By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has signed partnership agreement with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDA), APEX Bank, Local Content Agency and the Sierra Leone Chamber on Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD) through the Opportunity Salone Programme for creating decent jobs in five districts.
The engagement was done on Wednesday, 17th May, 2023, at the Radison Blu Hotel Aberdeen in Freetown.
Provide decent jobs for 1000 women, youths and persons with disabilities in partnership with 8 private businesses have yielded 300 new jobs and will improve another 1, 300.
While making her keynote address, Director of ILO Country Office, Abuja, Vanessa Phala, said many youth would be equipped with relevant skills in road maintenance and agricultural value chain, thereby opening up the space for more economic opportunities for young women and men.
She said the project will improve labour standards, develops policies, and devises programmes that promote decent work for women, men, and people living with disabilities, adding that the project will provide both technical and financial support to its tripartite partners to enhance the achievement of set goals and objectives.
She further states that they will also collaborate with other UN agencies, government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Sierra Leone, and that the ILO is currently implementing a number of schemes across the country.
“In the ILO we believe our policies and actions must be human-centred, to allow people to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, economic security and equal opportunity,” she said
She said their priority will focus on strengthening the capacity of labor administration institutions and social partners to ensure compliance with labor standards, reduce child labor, adding that they will also promote social dialogue, support enterprise development, entrepreneurship, and skills development.
She added that they will also strengthen social protection and occupational health and safety: schemes, including social security, unemployment benefits, and health care, while ensuring that working conditions meet international labour standards.
She said the ILO will continue to support Sierra Leone to develop a vibrant and resilient economy, delivering Decent Work opportunities amongst Sierra Leoneans, and it is a 4-year programme.
“The ILO will work with private sector implementing partners, value chain actors and business development service providers to be able to achieve the three main outcomes: enhanced, conflict-sensitive, agricultural value chain and entrepreneurship,” she explained.
She continued that the project provides support and incentives for mainly private actors to change their behaviour so that the value chains can work in favour of women, youth and persons with disabilities.
She said their engagement was to support feeder road maintenance and youth entrepreneurship for agricultural value chains, as it would lead to more job opportunities and economic growth in the country.
Chief Executive Officer of SMEDA, Shiaka Sannoh, said his institution has had an instrumental relationship with ILO since 2016 and continues to grow from strength to strength, disclosing that SMEDA is implementing projects in Bo, Bombali, Kenema and Port-Loko .
Executive Director of Local Content Agency, Fodeba Dabor, said they continue enjoying the relationship with ILO and partners and understanding that social dialogue is key rather than forceful implementation of regulations.
The project among other things is to construct 200 kilometers road to create access to market for farmers and agrobusinesses and train over three thousand entrepreneurs including three thousand women, youth and persons with disabilities on job opportunities and create about one thousand jobs for them by end of the project life span.