According to the APC 2018 Manifesto, “We seek to ensure inclusiveness by harnessing and developing the potential of youths for national development. We are determined to continue strengthening the youth sector by providing meaningful employment opportunities and also implement programmes that target vulnerable and unattached youth that do not have the capacity to attract support from normal opportunity windows.”
In harnessing the demographic dividend, in the next five years, according to the APC 2018 Manifesto, in the event the APC forms the next government, it shall: accelerate job creation programmes for youths; develop job programs targeting graduates from universities and vocational institutions; create a Youth Investment Fund (YIF) to support innovation in entrepreneurship and technology; expand youth roles in both public and private institutions, appoint competent youths to key decision- making positions in the public service and encourage the private sector to do the same; sustain skills development programmes to address present day demand for both professional, middle-level and lower level jobs; establish Regional Youth Centres of Excellence to provide short term technical and life skills training programmes; continue to process and package public work schemes into a manageable proportion so as to enhance the participation of the most vulnerable categories of youth, including persons with disability; introduce a Return to Learning Scheme (R2L) as a second chance programme with the aim of returning drop-outs and uneducated youths and young adults to schools, colleges, vocational , technical and literacy centres; strengthen the National Youth Service as a compulsory programme to inculcate nationalism, volunteerism and service in our young graduates; introduce a National Apprenticeship Programme across the nation with additional focus on youths in poor and vulnerable households in Sierra Leone; introduce a nationwide course on appropriate work-ethics and entrepreneurship into the curricula of secondary schools and tertiary institutions; establish Advisory Service Centres for the marginalized (Ataya Base, Market , etc) to link them to jobs, training and entrepreneurship opportunities; revitalize historic local football teams, including East End Lions, Mighty Blackpool, Kambui Eagles, Diamond Stars, Wusum Stars, Bai Bureh Warriors and support the development of various other sports in the country and establish a National Sports Institute among other promises.
On the other hand, according to the Sierra Leone People’s party (SLPP) 2018 Manifesto, youth (persons 15-35 years) account for about 33% of the country’s population and represent about 63% of the economically active population of which 67% are unemployed.
The SLPP 2018 Manifesto adds: “Our youth are untrained and lack the skills required in the job market. The rural youth who are mostly farmers face serious challenges ranging from inputs, financing and technology. The urban youth comprising early school leavers and illiterate youth are mostly engaged in artisan and small-scale business activities. Like their rural counterparts, the main challenge facing them is the lack of capital and employment opportunities. Graduate unemployment is also on the increase. A large number of our graduates from the universities and other tertiary institutions cannot find jobs because of low level investment in job creation and the mismatch between areas of study and job requirements. Music and performing arts provide jobs for thousands of Sierra Leonean youth, particularly the early school leavers.”
It adds: Despite the loud pronouncements by the President on youth; their empowerment has been a mere cliché. The APC has reduced youth empowerment to the establishment of a National Youth Commission and appointment of a few youth in public office. Instead of enhancing youth capability for employment, the APC has made them garbage collectors in Freetown and other urban towns. The real challenge now confronting us is unemployed and underemployed youth; a phenomenon which started as a little tremor is now a full-blown youth quake posing a serious threat to national stability if future prospects for education and training and productive and gainful employment are not assured. Courageous and ambitious reforms to effectively tackle this growing problem, accompanied by significant investments, are as inescapable as they are unavoidable.”
Furthermore, according to the SLPP 2018 Manifesto, “Construction and mining companies create casual and low paid jobs. Youth do not benefit from sustained and high paid jobs because they are generally unskilled. The APC Government has done very little to tackle the serious problem of graduate unemployment. Youth have coped through resorting to thieving, commercial sexual activities, drug abuse and relying on hand-outs from politicians.”
