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Govt. seeks input of diaspora Gambians to tackle challenges

Jan 4, 2012, 1:04 PM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

The Government of the Gambia yesterday convened what officials called a two-day “family” consultative meeting with representatives of Gambians in the Diaspora, held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, with a view to availing them the opportunity to contribute their quota to the development process of the country.

The meeting, on the theme: “Harnessing Diaspora Engagement in Support of Enhanced Socio-Economic Development in The Gambia,” brought together prominent Gambians in the Diaspora, key among them Fatou Bom Bensouda, the newly-appointed chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Declaring the meeting open on behalf of President-elect Yahya Jammeh, the Vice President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, said the Government of The Gambia recognizes the need for alternative approaches to be considered in pursuance of its development aspirations in view of current global challenges.

“My Government found it absolutely necessary to look inwards in our quest for solutions, drawing on the view that “only Gambians can develop The Gambia,” she said.

According to the Vice President, it is the government’s sincere belief that Gambians in the Diaspora also have a significant role to play in our collective desire to overcome the various challenges that the country faces in its development process.

“This is precisely why we are hosting this historic dialoguem, for the first time, and we hope and pray that it will become a permanent fixture on our development calendar,” she stated, adding that government has always created the enabling environment for Gambians, both inside and outside the country, to meaningfully participate in the development of our dear country.

In the same vein, she went on, we must also acknowledge the significant contributions that the Gambians in the Diaspora are making towards our development, for which we sincerely commend them.

The Vice President further noted that, as Gambians, regardless of where we live, we have a sacred duty to contribute our quota towards the onerous task of our nation-building process.

Dr Momodou Tangara, minister of Foreign Affairs, International Relations and Gambians Abroad, said the high-profile nature of this consultative meeting is a manifestation of governments’ commitment towards the achievement of the goals and development aspirations of the country.

Dr Tangara told the gathering that the theme for the meeting is a reflection of the ardent desire of the `Gambia government to create a conducive environment for meaningful cooperation with the Gambian Diaspora in a mutually beneficial manner. “In recent times, we have witnessed the economic and social transformation of some Asian, Latin American and even African countries, partly due to collaborative efforts between those governments and their Diaspora citizens,” he stated.

The Gambia, he added, is at a critical development juncture, and the momentum must be sustained.

“In an environment of improved macroeconomic stability, and its consequent opportunities for investment, it is time to reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit of the Gambian Diaspora to enable their involvement as one of Government’s major development partners,” Dr Tangara noted.

Speaking on behalf of Gambians in the Diaspora, Mrs Fatou Bom Bensouda, noted that all over the world, from Latin America to closer home, countries have been making strenuous and concerted efforts to harness the potential of their Diasporas, and thus they are appreciative that the Gambia can now be counted as one of those countries.

Citing some areas in which Gambians could make meaningful contributions towards national development, Mrs Bensouda said Gambians working in international development organizations could provide meaningful input, during the shaping of national and sectoral development policies and programs.

“Similarly, while Gambian professors and lecturers in the Diaspora can play similar roles, they could also be more directly useful to our University by contributing to the development of curricula and study programs, facilitation of student and staff exchanges with universities of international repute and, through sabbaticals, come The Gambia to deliver lectures and share their experiences,” she stated.