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Guinea's youth vote for jobs

Young unemployed men play cards in an abandoned warehouse in Conakry (Sept 2013)
Young unemployed men play cards in an abandoned warehouse in Conakry (Sept 2013) (Tommy Trenchard/IRIN)

The Manhattan City Bar sits at the edge of a scrap heap in the Kaloum neighbourhood of Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Malian guitar music and French rap are blasted from the speakers as customers drink cheap whiskey from plastic cups. At 3:00 in the afternoon, the bar is busy, full of its chief clientele - unemployed youth.

Among them is Alpha Diallo, who clutches a bottle of warm Guinness as he tells IRIN why he will be voting for an opposition candidate in the upcoming election. "There is no work for us, no way to get money. [President Alpha] Condé has done nothing for us" he said. "That's why I come here".

It is estimated that about 60 percent of young people in Guinea are unemployed. And with over 42 percent of the country currently under 14 years of age, according to World Bank data, the problem is unlikely to disappear any time soon.

Diallo blames his current situation on lack of education; as a child, the need to work kept him from school. "How can you study if there is no food to eat?" he asked.

Yet even those with university educations find themselves struggling to make ends meet. Fatmata Drame has a degree in biology, but has had to settle for a job selling groundnut paste in Conakry's Marché du Niger.

Not far from the bar, another group of young people play cards in an abandoned warehouse at an old train terminal. None of them have steady employment, and all are planning to vote for the opposition in next week's poll. Yet when asked how they expected the opposition to improve the situation, none spoke of the candidates' proposals.

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There is a widespread lack of awareness about the policies espoused by the political parties, and little notion of how they intend to create jobs and improve living standards for ordinary Guineans. Indeed, ideologically, there is little to differentiate the opposition from the ruling party.

"The RPG [Guinean People's Rally] have been in power for three years, yet we have nothing. No job, no money," said Alieu Diallo as he dealt cards. Senoussi Bangoura, who sat beside him smoking a large joint, added that it had been three years since he had seen regular work. They said, simply, that the opposition "will do something for the young people".

The much-delayed poll will be Guinea's first legislative election for over a decade and will formally complete the country's return to democratic rule.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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