Oct 29, 2015, 9:56 AM
The Gambia government has prepared the way for the private sector to intervene in addressing its infrastructure challenges, by paving the way for businesses to thrive and help upgrade the living standard of people in the country, through Public Private Partnership (PPP).
At a PPP forum held on Thursday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi, jointly organised by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA), the permanent secretary MoFEA called on investors to take advantage of the investment opportunities in the country’s infrastructure needs.
“The government is seeking serious-minded investors who will utilize our infrastructure challenges as opportunities to do profitable business in The Gambia,” PS Abdoulie Jallow said.
The opportunities for viable investment in The Gambia “are practically limitless”, he said, adding that investment prospects could be found in sectors such as education, agriculture, power and water supply, waste management, transport, real estate and housing development.
The forum saw the Draft National Policy on PPP tabled for validation and fine-tuning by stakeholders, before it could be submitted to Cabinet for review and approval.
According to Mr Jallow, PPPs would reduce the pressure on the government’s budget and borrowing requirements, boost the transfer of technology and skills through enhancing indigenous capacity; and would challenge municipalities, and ministries, departments and agencies to creatively respond to the challenge of infrastructure development rather than “waiting endlessly on the government”.
“Rather than be the sole provider, the emphasis of government is shifting to that of enabler, facilitator and regulator; focusing more on co-ownership, co-responsibility, equity participation and granting credit enhancements to private investors willing to partner with the government in priority areas,” he said.
The priority sectors the government would like PPPs to focus on include national infrastructure; electricity sector; ferry services; water supply; road sector; air and seaports; telecommunications sector; health sector; agriculture-related projects; urban services such as street lighting and urban roads; sports such as stadia and other facilities; and government infrastructure and networks such as telephone or IT hardware.
“We have already started exploring the various Public Private Partnership options through Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangements such as we have done with the WARCIP project,” PS Jallow said, adding that the government had opened a PPP Directorate under the Finance ministry to implement the conclusions of the approved policy and other subsequent PPPs in The Gambia.
The directorate is expected to be a “one-stop business centre” for PPPs in The Gambia “devoid of frustrating bureaucratic delays”, and would facilitate coordination between project initiating ministries, agencies of government and private sector investors.
Meaningful partnerships are the foundation for success and what enable governments, top companies and entrepreneurs to make continual improvements, said GCCI’s CEO Alieu Secka in his statement at the PPP Policy validation workshop.
Through sharing, he noted, limited resources and capabilities could be invested in projects considered most important.
Secka also said the common objectives under PPP “must demonstrate” that both sides ensure public services are delivered in the most economical, effective and efficient manner; create opportunities for private sector growth and contribute to the overall economic development through the stimulation of competitiveness and initiatives; and ensure the best interests of the public and the business sector are served through an appropriate allocation of risks and returns between partners.
“From now on, business operators will have a solid policy to cement our partnership of projects with the government,” CEO Secka said.
“We have clearly heard the President/ Government’s call for Vision 2016, as well as the numerous statements that the private sector is the engine of growth in so many proclamations - Vision 2020, PAGE, etc.”
Therefore, one of the “best opportunities” is already at hand, he added, calling on the private sector to seize the momentum to ensure that PPP tackles the infrastructure challenges of The Gambia.
The creation of the PPP Unit under MOFEA and the development of the draft policy “is a clear demonstration of the government’s commitment” to create the enabling environment, and put in place the requisite strategic framework to attract and encourage investors to play a greater role in financing infrastructure projects and services in The Gambia, said Fatou Mbenga Jallow, CEO of the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency, GIEPA.
“This is key for us to realize our national development aspirations,” she added.