10 March 2009

Re-issued as received

Young People from Mano River Region in West Africa Discuss Employment, Business Start-Ups at Meeting in Sierra Leone

VIENNA 10 March (UN Information Service) - Youth employment and the role of young people in sub-regional development of the Mano River Union countries, which include Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, will be discussed at a Forum that opened in Freetown today.

The two-day event, the first of its kind, brings together some 120 representatives from youth groups in the four countries of the Mano River Union, the Ministries of Youth, the international community, NGOs and the private sector. They will also focus on youth-led business start-ups, social entrepreneurship in the sub-region and networking.

"The Youth Forum will help empower young men and women in one of the most volatile regions of the world, plagued for years by wars and conflicts," said Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia emerged from years of civil war in 2002 and 2003, while Guinea until recently had the largest number of refugees in Africa.

"We must make sure young people play a direct role in programmes and strategies aimed at boosting youth employment and building social capital in the region. Although reconstruction efforts in the countries of the Mano River Union are underway, they are still at a very early stage. Ensuring long-lasting peace and stability is a key priority for the Governments of the region and the international community, and UNIDO is prepared to offer its help," added Yumkella, himself from Sierra Leone.

The Mano River Union countries are examples of the dangers of high youth unemployment and how severely this can affect sub-regional security. According to a recent survey, youth unemployment rates run as high as 88 per cent in Liberia and 60-70 per cent in Sierra Leone. Marginalized and vulnerable youth, including ex-combatants and former child soldiers, need urgent attention.

The Youth Forum was organized in the context of the Programme for Productive and Decent Work for Youth in the Mano River Union countries carried out by UNIDO, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Youth Employment Network (YEN). The programme was designed to complement existing national efforts by the Governments and engage civil society groups. Japan has contributed USD 5 million to the programme.

Sierra Leone Vice-President Samuel Sam Sumana, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Minkailu Bah, Mano River Union Secretary General Abraham Bouré, the Executive Representative of the Secretary General Michael von der Schulenberg, and UNIDO Deputy Director-General Yoshiteru Uramoto, took part in the opening ceremony. The event will also feature artistic performances by regional celebrities, including popular singers Meiway from Côte d'Ivoire, and Sia Tolno from Guinea, acting as Goodwill Ambassadors for the programme.

UNIDO has been helping to develop youth entrepreneurship in different countries in Africa, including in Mozambique, Namibia, Sudan and Uganda.


UNIDO is a specialized agency of the United Nations system that works towards improving the quality of life of the world's poor by helping countries achieve sustainable industrial development. UNIDO views industrial development as a means of creating employment and income to overcome poverty. It helps developing countries and economies in transition to produce goods they can trade on the global market. It also helps provide the tools - training, technology, and investment - to make them competitive. At the same time, it encourages production processes that will neither harm the environment nor place too heavy a burden on a country's limited energy resources. UNIDO has 173 Member States and has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. See also www.unido.org

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For more information, please contact:

Julia Rohe
UNIDO Youth Employment Officer
Telephone: (+232-76) 31 34 44
E-mail: J.Rohe@unido.org