According to Statistics Sierra Leone, the youth is defined as the population between 15-35 years. This population constitutes 34 per cent, or 1.9 million people, of the country’s 5.6 million inhabitants. Because of the conflict in Sierra Leone throughout the 1990s, most of these young people have received littleor no schooling.
They lack the skills for gainful employment, and may even lack the social norms that bind society together. Most of them participated in the war and/or experienced its trauma losing their formative and transformative years in the process. Unless they are properly managed and their economic and social needs are well addressed, there is potential for them, once again, to become a breeding ground for social instability and unrest.
The Truth and ReconciliationCommission’s Report shows that economic marginalisation and social and political exclusion of the youth was one of the major precipitants of the civil war. Also, findings of the Country Review Mission show that, historically, the two dominant political parties – the SLPP and the APC – have appealed to, and in the urban areas largely relied on, unemployed youth for support and as foot soldiers of their parties. Youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is therefore a growing concern for all stakeholders. At 45.8 per cent, it is one of the highest in the West African subregion. One of the most challenging policy issues that the Government of Sierra Leone faces is creating productive jobs for this army of unemployed youth.
The nation’s objective of inclusive growth, poverty reduction, political security, social stability and safety very much depends on the degree to which unemployed young people are engaged in meaningful employment to contribute to economic growth and social development. They constitute the core of the labour force that could support the growth process itself, and their full participation in that growth could facilitate poverty reduction.