Sierra Leone is a youthful nation, with young people making up around a third of the population. They are a group bursting with energy and ideas. Yet many face considerable challenges to securing decent jobs or setting up their own businesses.

Savings groups will allow young people to save the money they need to set up businesses. Photo: Nile Sprague

Information about local, national and international markets is difficult to find making it hard for young people to choose training courses that are likely to lift them out of poverty.

Most jobs in Sierra Leone are within the informal sector and so starting a business can seem an attractive option for young people after vocational training. But few banks are prepared to lend the money they need to rent premises or buy tools or other resources. Those already running businesses miss out on valuable income because they do not know how much they can charge, or about quality standards that may make their goods and services more profitable.

As a result, more than half the population lives in extreme poverty with devastating consequences. Parents struggle to put food on the table and so child malnutrition is around the highest in the world. Children drop out of school because their parents cannot afford simple items like school books and uniforms. And those in work have little or no money to save, leaving them vulnerable to shocks like illness.

The impact of  high levels of poverty and deprivation is clearly seen in both Freetown – which saw a surge in its population during Sierra Leone’s protracted civil war – and in more remote and rural areas around places like Makeni and Pujehun where the majority of Sierra Leoneans live.

How we are helping
We recognize that technology creates significant opportunities for young people establishing businesses or seeking employment. Working with Sierra Leone YMCA, Computer Aid, On Our Radar and Sensi Tech, we train vulnerable young people and provide access to computers, software and the internet, including in remote rural communities.

Young people in neglected and remote communities will benefit from increased access to information about prices and techniques to improve their businesses, and opportunities to connect with new partners and customers.

This project is funded by Comic Relief and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust for the Queens Young Leaders progamme.

Our goals
We will work with an existing Youth Entrepreneurship Hub in Freetown and set up two more in Makeni and Pujehun to:

  • Provide access to computers and other technology
  • Train 630 vulnerable young people
  • Create a space for young people to work together to foster innovation

We will also:

  • Provide start up grants for 150 entrepreneurs
  • Set up savings groups in partnership with CODOHSAPA  to allow young people to cover expenses and expand businesses
  • Advocate for increased access to finance in partnership with Restless Development