Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

West Africa volunteers scheme launched

Youths marching in Monrovia
The scheme is intended to foster a common West African identity

Some 1,000 youths from across West Africa have marched through the streets of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to launch a new regional volunteer scheme.

The scheme would see youths spend time helping out in areas such as agriculture, health or education in a different country to their own.

The idea is that it would help foster a common identity across Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States).

A pilot scheme will begin in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

Organiser Dieudonne Nikiema told the BBC's Network Africa programme that if the pilot in these countries succeeds, it would be extended across the region.

It is modelled on the UN volunteer programme.

He said so far, some $1m of the total budget of $5m has been raised.

Ecowas Commission President Victor Gbeho told the launch ceremony that the scheme would also help tackle youth unemployment, which he said had helped fuel the region's conflicts.

The scheme was launched to mark the 20th anniversary of Ecowas peacekeeping operations.

Ecowas troops played a key role in the conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

What do you think of this volunteer scheme? Are you signing up?

Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

I was among those that marched the principal street of Monrovia yesterday - I was happy when the scheme was announced and launched. My only concern is transparency - all W/African states should be given the chance to fully participate - not just certain Country. Let the leadership of this scheme be as transparent as possible as well as universal.
Karl Smith, Monrovia, Liberia

Volunteerism and mentorship seem likely the appropriate approach to transforming our attitude, to stop the carnage and the intergroup difference. If the pit project is managed across the bounds of religion, tribal sentiments, geographical and regional difference, it would have succeeded in laying foundation to strengthening Africans' hope for harmonious co-existence. Can other aspects of capacity building such on character, attitude, trust , peace and entrepreneurship be incorporated to broaden the scope of the project ? It is highly transformational and a welcome initiative.
Tanko Sallah Abitsokwa, Abuja, Nigeria

These kinds of programs are great, in Africa and every where else. They encourage our youth to become connected with the rest of the world. As they do, they'll discover that others are more like us then we thought. This compels them to eliminate conflict and foster good relationships, understanding that we are all a community and can progress together as humanity. Cheers to the people that made it happen.
James Harnett, USA, Felton

If I had my way, West Africa will be one country. In short, that is a good news moving forward in the region.
Jarwinken Wiah, Worcester, MA, USA

This is a wake up call for all other African countries, If Liberia, the country just out of civil war can do it, why not others who has been in peace for more than 30 years or so? I am proud of Liberians, and President Sirleaf Johnson, maybe women are really good and caring leaders, time for change, we should allow women to lead!!! Proud African.
Patrick Loturi, Salt Lake City, USA

I am overjoyed with this program and will like to sign up. Can i get the link?
Wale Wild, Lagos, Nigeria

It has always been my dream to be a volunteer, and I hope to join volunteer scheme to make my dream become a realty. I also believe it will spread to rest of the continent.
Jonathan Akwasi Adusei, Obuasi, Ghana

I think its going go a long way in eradicating some of the problems the youths are facing. I am in full support of it (in fact i am 100% in support of that).
Babuje Nanbal, Jos, Nigeria

The Volunteer program for youths will be a good thing for the region. In Sierra Leone, I was involved in the setting up of a Volunteer program (PADCO - Peace and Development Corps) under the aegis of the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA). NaCSA is a Development Orientated Agency of the Government of Sierra Leone and I hope thy can be contacted for them to share their experience in delivering services using volunteers in Sierra Leone. Some of the PADCO Volunteers where sent to Local Government Agencies to serve after going through a training program that we administered. If you need further info please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you.
Patick Kaikai, Freetown, Sierra Leone

It sounds like a good idea, but it will likely fail due to corruption. What is the purpose of cross border volunteering when the service is needed within the country. I think the money should be allocated to the countries involved to develop volunteerism within their own boarders before coordinating and sharing the ideas across international boundaries. By so doing there will be more oversight. Otherwise it will meet the same faith as the corrupt governments that oversees it.
Alimamy Fakulie Kamara, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

