Young Gambians have been leaving rural villages such as Janjanbureh for opportunities abroad for generations. Migration to seek work abroad in order to support families back home is a traditional way of life; and with remittances accounting for almost 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, The Gambia is one of the world economies most dependent on transfers from its expatriates.
But in recent years, the number of youths leaving the country has soared. With a youth unemployment rate of over 40 percent, many of those who have migrated say they had lost hope in the future of the country. However, efforts are being made to curb the soaring rates of migration with an eleven million euro Youth Empowerment Program funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF Africa).
The Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival is part of joint efforts by the EUTF Africa and the Gambian Youth Empowerment Project to boost tourism in Janjanbureh. By preserving and celebrating the cultural heritage of the Kankurang it is creating new economic opportunities for young Gambians in the form of increased tourism in the more rural ‘up-river’ areas.
Not only is the project putting on the festival, but it is also training local unemployed youths in hospitality, giving them skills needed to work in the growing tourism sector in both the coastal and rural (up-river) areas.