Sierra Leone continues to be shackled by heightened poverty years after the end of the civil war. Recent poverty figures placed Sierra Leone next to the poorest country in the world with a life expectancy of 40.58 years and infant mortality rate at 158.27 deaths/1000 live births. This appalling poverty figure is exacerbated by an inability of Sierra Leone to provide solutions to the massive socio-economic problems that continue to serve as a deterrent to development.
One of the groups that have borne the brunt of this appalling situation is the youth population. In spite of the fact that they account for a staggering 65% of the total population, they continue to be the most deprived and marginalized. Studies regarding the situation of youth in Sierra Leone have indicated that not only have the needs of youth remained unmet, but also they have systematically continued to be excluded from decision-making processes that affect their lives and well-being. A third of their numbers is unemployed and they live from day to day on handouts and stipend from whatever odd jobs they manage to secure. The situation is more pitiful in the rural and underdeveloped communities where pre proposal findings discovered that 1 out of 10 young people can hardly afford Le2,500 a day. This is hardly an incentive to development and social stability in Sierra Leone.
To better understand the problems of youth, one can easily go to the streets of Freetown and observe the army of youth wondering aimlessly without jobs. In every street of Freetown, it is common to see them in a very large number crowding the streets without any work. If these are mobilized in an organized manner, they can really bring about great change in their lives and communities.
In the face of a weak macro-level job creation, self-employment and small-scale entrepreneurship already represent the vast majority of employment in Sierra Leone. However, running these businesses generate survival-level profit because of several challenges including lack of business management skill, knowledge and complexity in accessing financial services.
As a result of these challenges, the Business Development Services Programme, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with the National Youth Commission (NAYCOM), which aims at supporting the effort of young people to establish and run effective enterprises through the Business Development services (BDS) in the Western Urban Area was implemented by Advocacy Initiative for development (AID-SL).
The overall goals of the programme were to improve the availability of business development services to young people, to boost employment and self employment opportunities for young people and to contribute to the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture among young people in Sierra Leone.