The scheme is a laudable one, but I don't see going far. To be sincere I tried as much as possible being optimistic, but the fact remains that poverty ridden the continent hence the self-centeredness of its people mostly leaders at all. What do we make out of youth protesting in support of Iwu. May be nations with less population should start it, but should not be allowed to turn to arm group. Africans let UNITE.
M B ERUJA, Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria

What is the point of living in the 'west' for a considerable number of years, without copying what they had done excellently well, for the benefit of west african people. I think Oladapo B Oyewobi of Ipswich, UK, should find a way to join the scheme, either as a volunteer or through other forms of contribution, instead of staying on the fence and condemning this laudable project. He should drop his inferiority complex that nothing good can come from africa.
Abbey Odeyemi, London, UK

This scheme is welcomed, West African youths now have a way of helping one another when the need arises than always depending on external volunteers. countries in Africa should support it to see that this scheme sees the light of the day. Ecowas nations should integrate, unite for economic development.
Kingsley ukiwe, Abuja, Nigeria

This is a huge step forward for the region and the continent as a whole if we want democracy to be successful. Since children are the future, governments through out Africa needs to do all they can to make youth part of the process. Sadly, we all know too well what can happen if the young people are marginalised.
supergarblah, Madison, USA

What a fantastic idea, African solution to african problem. It is about time, we have long waited for the west to come and solve all our problems. Bravo the youths of africa, hope this is extended to other west african countries.
uche lebeanya, oxford, england

How many young people are going through the program? $5 million seems a very high price tag for a pilot program!
Ijebu girl, London, UK

I can't wait to be part of this drive, it one of the most important event that can take the youth off the street thereby reducing crime rate and increase knowledge. It will help youth within nations to cooperate and share knowledge. Am looking forward to it in Nigeria.
Emmanuel, Kano state, Nigeria

This programme will help the youth to participate fully in the African development programs and also emancipate the youth into the national and international affairs.
Mercy Sule Waziri, Zaria , Nigeria

Perhaps this is one of the most unique initiatives ECOWAS has come up with in the recent past. Promoting a forum where ECOWAS youth can bring their talents into work in another West African country will certainly forge alliances for life that will benefit the region. Sometimes people who live close to each other appear to be more separated than otherwise is necessary. This project, if managed properly, will certainly build a culture of peaceful coexistence and advance the cause of regional development. I am for it!
Rev Bosco, Belgium

This scheme is in mind a first practical step by the regional body to positively affect the young people that dominate the population of West Africa. It is laudable and it provides a window of opportunity to the thousands of young people seeking employment in the sub-region. It is my prayer that it does not be an African 'business as usual', but an African 'renaissance for youth development'.
Ibrahim Al-Bakri Nyei, Fassie Town, Bomi County, Liberia

The youth Volunteer is a giant step forward especially in fields mentioned. It is my hope that the process will expose potential youth in their area of speciality and that the funding will continue.
Thomas W Cooper

This is a good initiative which needs be encouraged in the sub-region. It must be backed up with political will in all individual countries. Sustainability and continuous monitoring of progress and gains of such scheme is paramount to avoid unscrupulous elements turning it to avenue of diverting fund. We shall be looking forward to this scheme counting its success record yearly on physical projects and increase in number of volunteers across ECOWAS states.
Wole Olaniran, Lagos, Nigeria

I like the volunteer scheme but as you are aware in Africa people don't even have any means of living and supporting there needs and with now support to eat or find a jobs by the governments of these scheme them this is just another pit too hell for we Africans copying the West.
Oladapo B Oyewobi, Ipswich, UK

This youth scheme is long-overdue. I welcome it and I support it 100%. It is a classical example of an African solution to African problem. The youths are the future leaders and their interactions will help bridge the artificial boundaries that are keeping us divided.
Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu, Cologne, Germany

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