Mercy Corps, Partners, Launch Youth Empowerment Project in Liberia

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Paynesville – Mercy Corps Liberia, with support from the Agence Française de Development (AFD) has launched its flagship program, the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP).

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected] 

YEP is a two-component initiative aimed at providing enhanced training and employment opportunities for youth in the country.

Serving as guest launcher of the program at the Paynesville City Hall recently, Liberia’s First Lady, Clar Weah noted that the program is a result of a meeting between her husband, President George M. Weah and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron during the Liberian leader first state visit to France upon taking power in February this year.

As part of the project under the agreement, Mrs. Weah disclosed that a US$10 million grant is being provided for youth development and employment in Liberia.

She said at least 10,000 young people would be trained in specialized field to maintain them for employment and on-the-job experience through cadet and apprenticeship programs.

In addition, the Liberian First Lady averred that many young Liberians will be granted scholarship to study abroad. She challenged the young Liberians who have packed the Paynesville City Hall to make use of the opportunity.

“To my dear sons and daughters, this initiative is a dream come true. It is in fulfillment of your President George Manneh Weah’s promise to you. I challenge you now to take advantage of this opportunity and make it most of it and be who you want to be,” she admonished.

She added: “I am glad of the job Mercy Corps is doing with you, the young people; and I am impressed that you are taking the opportunity to make life better for yourself because it is only you that are responsible for your lives. As your first lady, I am all about youth empowerment. So, I will work with whatever NGOs and agencies who are willing to come to Liberia to help and make your lives better.”

She thanked President Macron and the government and people of France through the AFD for the support as well as Mercy Corps for the implementation. She also noted that investing in youth development is crucial for sustaining peace and stability and boosting economic growth.

She added that the initiative is in fulfillment of the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), which endeavors to lift millions of Liberians out of poverty in the next five years. 

Also speaking, the Executive Director of Mercy Corps Europe, Simon O’Connell hailed the level of collaboration among the government, civil society organizations and the private sector.

O’Connell indicated that in order to take Liberia out of poverty and boost economic growth, the government should put in place proper governance mechanisms that will promote strong social cohesion and relationship, economic growth, equitable access to economic opportunity and inclusive wealth.

He called for the promotion of gender equity and the use of science and technology to connect Liberia globally. He also pledged his organization’s support towards the development of the counrty.

Meanwhile, one of the beneficiaries, Fata B. Akoi thanked Mercy Corps and partners for the support and called on them to expand the programs to benefit more young people.

About the YEP

The YEP is supported by the government of France through AFD and implemented in partnership with Mercy Corps, a non-governmental organization and the Felix Houphouet Boigny National Polytechnic Institute (INP-HB) of Yamoussoukro, La Cote d’Ivoire, thus giving it an important regional dimension.

The first component, the Liberia Employment and Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP) increase employment opportunities and entrepreneurship of Liberian youth.

According to Mercy Corps, the second component of the project will comprise a regional system of access to higher technical education within the Mano River Union where students will continue their studies at the INP-HB- an institution that provides top-notch training for technicians and engineers.

The institution, according to reports has already began developing ways to welcome international students from Africa (Guinea, Sierra Leone and South Africa).

With a total cost of five million euros, the YEP is expected to ultimately support almost 11,000 young people between the ages of 18 to 35 years (with over 50 percent being girls) in their careers.

In addition, the program will also provide funding for 15 companies and grant 40 scholarships towards the acquisition of a professional license from the INP-HP.

With regards to the implementation, Mercy Corps revealed that LEEP relies on the involvement of ‘Youth Opportunity Centers’ that it is already supporting with additional centers set up in Grand Bassa and Margibi Counties.

In addition, the project also foresees the creation of a youth investment fund to finance the micro enterprises of the beneficiaries (after a competitive selection process) and the establishment of partnerships with existing incubators to make available a seed fund; providing startup capital for innovative initiatives led by the private sector.

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