Excellency Adama Barrow attended his maiden African Union (AU) Summit this
week. President Barrow was one of many African leaders who attended the 29th
Session of the AU Summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.
The Summit’s main theme was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth,” a subject which resonates with The Gambia, given its huge youth bulge. Young people make up 60 to 65 per cent of the country’s population, and tackling youth unemployment is an important area of focus for the Gambian President.
President Barrow and his fellow leaders discussed such issues as peace and security and providing a secure future for African youth through strategic interventions, including silencing the guns on the African continent.
President Barrow supported the AU reforms to promote good governance. The AU is challenging its member states and governments, the private sector and civil society to invest in the youth. Other highlights of the summit were prevention of child marriage, the use of new technology and alternative sources of funding.
The AU is encouraging its member states to respect the will of their people in the promotion of democratic values. The success of democracy in The Gambia was amongst those examples cited as best practice in the AU’s Peace and Security Council report. Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma, who chairs this council, presented the report.
The President held bilateral meetings with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir. Whilst networking at the Summit, President Barrow also briefly exchanged courtesies with Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea, amongst other dignitaries.
President Barrow also met with the Gambian community in Ethiopia. He reminded his fellow citizens of the importance of togetherness in achieving the desired change in The Gambia. The President told them that his government had inherited a poor financial and economic situation, and he encouraged them to join all Gambians in contributing positively to the country’s development. He specifically urged Gambian intellectuals to invest in the advancement of the nation.
President Barrow used the occasion to present the African Gender Award 2017, which he had earlier received from the AU, to his accompanying Minister of Trade, Industry and Employment, Dr. Isatou Touray. Dr Touray is a leading gender activist in Africa and in The Gambia in particular. In presenting the award to her, President Barrow acknowledged her as “a strong women who had been fighting for women, and who deserved even more.”
Dr. Touray said it was indeed fitting that President Barrow had been selected to receive the award himself. She thanked him for the kind honour bestowed on her.
Gambian Ambassador to Ethiopia Mass Axi Gai spoke with appreciation of the cordial relationship amongst Gambians in Addis Ababa. He paid special tribute to Dr. Yankuba Gassama, the AU Director of Medical Services, for his outstanding contribution to the AU and to the community.
Speaking on behalf of the Gambian community in Ethiopia, Alhajie Sambou Gassama said Gambia had earned the respect of the international community and provided valuable lessons for other nations.
He spoke about the efforts that the Gambian community had made to give visibility to the change in The Gambia, and he called on the former president to respect the will of the people.
Ida Jallow, a Gambian lawyer in Ethiopia, said that while The Gambia was a small in size and population, its intellectuals had taken leadership in the international community.
Kalipha Manneh of the AU described his compatriots in Ethiopia as a true family.
In his vote of thanks, Mr. Lawally Cole congratulated the Gambian government for creating the environment for freedom of expression and for bringing back democracy. He called for youth empowerment and urged his fellow expatriates to return home and to invest in the youth.
Addis Ababa is home for many Gambian nationals, and they came to the event in large number to express their appreciation to President Barrow and the coalition government.
As part of his engagements at the AU, President Barrow was given the honour of adding the portrait of the first Gambian Head of State, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara to the Gallery of the Founding Fathers at the AU Headquarters building.
President Barrow said it was interesting that he was born in the historic year that the AU was founded, and that he felt extremely honoured to add the portrait of Sir Dawda to the gallery.
Other members of the presidential delegation to the 29thAU Summit were First lady Madam Fatou Bah-Barrow, Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe, Health Minister Saffie Lowe-Ceesay, Secretary General Dawda Fadera and other senior government officials.