The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Government of Japan will work together to help Sierra Leone bridge the skills gap in the country’s automotive repair and maintenance sector and to promote decent employment opportunities for youth.
The Ambassador of Japan to Sierra Leone, Himeno Tsutomu, and the UNIDO Country Representative to Sierra Leone, Mariatu Abionor Swaray, today signed an Exchange of Notes enacting $3.88 million of financial support from the Government of Japan.
At the signing ceremony, Ambassador Himeno remarked, “Japan’s philosophy of supporting our friends is to help their empowerment. Skills development is a crucial element for that. Japan is very happy to collaborate with UNIDO and the Government of Sierra Leone for this project. This project is a good outcome of the visit by President Bio to Japan to attend the TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) meeting in 2019.”
The ever-increasing number of vehicles in Sierra Leone points to a great potential for growth in the automotive repair and maintenance service sector and thus for job creation. However, the sector struggles to find workers who are able to meet the relevant auto mechanic skills requirements.
On the other hand, in a country where youth constitute a third of the population, according to the United Nations Development Programme, youth unemployment and underemployment stands at a staggering 70 per cent. Out of a workforce of more than 2.7 million people, approximately 800,000 youths are actively searching for employment today.
According to UNIDO’s Swaray “Historically, TVET has been at the heart of any country’s structural transformation and served as the catalyst for enhanced employment opportunities, higher productivity, learning and innovation, and export expansion for technology spillovers. UNIDO is fully supporting the government of Sierra Leone to enhance the meaningful structural transformation of the automotive repair and maintenance industry.”
The UNIDO project focuses on developing a system that can train youths in demand-driven automotive technicial and entrepreneurship skills and so promote employment and self-employment. A training centre will be established in the capital, Freetown, which will serve as a centre of excellence for the trade.
Sierra Leone’sChief Minister, David Francis, noted that he is “happy that the 2019 TICAD meeting attended by His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone has resulted in the support from the Government of Japan, through UNIDO, to establish a modern training centre in the country that will benefit the youth.”
The signing ceremony was hosted by the Chief Minister at State House and attended by key stakeholders, including the Minister of Technical and Higher Education, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, and senior technical staff of the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, Transport and Aviation and Planning and Economic Development. The project supports Sierra Leone’s National Development Plan (NDP) 2019-2023 with a focus on human capital development and youth entrepreneurship.