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‘Gambia gov’t committed to poverty eradication’

Jan 26, 2011, 12:16 PM | Article By: Sainey MK Marenah

The Gambia government is strongly committed to the eradication of poverty in The Gambia as enshrined in the country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRSP II) and the Vision 2020, a senior government official at the Ministry of Finance has said.

Lamin Camara, acting director of the central program/project coordinating unit at the Ministry of Finance, made this remark yesterday while speaking at the opening of a validation workshop of the Micro-Finance Institution (MFI) assessment report held at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.

The forum sought to share with key shareholders the findings of the report, as well as review and issue its content and recommendations.

According to Mr Camara, the PRSP, in addition to other priority areas for development, targets entrepreneurship development and promotion of self-employment for the economic empowerment of the poor.  “Access to affordable and sustainable microfinance services is a crucial requirement in the attainment of this objective,” he said.

Mr Camara, who was speaking on behalf of his permanent secretary, Shering Cham, added: “Government recognizes the pivotal role of microfinance in the country’s strategy for poverty alleviation in enabling the orderly growth of the informal sector and in increasing productivity, especially within the MSE and the agricultural sectors of the economy.”

He noted that in its efforts to strengthen the microfinance sector as part of its overall poverty alleviation strategy, the Gambia government received a grant from the African Development Bank (ADB) for the implementation of the Entrepreneurship Promotion and Microfinance Development (EPMDP) being executed by the Social Development Fund (SDF).

This project, he stated, is designed, among other things, to provide some support aimed at facilitating the orderly growth of the country’s microfinance sector through training, MFI institutional development, policy development and regulation as well as coordination of the sector.

Camara recalled that the SDF was established in April 1998 by the Gambia government with seed funding from the ADB with a view to serving as the umbrella funding and capacity building mechanism for poverty alleviation activities in the country.

“The overall objective of the SDF is to alleviate poverty and as such it is an integral part of the PRSP,” he added.

In his address at the meeting, Sonko Fofana, manager of the SDF and manager of the EPMDP, revealed that the Government of The Gambia received a grant from the ADB towards the cost of the EPMDP, being implemented by the SDF.

“As part of the Government’s priorities for stimulating the orderly growth of the micro-finance sector as a strategy for poverty alleviation as well as financial inclusiveness, the EPMDP project has come up with activities aimed at strengthening the country’s micro-finance sector,” Fofana said.

The activities, he says, includes support to the development of sustainable and self-sufficient financial intermediaries that can effectively increase outreach to marginal groups and communities to facilitate their economic productivity, support the training of NBFIs/ TSPs in key areas of micro-economic internal control systems, product coasting, marketing strategies, and support to the micro-finance sector regulatory environment.

He noted that the validated report was the outcome of the assessment of the MFI’s in the country.

“Our interest in supporting the assignment is to support the development of a more proactive micro-fiancé sector for the task of providing increased financial services to enable the economically active poor of our population to establish sustainable MSMEs and therefore escape from the vicious cycle of poverty,” he stated.

For his part, the chairman of the SDF, FWL Thomas, said: The Gambia has remained unflinching in its resolve to, if not eradicate poverty, at least alleviate it to a considerable extent.”