It went on to state: “Despite its huge potential to create jobs, the APC government has done very little to promote music and the performing arts. Overall, the policy and legal environment is weak. APC government legislated the piracy law but failed to put in place the necessary mechanisms for enforcement. Piracy is still very rampant as the copyrights laws are not enforced and the infrastructure is not attractive to investors. The national dance troupe which used to be the cultural ambassadors of our nation has been rendered dysfunctional largely as a result of their eviction from the Aberdeen Cultural Village. There are limited studios for music and film production and no auditorium for musical shows and screening of films. The APC has stifled creativity through censor and political interference. Low private investment in music and the performing arts is due to a combination of factors including the weak policy and legal environment, particularly the seditious libel law. In addition, training in music and the performing arts is not done by most schools and colleges.”
“There has been a dramatic decline in sports over the past decade. The critical challenge facing sports development include weak policy and legal environment, perennial crisis in the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) largely as a result of political interference, no organized national league for over 5 years now, no inter-football and athletics competition and virtual elimination of physical education in schools. Consequently, Sierra Leone has not qualified for major international sporting competition in recent times. Additionally, there are limited standard stadium and community fields for football and other sporting activities,” the SLPP 2018 Manifesto stated.
In its ‘New Direction’ to overcome the above challenges and problems facing youth in the country, the SLPP 2018 Manifesto says: “Overcoming youth unemployment will be at the centre of our fight against poverty and our efforts to consolidate peace. In the New Direction, the youth problem will not only receive our topmost priority, but will also be viewed as a human development and security challenge. It is our view that stimulating job creation requires a holistic approach. Our approach will be integrated and coherent. The priority will be:(i) Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET); (ii) National Youth Scheme;(iii) Economic Empowerment; (iv) Sports; (v) Music and Performing Arts; (vi) Public Works and (vii) Agriculture. Allied to these is that everything will be done to improve the competitiveness of the economy and create the enabling environment for the private sector to invest in the country and participate fully in its development.
It went on to mention establishment of a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) which objective is to provide technical skills to youth in areas relevant for the job market.
According to the SLPP 2018 Manifesto, in the event the party is voted into power, it shall review the current design of the National Youth Service and support its implementation; Promote internships to enhance the capacities of graduates to enable them compete effectively for jobs in the labor market; Promote public-private partnership in the redesign and implementation of the scheme; Establish a special Youth Empowerment Fund to support youth engaged in small and medium scale entrepreneurial ventures; Promote youth engagement in agriculture through the provision of direct support in the form of finance, market information, technology and technical advice to youth (including agricultural graduates) to engage in commercial agriculture and agro-processing activities.”
In the ‘New Direction’ of the SLPP 2018 Manifesto, the SLPP if it wins the next election, will increase investment in housing and public works to create jobs for youth; train youths in the use of local materials and the use of appropriate technology for housing construction; design and implement a national programme for housing and urban renewal programme in all local councils for the improvement of roads, drainages, bridges, general sanitation and poor environmental management for job creation.”
In the area of Music and Performing Arts, according to the SLPP 2018 Manifesto, it will review and enforce the copyright laws; Review policies and establish standards for promotion of music and performing arts; Establish institutions and introduce training at vocational and university level in music, film and video production; Establish an Arts Gallery and Theatre for Performing Arts in all regional capitals; Promote Sierra Leonean music and musicians nationally and internationally and maintain good business ethics in the industry; as well as re-establish and develop cultural villages.”
In the area of Sports, the SLPP 2018 Manifesto says it will review the policy and legal environment for sports development; Increase budgetary support to sporting activities, in particular football, athletics, cricket, volley ball and basketball; Establish a Sports Development Fund that will be financed from various sources, including corporate establishments and international sporting organizations and Government; Develop and implement a comprehensive capacity building programme for all sporting disciplines; Reactivate school and community sporting activities with a view to identifying and developing talents for national and international competitions; Recommence national competition for all sporting activities; Establish sports academies and provide facilities for sports development and recreation around the country; Develop the administrative, technical and support services for sports; Build standard stadium facilities in all regions and the Western Rural to enhance the capacity of Sierra Leone.”