A delegation of U.S. Embassy staff traveled to Laayoune and Dakhla this week to meet with beneficiaries of economic development programs supported by the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) – including the DakhlaConnect and LaayouneConnect digital platforms, as well as a separate workforce skills training program for unemployed youth in both cities.
The capstone of the four-day trip was a graduation ceremony for 50 young Dakhla entrepreneurs who completed a training in social media marketing, e-commerce and networking, aimed at boosting the reach of their growing businesses. The 3-day training sessions took place between April and December 2021 at the Regional Investment Center (CRI) of the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region and ENCG Business School of Dakhla.
The graduation ceremony, held at the CRI of Dakhla, comes a little more than a year after the official launch of the DakhlaConnect, which enables local businesses to connect to potential business partners, including investors from abroad. The platform also provides potential investors, vendors, suppliers, and entrepreneurs with critical information about the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region, allowing them to search for local businesses by sector.
A similar platform – LaayouneConnect – was launched in Laayoune on October 13.
Both platforms are a result of strong partnerships between MEPI, the Regional Investment Centers for both regions, the local Wilayas, and J.E. Austin Associates (a U.S.-based organization.) Both platforms now list more than 10,000 businesses and have received tens of thousands of visits and hundreds of requests for information from potential investors from across the world. MEPI provided $100,000 to fund both platforms.
“Dakhla’s excellent business and investment potential are finally highlighted today thanks to the awesome DakhlaConnect digital platform which allows us to promote the economic assets and investment opportunities of the region,” said Mounir Houari, director of the CRI of Dakhla Oued Eddahab.
During their visit to Laayoune and Dakhla, the four-member U.S. Embassy delegation had a chance to chat with some of the more than 200 young people who have participated in training programs associated with the MEPI grant.
Skills for Success
Embassy staff also attended soft skills workshops provided to unemployed young people in both Daklha and Laayoune through the “Skills for Success” program, which is being implemented by Amideast under a $1.35 million grant from MEPI. Over the next three years, the program is expected to benefit 900 young people, with a focus on women and individuals with disabilities.
The 220-hour Skills for Success program aims to expand participants’ knowledge about job paths and employment resources, helping them develop critical skills and increasing their ability to find job opportunities. The program integrates five core areas linked to personal and professional development: English language proficiency, computer/ICT skills, workplace/professional skills, community outreach and transition to work. The first cohorts of beneficiaries started their training this February and will continue over three months.