The purpose of the retreat was to have face-to-face discussions among the senior staff of the various Departments and Public Enterprises under the Ministry. It also witnessed frank dialogue on successes, failures, challenges, and the way forward.
In his opening statement, Hon. Bai Lamin Jobe, Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure (MOTWI), recalled the key areas that concerned the sector under the National Development Plan (NDP), 2018- 2021, and the results that were achieved in this respect.
“The key areas include the completion of primary road network from 80% to 100%; reconstruction of 250 kilometers of urban roads in Greater Banjul Area; construction of a bypass from Sting Corner to Abuko; increase the operational capacity of air transport facilities at the Banjul International Airport from 300,000 to 500,000 passengers per year; construction of a Dry Port in Basse; draft a National Public Building Facilities Policy, and update the National Transport Policy,” he said.
Minister Jobe challenged the participants to cast critical eyes on the noted key areas and to evaluate with honesty how far the different sub-sectors have fulfilled these promises.
“Sectors must analyse challenges against their targets and map out strategies for the way forward, as well as adopt realistic approaches to implement their strategies,” he added.
Despite the outbreak of the corona virus, the Transport Minister observed that the different sub-sectors have shown resilience, and have achieved modest gains.
He therefore, challenged them as heads of the different departments to look into innovative financing mechanisms, and to tap into local sources to finance projects and programs.
Mod K. Ceesay, Permanent Secretary, MOTWI, on his part, described the retreat as an opportunity to share ideas and information from the different sectors under the Ministry.
“This retreat will strengthen the already existing bonds among the different sector institutions who are gathered here today. It is also about reflecting on the key points that were highlighted in the previous Retreat and to assess how far the sectors have implemented those key pledges,” he said. He urged the participants to identify the challenges and come up with tangible recommendations and suggestions for the way forward.
Ebrima Cham, Director General of Gamworks, highlighted series of projects his Agency is currently implementing in different parts of the country; such as the US$ 30 million for the Agriculture Value Chain Project to rehabilitate storage facilities at Saro; use groundnut shells and sludge to run NAWEC power plants; the construction of the new Basse market; the construction of a three-storey office complex for The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA); the construction of dormitories in Mansakonko; and the construction of a fish smoking house in Gunjur, among other projects.
The other participants from the Ministry’s Departments and Public Enterprises also had their turn to present their Progress Reports and Work Plans, and to highlight the challenges they faced and the strategies and plans they had in order to make headways.
Ramatoulie Ceesay, Principal Planner, under the planning unit of the Ministry in her presentation, brought up the issue of separating The National Transport Facilitation and Trade Facilitation as the functions of the two are different, adding that the former is focused on traffic management and environmental issues while the latter is related to business.
On speed bumps, she presented that they should be created near villages and should be informed by data and that priority be given to school zones preferably erected before and after the school, as children are the most vulnerable.
On Transport Unions, she posited that the constitution of The Gambia allowed for freedom of association and since unions have registered through the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry cannot avoid working with them.
At the end of her presentation, the issue of addressing the instances of too many Police checkpoints around the country was also raised.
Abdul Karim Cham, Principal Engineer under the Directorate of Technical Services of the Ministry, also made similar presentation.
Mr. Cham further reported that a new Chancery and ambassador’s residence in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is under construction and that of the Governor of North Bank Region, construction of the new office buildings for the Ministry of Environment in Abuko and a host of other projects, all expected to be carried out in 2021.
On behalf of the National Road Authority (NRA), Bannie Taiwo Chapman outlined the achievements of the Authority in areas of roads and bridges, including the recently started roads for Hakalang and in the North Bank Region in Ngayen Sanjal and Kaur Jimbala. He brought up, however, the need to develop local capacity in civil works design and construction, and to develop robust maintenance schemes to enhance the life span of the roads through management of axle loads on the road networks. He pointed to the importance of data collection and instituting a system of periodic traffic surveys and installation of automatic recording sensors or devices for traffic monitoring.
