In Niger, training young people for a better future

Young man in Niger
Moussa, 22, says the UNDP-supported training helped him develop new skills. @ UNDP in Niger

In northern Niger, close to the border with Mali, unemployment is high and affects mainly young people, who have few opportunities to advance themselves. Without formal or vocational education opportunities, without money or things to do, these young people are at risk of being enrolled by armed groups and smugglers who have become increasingly active in the region over the past few years.

Boubacar, 25, says he used to carry a weapon: "I am a former rebel". Without any work or income available, he crossed the border into Mali and joined the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) because "it paid well."

Highlights

  • With support from Japan, UNDP is implementing a US$ 5 million programme in the Sahel.
  • US$ 1.08 million has been allocated for Niger, focusing on peace-building and community resilience.
  • Young unemployed people at risk of being enrolled by armed groups and smugglers are trained in new skills.

Now, thanks to a regional project on human security and resilience in the Sahel, funded by Japan and supported by UNDP, Boubacar has returned to his village and decided to end his fighting days. "I wanted no further part in the atrocities," he says.

Along with 200 young women and men aged 14 to 25 and living in remote areas, Boubacar was offered training in areas as diverse as carpentry, electricity, baking, sewing or agricultural mechanics. Three hundred others are benefiting from intensive labour employment and income generation activities.

"Thanks to the training and support to repair my old grain mill, I earn enough money to meet my needs and those of my family," Boubacar says. "I even train apprentices who now work with me".

Out of a US$ 5 million budget for four countries in the Sahel, US$ 1.08 million has been allocated for Niger to help the country enhance access to basic social services, job creation and income-generating activities in rural areas.

The 18-months project is implemented in partnership with the High Authority for the Consolidation of Peace, a structure that reports directly to the President of the Republic, and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including a national NGO called Action for Youth Development (AJEDEV), which is taking the lead in providing the training.

By the end of their training, all of the graduates are provided with tool kits in their skills area and a small cash capital of 50,000 CFA francs (US$ 100) to allow them to start a small business in their communities.

Now, youths and former combatants returning to their communities are planning to develop businesses that will improve their long-term prospects and make them less vulnerable to insecurity, while contributing to local development.

Issaka, 24, illustrates a path that is common among the youth in the district: “I had to leave school in 8th grade, as I was living 30 kilometres away from the school and no one could provide me with accommodation”.

He says the training helped him develop new skills: “Now I am training to become a baker. I am very proud to have learned a trade that enables me to earn some money and help my family."

Moussa, 22, is also proud: “I used to work in the field during the rainy season, but this lasted only 3 months and did not provide me much income. The rest of the time, there was nothing to do. Now I follow a vulcanization training [tire repair]. I can now earn money, between 1,500 and 2,000 CFA francs a day [US$ 3-4].”

The impact of these activities is already being felt in neighbouring communities. "After a drought decimated livestock, the able-bodied left in search of work, leaving families and children behind them,” recalls Ali Hamada, chief of Weilla-bon, a small village in the vicinity of Ayerou.  “Life is gradually returning to the village."

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