For political and economic reasons, an increasing number of Gambian citizens have left their home country for Europe in recent years. As a result, The Gambia has one of the highest migration rates in the world.
The Gambian labour market is characterised by high unemployment, particularly among young people. At the same time, there is a high demand for technical expertise and a lack of quality and services offered by (state-run) vocational training institutions.
What could be done to eliminate or reduce the dangerous economic migration journey of Gambian youth who flee to Europe out of desperation and lack of job opportunities? Even if they survive the journey and reach the shores of Europe they face many more hardships.
E-Bantaba was born with the purpose and intention to create electronic meeting places in the villages in the Western Region of the Gambia. E-Bantabas will provide a shared internet infrastructure and software training for youth to study, remote work, and create small businesses. This will enable youth to further their education and or establish their place in the digital global economy.
The name “Bantaba” is derived from the word for a large tree, which is called Bentennie in the Mandinka language and is a traditional meeting place for people of the village. The origin of the word is from the Mandinka for tree which is “Bant” and “aba” means “where to meet” and so the 2 words combined say Bant-aba.
The original Bantaba in the pre-colonist times it built on reciprocity and redistribution where the emphasis is on social order, obedience and respect for tradition. They were the village centre of culture, commerce, and community governance including dispute resolution.
The E-Bantaba program idea came from a discussion I had with former students of mine and a and now employees of Empathy North. I met both Lamin Bayo and Muhammed Camara in 2002 where I taught free introduction computer classes sponsored by the Baha’i Community of Gambia. Lamin was a student at the University of the Gambia and Muhammed was Secretary-General of Gambian Karate Federation, entrepreneur, and my karate Sensi.
The overall purpose of E-Bantaba was to eliminate or reduce the dangerous economic migration journey of Gambian youth who flee to Europe out of desperation and lack of job opportunities. Even if they survive the journey and reach the shores of Europe they face many more hardships.
We borrowed a simple but impactful solution from the global Covid-19 pandemic playbook, study and work from home anywhere. What if Gambia youth from 15-25 could remain at home to study and or work and never embark on the dangerous journey to Europe.
We are in the early planning stages of E-Bantaba, currently consulting with youth, parents, and community leaders. Empathy North is a Canadian marketing and sales consulting firm that my son and I are co-owners of, and we will use our storytelling skills and techniques to create content and tell the E-BANTABA story as it moves from infancy to adolescence to maturity.
The long-term goal is that each E-Bantaba will be managed by Gambian youth and will be not-for-profit, and designed to be self-supporting through commercial private partnership activities. We will raise start-up capital for the E-Bantaba’s through a “go-invest-in-me” model. Each investor will hold shares in E-Bantaba and can apply to sell their shares and receive original investment plus 5%.
It is our plan to launch our first E-BANTABA in January 2021 in the Central Gidda community of Brikama Gambia. We hope you will follow us in our purpose-driven journey of where we will assist in keeping the Gambian youths safe at home and contribute to the economic well-being of themselves, their families, and their village. Inshallah!