Mr. Chapman recommended the acquisition of equipment for the construction of roads and infrastructural projects in order to promote local participation in projects.
Also speaking, Managing Director of The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), Ousman Jobarteh, outlined various initiatives in progress, based on a 20-year Master Plan and 5-year Business Plan, prepared by Royal Haskoning of the Netherlands.
The Plans seek to expand the Port’s infrastructure, in terms of operational capacity and efficiency, in order to handle the increasing demand for Port services. The development requires extension of the wharfs, increase in the container space, dredging, more cargo handling equipment, and computerisation of Port operations. The Authority also wishes to develop river transportation and creation of Dry Ports up country. He noted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in this regard had been entered into with INFRACO.
Abas Saidykhan, a Marine Surveyor, undertook the presentation of the Gambia Maritime Administration (GMA) on its Work Plan and achievements during the reporting period. He elaborated on GMA’s capacity building in collaboration with GTTI in the marine sector. He noted that the capacity building also requires installing marine surveillance equipment, which is a costly initiative. He mentioned, during the discussions, about a sunken truck at the Senegambia Bridge.
Saidykhan urged the NRA to compel the contractor to use all available technologies to remove the truck. He revealed that the GMA will be recruiting more safety inspectors for regional coverage, and would organise more in-house trainings in this respect.
Mustapha Colley did the presentation of the Gambia Transport Services Company (GTSC). Among other things, he revealed that the company has interest to tap to the fullest, the regional market as well as the national and also to revive Kotu Workshop as their hub for their urban operations.
“Within The Gambia, GTSC plans to open up new routes. We will also increase the size of our fleet, and will start new bus services to Senegal and Mauritania,” he said. He further mentioned that GTSC also plans to engage Government on the acquisition of more depots in strategic areas across the country.
Sulayman Janneh of The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said the issue of the decoupling of Civil Aviation is ongoing, pending resolution on few sticky points, and cabinet approval. He also highlighted the need for GCAA to have a water reticulation system that is independent of NAWEC supply system. On GCAA’s NDP promise, he noted that the Authority has rebuilt the Airport complex and had increased its operational capacity in terms of passenger movement from 326,757 to more than 477,000 in 2019 prior to COVID pandemic.
Aisha Saho of The Gambia International Airlines (GIA) said the proposed Aviation Academy would have been operational, as intended, if not for the Covid-19 Pandemic, which had stalled the process. Commenting on the Hajj, she said it did not take place last year, but will take place this year, and will be subjected to COVID vaccination and a possible cost of about D350,000.
The Minister commented on the lack of managerial harmony between the GCAA and the GIA, which is not only unhealthy but also not to the advantage of the two institutions that share the same premises and are operationally closely linked together. It was agreed that a meeting between GIA and GCAA be organised and coordinated by the Minister, to address all conflicting issues.
Ebrima Colley of the OIC Secretariat outlined the pending OIC infrastructure program. He revealed that $92 million has been secured for the 50 kilometers urban roads in the GBA, while a total of $22.5 was secured for the water project for the same area.
Colley informed the amount of $10.5 million for the VVIP Lounge at The Banjul International Airport, and another $10 million dollars for the electricity project. The participants raised the issue of accommodation for the OIC guests during the summit. It was proposed that a possible option might be to hire cruise ships, citing the example of Senegal. However, it was reported that a team of OIC officials from Saudi has already ascertained that, as it stands, there was no accommodation problem for the guests in The Gambia.
The issue of whether the seating of the conference center can accommodate the more than 60 heads of states was raised. It was replied that the seating configuration would be able to accommodate as many heads of states as possible. However, the current seating arrangements need to be cleared with the OIC secretariat in Saudi.
During the closing of the retreat, the Minister thanked everyone for their participation especially the delegates from the various institutions.
He therefore advised that they should have their pledges on their desks, which they should always consult and refer to. On that note he declared the meeting closed.
By Lamin Njie
Assistant Information Officer
Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure