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Gambia cannot rely heavily on Imports – President Jammeh

Mar 3, 2014, 9:40 AM | Article By: Osman Kargbo

President Yahya Jammeh has reiterated his desire to ensure The Gambia is liberated from heavy dependence on imports.

In his statement delivered by Vice-President Isatou Njie-Saidy at the 7th Edition of Trade Fair Gambia (TFG) held on Saturday by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, President Jammeh said: “As a country we cannot continue to rely heavily on imports, especially of basic food commodities, and therefore it is our collective responsibility to work towards food self-sufficiency.”

He also said: “Since the launching of the ‘Gambia Incorporate Vision 2020’ in 1996 my Government continues to implement far-reaching regulatory and policy reforms to enhance business and investment environment.

These reforms, he said, include the recent review of theGambiaInvestment Promotion and Free Zones Acts andthe subsequent enactment of the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Act of 2010, the formulation of the National TradePolicy, enactment of Gambia Standards Bureau Act 2010, the recent reviewof corporatetax,the launching of the Gambia Growth and Competiveness project (GCP), the establishment of a single windowbusiness registry to facilitate quickregistration of businesses,and a nationwide road construction projects, electricity and water supply projects.

“These reforms on business registration in The Gambia are not only geared towards promoting big businesses but also facilitating the growth and development of MSMEs which is key to sustainable economic development and growth propelled by indigenous efforts, “ he said.

“Statistics shows that MSMEs contribute about 20% of our GDP and form more than 60% of the urban labour force, thus they are significant part of our economy.”

The President commended the trade minister for championing the formation of the National Policy for MSMEs as it is widely accepted that MSMEs are an essential component of any growing and dynamic economy whether developed or developing.

In his remarks on the occasion, the Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Hon. Abdou Kolley, said the theme of this year’s trade fair, “Inclusive growth through partnerships”, is in line with government’s strategy of poverty reduction through creation of productive economic opportunities for the poor and vulnerable sections of society.

He also said The Gambia’s private sector is characterized by MSMEs “which serve as a major source of employment yet are faced with considerable challenges such as s low productivity and low income thus minimizing their impact on poverty reduction.

“We have thus updated the National MSME Policy with a view to addressing some of these challenges through strategic Public Private Partnerships in key sectors of the economy as well as align it to the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment for the attainment of Vision 2020 objectives.”

He disclosed that his ministry is working with the UNDP to provide various forms of support for MSME development.

The government, he said, has completed an assessment on potential Public Private Partnerships (PPP) projects in The Gambia and in collaboration with the World Bank is working to identify potential infrastructure projects which could be structured as PPPs.

”The Government of The Gambia will also continue to formulate and adopt policies that are geared towards improving and strengthening the business environment as well as support the growth of MSMEs,” Minister Kolley said, adding: “Similar inventions to support our export diversification drive are being implemented under the Growth and Competitiveness Project, Sector Competitiveness and Export Diversification Project and The Trade Facilitation Airport Project.”

In his introductory speech, the GCCI President Muhammed Jagana said the GCCI is out to serve as the Voice of Business in The Gambia and would do all they could to promote the private sector, especially MSMEs, to serve as the engine of economic growth for the nation.

This, he added, can also be done through working the public sector and the government to cement Public Private Partnerships (PPP), and promote “Inclusive growth through Partnerships”.

He also called on all businesses in the country to join and work with the GCCI for them to tap from the services offered by the Chamber, saying that the Chamber is working with international and regional banks, whose services can be of help to businesses and entrepreneurs in The Gambia.

According to Mr Jagana, this year’s Trade Fair, which is the 7th Edition of the TFG, has been the most outstanding of all, with about 260 stalls, the highest number ever booked by exhibitors.