By Makutu Manneh
Alhagie E.S. Conteh, Vice President of The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), said the problem of cost in doing business in the country revolves around the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA)
Mr. Conteh urged the government to expand the country’s port, adding that without this, nothing can prosper.
Mr. Conteh made this remark at the GCCI town hall meeting on 29th September 2022 where the business community, government and development partners met for a discussion under the theme: “an empowered private sector for efficiency in service delivery.”
The forum aimed to strengthen, institutionalize and promote participative processes for public-private dialogue.
“If the port is not developed to international standards, this problem will remain,” he said.
In a panel discussion titled ‘cost of doing business”, Essa Wally, president of the Association of Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents (ACCFA), said charges affect business in the country and increase consumer price.
Mr. Wally hoped that their dialogue will bring about ways to fix the problem and stop the exploitation of the business community through shipping lines operating in The Gambia.
“Can you imagine that there were no local charges before 1994? Today we are introduced to what they call line port handling charge of 50 US dollars for a 20 foot container, and 100 US dollars for a 40 foot container; and terminal handling charges of 135 Euro for a 40 foot container and 95 Euro for a 20 foot container; and all this exclude local fees to services that they do not render,” he said.
Sulayman Joof, General Manager of S.M. Joof Agency, said the country has lost its competitiveness in trade. He called on the government and private sector to look at the situation, especially the facilities that they have. He said the local charges have increased the cost of clearing goods in the country, adding that cost at the ports is what is reflected in the market.
“If you want an improved competitive market, we have to look at all these things underground so that we will be able to improve,” he said. Joof said the country has also lost its competitiveness in terms of transit as transit and import come through the same vessel. He said most of the cargo that come into the country continues on transit.
“With the cashew trade, we are in a very tight situation right now. Most of the cashew exporters have threatened to leave the country because of the new charges levied on cashew exports. And this is raw food,” he said.
Lamin Dampha, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade representing the government, promised the business community that charges on services not provided at the ports will be dealt with by ensuring that they are removed in the ports’ books.
“In transit and export trade, we are aware of losing our competitiveness gradually, because of the condition of our port,” he said.
“If your traffic is increasing and your capacity to manage that traffic is not, of course the businesses will unnecessarily go through that cost,” he said; that government now realizes this and there are discussions on expanding the port, hoping that in a year or two, the country will be able to regain her competitiveness.
However, he said the problem of the port did not start today; that in the first republic, they should have stepped up investment at the ports, and said this should have enabled the country to have nothing less than two ports by now.