The National Education & Technical Training Levy: A catalyst or a myth for business development

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I am writing as a scholar and a concerned Gambian rather than my engagement with the National Training Authority. I am very much excited with recent discuss regarding the Education Levy in the Gambia media.

This excitement is as a result of the expectation that a pertinent issue of public interest is being discussed with a hope that it would be given the due consideration to the interest of all and sundry. Before bringing forth my thoughts, it is important that we clarify the misrepresentation of the Education Levy as in the Bite of the Point Newspaper of 30th January 2008.

First, let me point out that that there is no proposed Education Levy as alleged in the article. The previous Education Levy was amended by Parliament in June 2005 as the current National Education and Technical Training Levy (NETTL). Since its amendment in 2005 the Act was illegally disregarded, dispute numerous efforts with the former Income Tax Department, until the coming into operation of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) in January 2007.

Shortly after, the levy suffered a serious blow following its repeal on the 13th of February 2007, through a Cabinet decision. In short, a levy meant to finance skills development for the Gambian people was only operational for less than 2 month period following an alleged business community outcry.

Currently, a revised tariff for the levy is put in place different from the previous Education Levy tariff, details of all these levies could be found on the National Training Authority website (, who is the main beneficiary to the NETT Levy.

This article is not a defense to the Levy neither is it trying to nullify the arguments put forward in the Bite but rather a brainteaser for us all to search for solutions to the current dilemma facing the future of skills development in the Gambia.

I agree with the article in some aspects that profit is independent of turnover. A business might certainly make huge turnovers but on the contrary might as well make losses for the same trading period. In those circumstances, it would be awkward to pay a levy based on turnover.

Nevertheless, someone is bound to foot the bill for skills development as in all other countries. Skills development in the Gambia was designed to be private sector led in terms of both its financing and management, thus the National Education and Technical Training Levy (NETTL) and the National Training Authority (NTA) management composition.

Both Chairperson and Deputy of the NTA are private sector highly respectable business persons who have been steering the activities of the authority since its inception. The idea behind private sector led skills development initiatives are to bring the private sector into the classrooms, thereby ensuring a shift from the supply-driven to a demand-driven approach. As the saying goes, "one who pays for the piper dictates the tune".

The creation of training standards panels for various priority sectors of our economy e.g. Tourism, Agriculture, ICT etc, led and managed by the private sector is novel in the drive for demand-driven approach to skills development.

Details of such panels and their composition are also available on the NTA website. In the very near future training programs in most training institutions will run programs designed for the Gambian industry, thereby producing the desired skilled human capital for our industries.

Let me first note that the Gambia is in the right path to skills development. The consultancy support the NTA received in 2006 from the EU during reforms to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the Gambia has given us an edge over most countries in the sub region.

We all make references to countries like Senegal and Ghana for their highly successful skilled workforce, however visits to these countries revealed two main realities. First, both of these countries lack a coherent skills (TVET) system.

They however try to address the issues of demand-driven haphazardly, which is hard to coordinate to make the necessary impact. Ghana is currently on the verge of reforming TVET similar to that of the Gambia satisfactorily executed a couple of years ago.

However,impact of such reforms will take time before it is realized by industry. Secondly, both countries and in particular Senegal has a highly successful financing mechanism, which is mainly through series of levies paid by the private sector. Senegal, however are very intuitive in the use of these levies for skills development.

The NTA has been understudying the Senegalese system and has created a Skills Training and Development Scheme as a strategy to targeting training needs of businesses. However this scheme suffered a fatal blow after the repeal of the long awaited levy.

A pertinent question for the NTA, government and businesses is how skills development is going to be fully financed in the Gambia. The current financing mechanism provides no future for skills development in the Gambia; neither is it welcome by the business sector and is potentially bound to be evaded where possible.

This trend doesn’t provide any iota of hope to our development efforts nor does it create the environment for Foreign Direct Investment and as put in the Bite, it might lead to businesses leaving the Gambia.

We have recently witnessed the awarding of prices to the business community at the Sheraton Hotel by GCCI. This is a laudable effort however without a skilled workforce, can we really compete internationally for such awards. We have seen at least a couple of Gambian businesses receiving international awards but do we really reflect and ask the composition of their workforce.

I would suggest to the GCCI that the evaluation criteria used by their consultants for the business awards to include a criteria to measure staff training and development of enterprises. It is obvious that the future growth of a business is highly dependent on the capacity of its workforce.

With a highly competitive global market, there is bound to be an ever demanding need for not only a skilled workforce but relevant skills for our business activities. Businesses have a social corporate responsibility. Therefore, there is need for businesses to dedicate funds for a national skills development initiative.

I am currently writing an academic paper on Sustainable Skills Development for Sub Saharan Africa and obviously natural to take Gambia as a case study since we are currently faced with such a dilemma. In the paper, I intend to review the various forms of Skills development financing mechanisms in sub Saharan Africa with a view of outlining strategic issues for the government to pursue to resolve the current predicament facing skills development in the Gambia.

In a subsequent article I will highlight the direction of the NTA in terms of skills development in the Gambia and report on recent achievements as well as shortcomings with a view to informing the business community of the potential benefits the authority has for them and the Gambia as a whole.

by Abdoulie O. Jallow, Director Quality Assurance, NTA and Graduate Student at the National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan

Author: DO