
The initiative is the third phase to Promote Sustainable Partnerships for Economic Transformation (PROSPECT-III) that supports young people’s programs with funding in the amount of US$5.8 million provided by the European nations. Young people aged 15 to 35 years, through this program, will benefit from employment opportunities in Montserrado, Bong and Nimba counties, the organizers have said.
The PROSPECT III agreement which was sealed last Tuesday, builds on the previous two phases of the program which reached about 12,000 young people. The first two phases supported improved livelihoods and pre-employment skills for thousands of vulnerable Liberian youth.
“Liberia’s youth are an untapped resource of energy, imagination and ambition. This enormous potential can be used to improve the country in the years ahead, or it can be a source of tension, political strife and violence if it is thwarted and ignored,” says Douglas Cooper, Liberia Country Director at Mercy Corps at a press conference in Monrovia on Tuesday.
More than 60 percent of Liberians are under the age of 25 and youth employment is a critical challenge for the country. the United Nations puts youth unemployment as high as 85 percent and the “Liberian government has voiced its concern that if unaddressed, youth unemployment could bring a return to the conflict that plagued the country for many years,” Mr. Cooper said.
He said the new program builds on the five years of previous programming that improved the lives of more than 12,000 young men and women. “601 youth entrepreneurs started new small business ventures and 727 were placed into the workforce through apprenticeships, with almost half ultimately being offered full-time posts by their host businesses,” he said.
Out of this number 44 percent were females, while 48 percent were offered full-time employment upon the completion of their apprenticeship.
“For the past five years, Sweden has provided funds to Mercy Corps to help bring employment opportunities to the Liberian youth. Sweden believes that supporting youth is vital for the development of Liberia. Therefore, it is our shared intention to help support the country’s young people to become a source of stability and productivity, peace and prosperity for their communities,” the head of Development Corporation at the Swedish Embassy, Elisabeth Harleman, said.
Madam Harleman said that as Liberia builds on the gains it has made in recent years of peace, after many years of civil unrest and a debilitating Ebola outbreak in 2014, the program will also enable Mercy Corps to undertake research to improve the understanding of livelihoods and employment in the country and influence the policy environment.
She said, Sweden has decided to support a third phase with the primary objective of supporing young Liberian men and women to find employment or become entrepreneurs, adding, “This will also support innovation for youth employment by tapping into the private sector creativity and ability to create jobs for youth.”
“The program will work to improve the skills and confidence of 16,500 youth to seek economic opportunities and will provide 1302 young men and women on the job training and access to employment information to improve their employment chances. Another 1355 will receive business skills training and cash grants to start micro-enterprises. In total, the program is expected to reach more than 19,000 youth from Bong, Nimba and Montserrado counties.
One of the beneficiaries who is now a top official at Global Logistics, Diana Yah Monliala, lauded the Swedish government and Mercy Corps for the outstanding work they are doing for young Liberians. As one of the success stories of the Mercy Corps PROSPECT program, Diana has excelled from a cadet to the Human Resource Manager of Global Logistics, one of the largest logistics companies in the country.
The program will also work with 15 private companies to develop opportunities for young people, as well as offer business support and seed funding to individuals to develop their own micro-enterprises.