European Union Delegation to Singapore

Statement by the EU Ambassador Tom Vens at the Employment Promotion Programme (EPP IV) Project launch

Sierra Leone, 17/02/2021 - 12:19, UNIQUE ID: 210217_3
Speeches of the Ambassador

Education is pivotal to the EU’s interventions in Sierra Leone.

Project launch – Employment Promotion Programme (EPP IV)

Date: 16 February 2021

Location: Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen, Freetown

Tom VENS, EU Ambassador


We all agree that human capital development is fundamental for promoting economic growth and sustainable development. Our commitment to promote this has been further reaffirmed in the new EU strategic priorities defined by Van der Leyen’s new European Commission.


This explains why education is pivotal to the EU’s interventions in Sierra Leone. EU support has targeted different levels i. e primary, secondary education, and TVET and has promoted the development of relevant policy frameworks for teacher recruitment and management, institutional capacity development but also to support investment in school infrastructures.


But we know that education as such is only a precious tool that does not bring about transformative change on its own. If education does not lead to employment, then we missed the point.


Making a decent living is a challenge, especially in Sierra Leone. This becomes clear when one looks at some of the realities:

•    90% of jobs are informal and self-employed, many in low income agriculture and micro-enterprises

•   only 10% are wage jobs and also there most of them are informal

•   income is low and 75% of employees are working poor (< 3.10 USD/day)


On the productivity side; 65% of productivity is lost due to poor education, nutrition and health, placing it below the regional average and when looking closer critical drive of this are:


•  A mismatch of skills and what is needed in labour market

• A lack of entrepreneurial skills that reduces the prospects of self-employment

and on top of that a lack of access to viable financing that undermines economic activity at all levels.


None of us will successfully tackle these challenges is we work in isolation. Our duty is to actively look for synergies and policy cohesion that connects the dots. The European Union has therefore launched, together with the Government of Sierra Leone, the EUR 60million Jobs and Growth Programme to address the triple challenge of:


1.         Improving human capital

2.         Providing access to viable financing

3.         Creating decent jobs

Through a new and innovative approach the Jobs and Growth Programme seeks to do change the way we have done things in the past in three ways :


a) Systematically combining training and skills development with access to viable financing: The is done at all levels: at individual training level where skills development are combined with start up support but also at the level of commercial investments where business and investment support will be combined with concessional loan financing


b)  Give private sector a central role in job creation: Private sector is at the heart of the Jobs and Growth programme, which seeks to increase productivity, and with it to create jobs through better matching skills development with demand from companies, increasing capital investments and accelerating technological progress for higher efficiency.


c)  Achieve rapid and sustainable impact: The job crisis and stagnating entrepreneurial activities need a rapid, positive impact. Therefore, the focus is on key sectors such as agriculture, where existing business can be rapidly upgraded and investments have strong multiplier effects.

In order to achieve this ambitious agenda, the European Union has forged strong partnerships with the UN Capital Development Fund, the World Bank, the International Labour Organisation and GIZ. Within this framework, the Employment Promotion Programme, which is jointly financed by the EU and the German Government, is a key component.

And I would like to take this opportunity to thank all involved for their continues contribution and engagement in preparing this project.

EUs previous engagement on TVET focused on improving the management, delivery and promotes equal access to TVET.  The Jobs and Growth, “Employment Promotion Programme” however crucially links skills training and access to employment for youths.

With GIZ’s experience in transforming TVET in different parts of the world, we cannot afford to fail and we should not only actively track how the investments in TVET translate into jobs but also actively pursue those linkages that I have referred to before. The other critical piece of the puzzle is the determination of the GOSL to pursue policies that contribute to an improved business environment, particularly for SMEs. To do this, there is a proven recipe: active, regular and structured engagement with the private sector and rigorous follow up.

We do not only want to succeed with the Jobs and Growth Programme and make a real difference in the lives of as many Sierra Leoneans as possible, it is our duty to do so. I therefore would like to finish with two critical action points:


1. Coordinate the support to the private sector: All components of the Jobs and growth programme are interlinked and success relies on leveraging synergies. I therefore urge GIZ and the other partners to actively exchange information and develop synergies, also outside formal structures.


2. Pro-actively look for opportunities: Here the Employment Promotion Programme is in unique position to capitalize from the support to agribusiness under the EU Boosting agriculture for food security program.

Besides, I also want to take this opportunity to announce that we will soon launch a Call for Proposal to support entrepreneurs and start-ups in advancing innovation and technology in the agriculture sector like innovative access to finance, renewable energy and digitalisation.

Being part of the Jobs and Growth Program is a unique opportunity to explore new solutions to some of the most pressing problems in the country. As European Union we count on our partners and the people of Sierra Leone, their knowledge and commitment to make this happen.

I extend my by best wishes to all of you to make this a success.

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