The Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa, has an estimated population of 2.1 million. Its small economy largely relies on remittances, tourism and agriculture. In 2019, the country experienced a robust economic growth, at around 6%. This growth did not resulted in substantial employment gains and was impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Since 2020, the economy started to recover, led by tourism, construction, and distributive trade services (1).
The Gambia has a large informal sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the total employment (2). Youth continue to be highly affected by the lack of opportunities, with the share of youth aged 15-24 not in employment, education or training (NEET), estimated at 35.7% in 2020 (3). The lack of diversification of the economy and the low productivity led by low public and private investments in infrastructure and human capital development are the main factors contributing to low growth and unemployment (4).
The Gambia’s workforce is, on average, poorly skilled. The literacy rate for adults is low, at only 51 per cent in 2015, and the gender gap in literacy is sizeable, with 48.1 per cent of women versus 63.4 per cent of men being literate in 2018. While educational enrolment has increased over the past decade, improving the quality of education remains a challenge. Youth in the country are under-skilled and at a higher risk of unemployment. There is a critical shortage of skills, particularly in the tourism sector, which contributes to about 16 percent of the GDP (5). There is a need for stronger links between the TVET offer and the current and future labour market needs, especially in response to technological changes, and the emergence of global markets with opportunities for globalization and regional integration.
The Gambian TVET system faces many challenges, among others the uneven provision of TVET opportunities across regions, the low quality of TVET provision, mismatches between skills supply and labour market demand, the lack of measures to support TVET graduates in their transition into the labour market, the absence of mechanisms to provide sufficient information on skills gaps and skills needs, the low of involvement of the private sector and finally the lack of funding. The Gambian Government envisages a TVET system that is responsive to labour market needs, inclusive, based on clearly defined quality standards and backed up by quality assurance mechanisms and empirical evidence. Since 2002, when the first TVET legislation was launched, the country has taken important steps towards this goal, including the adoption of a National TVET policy in 2021, which is expected contribute to better decent work opportunities for all.
(1) – World Bank, Country Profile, The Gambia: https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/gambia/overview#1
(2) – ILOSAT, Statistics on the informal economy: https://ilostat.ilo.org/topics/informality/
(3) – ILOSTAT, Youth labour statistics: https://ilostat.ilo.org/topics/youth/
(4) – UN, The Gambia, Voluntary National Review 2020: https://sdgs.un.org/documents/vnr-2020-gambia-report-english-26039
(5) – UNDP, Policy Brief, the tourism sector in the context of covid-19 outbreak in the Gambia, 2020: https://bit.ly/3wVIJNW