(AfDB) - An African Development Bank-funded project in Sierra Leone is fast building technical and business skills for young people in the country.
Approved by the bank’s board four years ago, the Freetown Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Aquatic Environment Revamping Project has strongly supported training and helped form micro and small enterprises groups for water meter installation.
High youth unemployment is a challenge facing many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Sierra Leone. According to the country’s National Youth Commission, about 70% of youth are underemployed or unemployed, with an estimated 800,000 actively seeking employment. To address this challenge, the project is incorporating job creation and youth empowerment into its main strategies. By the end of the five-and-a-half-year project life, some 27,000 new jobs for young people in Sierra Leone are expected to be created.
With a year and a half left to run, the project has been executed across the greater Freetown area by the Guma Valley Water Company and partner agencies.
The rehabilitation of water systems for Angola and Babadorie towns in the western area has begun. An upgrade of the Kongo/Tacuyama dam is expected to get underway as soon as possible.
Other activities include delivering sanitary materials and engaging graduate interns deployed to the Integrated Water Resources Management and Livelihood Improvement scheme.
The project has seen the training of young people in plumbing and business management. This was through a contract for the supply and installation of water meters. This allowed them to register small businesses to undertake meter installation works in the capital, Freetown.
Aberdeen resident Sylvia Temple is a training beneficiary. “This was a great opportunity for unemployed youth to make an income,” she said, adding: “The entrepreneurship training has equipped me to manage people and solve problems related to diverse issues.”
Salamatu Kamara, another training beneficiary, also lauded the program's benefits, describing it as good and sustainable. She said: “My group was certified and contracted by GVWC [Guma Valley Water Company] for the meter installation, and I am currently serving as the [enterprise’s] business manager.”
“It can be sustainable if GVWC continues to install meters for all households. This will allow us to provide scheduled maintenance service of the meters and be engaged in the subsequent replacement. It has also empowered us to start our own private businesses. The financial benefit has enabled me to support my household. We have installed 100 meters to date.”
The project is expected to bring about a 15% increase in access to potable water and a 7% rise in access to improved sanitation in Sierra Leone. The total project cost is $189.17 million. This includes $14 million from the African Development Fund, the African Development Bank Group’s concessional lending window to low-income countries.
The project is directly benefitting some 1.4 million people (51% women). It is providing access to safe water, including new installations for 1 million people and restoration of regular daily water service for 400,000 people. Through it, environmental sanitation conditions are being improved. This includes the hygiene and sanitation habits of at least 200,000 people in greater Freetown's vulnerable communities.