OBG talks to Simon Ntoutoume Emane, Minister of Labour, Work and Vocational Training

Simon Ntoutoume Emane, Minister of Labour, Work and Vocational Training

Interview: Simon Ntoutoume Emane

How is the Gabonese government dealing with the country’s high unemployment rate, especially the youth unemployment figures?

SIMON NTOUTOUME EMANE: Nowadays the government’s major strategy for lowering the unemployment rate consists of educating the youth according to the market’s needs and, thus, ensure their inclusion in the workforce once they complete their training. The head of state has also encouraged the pursuit of reforms in the field of vocational training. These reforms include restructuring and strengthening training centres, revising curricula, constructing six vocational training centres, updating the national vocational training funds, and implementing tax credits for internships.

At the regional level and under the initiative of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the Train My Generation fund will be set up among members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community. With $200m, the fund will aim to improve the employability of young people in the region. We must understand the importance of this segment, which constitutes approximately 60% of the African population and about 35% of the population eligible to work. Unemployment, especially among the youth, has effectively become a scourge in the primary sectors such as agriculture, livestock, fishing and fish farming, as well as in the tertiary sectors such as tourism and the service industry.

We also cannot forget the industrial sectors such as hydrocarbons, mining, transport, infrastructure and industrial maintenance. With this fund, Gabon is positioning itself as a leader in this social field. Furthermore, this fund provides a new approach to vocational training, both integrating the development of activities that bring wealth and guarantee equality of opportunities.

On the international level, countries participating within the framework of the 103rd International Labour Conference held in May and June of 2014 in Switzerland concluded that the credibility and democratic foundations of leading world countries will depend on how well this specific employment crisis is managed.

What main challenges does the government need to overcome to reverse the unemployment rate?

NTOUTOUME EMANE: The employment situation in Gabon is very worrying. Despite the solid growth rate experienced by the country in the last two years, the employment market still faces major challenges. These negative figures emphasise job insufficiency and insecurity in terms of the quantity and quality of human capital. In this regard, we have identified the problem as inadequate job education. The government has, therefore, launched a set of vocational training reforms with deeper private sector involvement.

The absence of employment statistics further adds to the problem. We are unable to provide an exact answer to the following questions: Who are the unemployed? Where are they located? Why do they not have jobs? How many people are unemployed? There is a real need for a detailed demographic map of the unemployment phenomenon in the country.

What measures should be implemented to improve the role and performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in terms of job creation?

NTOUTOUME EMANE: SMEs are our major economic drivers. In order to make them as competitive and efficient as international firms located in Gabon, the Gabonese government should steer the allocation of funds and subsidies in ways that help local SMEs become more productive. This would pave the way for them to bid for public tenders or foster a culture of local entrepreneurship. However, Gabonese SMEs, some of which have an inadequate structure, need to fulfil a set of minimum requirements before they can access the public market. The objective is to establish the principle of national preference. Additionally, financial entities should implement more flexible policies to better accommodate our SMEs, and the champions of industry should encourage them through subcontracting. What it comes down to is that we increasingly need to start relying on our fellow Gabonese compatriots.

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The Report: Gabon 2014

Health & Education chapter from The Report: Gabon 2014

Cover of The Report: Gabon 2014

The Report

This article is from the Health & Education chapter of The Report: Gabon 2014. Explore other chapters from this report.

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