Liberia: Lawmakers Want Better Coordination in Implementation Of New US$10 Project

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MONROVIA – The Chairpersons for the Committee on Youth and Sports at both Houses of the Liberian Legislature (Representatives and Senate) have called on the Ministry of Youth and Sports to do more coordination and effective information dissemination in order for the practical impact of the new US$10M Recovery of Economic Activity for Liberian Informal Sector Employment (REALISE) Project.

The REALISE Project succeeds the Youth Opportunity Project (YOP), which has finally come to an end.

Speaking briefly at a retreat climaxing the end of the YOP and subsequent introduction of the REALISE, Senator Comany B. Wesseh of River Gee County and Montserrado County Electoral District #7 Representative, Solomon C. George, lauded the Ministry for the successful implementation of the YOP project but urged the Ministry to better coordinate its activities with other line ministries and agencies that are part of the implementation of the new project.

As they await the new  (REALISE) project document for possible rectification, they urged the technical team managers to provide all (YOP’s ) necessary documentation and or relevant information to them to ensure they move forward in said regard.

The lawmakers challenged the MYS and the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) to also involve the Federation of Liberian Youth and other youth related stakeholders to the upcoming process to have a holistic and inclusive impact something the Ministry and LACE promised to do.

As statistics has shown that youth constitute over 60% of Liberia’s population as well as half of the labor force and given their number in the overall population and considering the impact of the years of civil crisis in Liberia the government among other things placed a high priority on increasing income generation opportunities for the youth as a means of reducing vulnerability and poverty among them.

Speaking at the program, Minister D. Zeogar Wilson disclosed that the project, since he taking over in February of 2018, has made an incremental boost from about 27% to about 93% under his watch as Minister of Youth and Sports something he noted was a remarkable milestone in the sector.

The project, which was approved by the World Bank on November 6, 2015 and became effective on September 30, 2016  commenced official implementation on January 9, 2017.

YOP is one of Liberia’s Flagship youth empowerment programs aimed at improving access to income generation opportunities for 15,000 targeted rural and urban youth between the ages of 15-35 across Liberia.

Implemented by the Minister of Youth and Sports and the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) since effectiveness has provided 12,900 youth with at least 50% being females with Life Skills and Business Management Training, Labour subsidies and grant to establish small enterprises and community level farming among others.

The project, according to Minister Wilson is implemented under three basic components namely: Pre- Employment Social Support, Small Business Support (SBS)  and Community Livelihood and Agriculture Support(CLAS)

The Youth Opportunities Project aims to increase access to income generation opportunities for young people in Liberia. The project uses a community-based productive inclusion approach to provide economic and empowerment opportunities for youth living in both rural and urban areas. The project has a strong emphasis on women economic empowerment.

 Additionally, one of the project components specifically aims to promote productive inclusion of rural youth. It supports them with life and business skills training, improved agriculture techniques, labor subsidies and farm input grants (to procure seeds and tools). This approach has helped many extremely poor youths living in rural communities become self-sufficient while at the same time contribute to the development of their communities.

Accordingly, presenting report of the project to the Liberian Legislature through the heads of the Youth and Sports Committees of the Houses of Representatives and Senate, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Dester Zeogar Wilson, described the program as very successful and impactful over the last few years.

He pointed out that Based on lessons learned from previous projects and international best practices, benefits have been packaged to meet the needs of youth in different age cohorts and location in Liberia.

“Out of the 15,000 targeted beneficiaries, about 12,926 have been reached with at least 50% gender parity,” said the Minister.

The MYS boss stated that disclosed that 520 youth aged, 18, and above living in urban areas, were provided job readiness training with about 480 of them actively engaged in managing their own small business with support from the project under Pre-Employment Social Support (PESS).

Minister Wilson recounted that 2,880 youths aged 18-35 living in urban areas, provided business skills training, mentorship and startup grants to establish and operate 1,645 small businesses under Small Business Support (SBS).

“Project beneficiaries experienced, on average, a 16 percentage-point increase in rates of self-employment compared to individuals in the control group (non-beneficiaries) based on preliminary Impact Evaluation results,” the Minister added.

While introducing the REALISE Project, which is expected to kick off by next month (June), he stated that the new project is intended to support employment and productivity of informal businesses and micro-enterprises to help them recover from the economic impact.

Like the YOP Project, Minister Wilson explained that the REALISE Project is also worth US$10M  with US$5M being a grant and US$5M being credit  from the World Bank (WB).

“There is also a huge need to support the immediate consumption needs of informal sector workers from low-income households through availing them with temporary employment opportunities and building their employability for better jobs after the pandemic,” he told the gathering.

“The REALISE is geared to increase access to income earning opportunities for the vulnerable in the informal sector in response to the COVID-19 crisis in Liberia. The project was approved by the World Bank Executive Board on March 12, 2021.  Effectiveness and parliamentary ratification are expected by June 30, 2021, to ensure no gap with YOP,” he among other things added.

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