President Barrow Says Gambia Secures over D3 Billion to Import Essential Food Commodities

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The Gambian President, H.E. Adama Barrow has told the National Assembly that the Gambia has secured US$50 Million (approximately three billion four hundred million Dalasi), to support the importation of essential food commodities.

President Barrow said this at the National Assembly on Thursday, 27 June 2024, while delivering the State of the Nation Address 2024 (SoNA 2024).

“In collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, the country secured a fifty-million-dollar (US$50 Million) trade finance facility from BADEA to support the importation of essential food commodities and fuel. The initiative is to facilitate continuous availability and affordability of these commodities,” he said.

He explained that through the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment, his administration remains committed to enhancing trade, fostering private sector development, propelling industrialisation, and ensuring the effective functioning of the labour market. 

He said that recent measures to mitigate external shocks include stabilising prices and ensuring the availability of essential food commodities.

Furthermore, Barrow said his Government gives priority to vessels carrying essential goods by waving undue charges as they provide subsidies for flour and fuel, adding that “we have also engaged with the Central Bank to ensure foreign exchange availability for essential commodity suppliers”.

In 2023, he reported that his administration negotiated with the Government of India and secured a waiver for rice imports on a concessional basis, with a new extension granted for 2024. 

He said: “This incorporates an allocated quota of one hundred and fifty thousand metric tonnes (150,000 tonnes) for The Gambia. Discussions to include sugar in this waiver support are progressing”. 

President Barrow went on to say that the People’s Republic of China granted The Gambia Duty-Free Quota Free market access in 2017 for products like groundnuts, cashew, sesame, fish, and cassava. In 2023, he said this coverage was extended to include ninety-eight percent (98%) of the Chinese tariff. 

He said that to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area, they have launched the “Green Industrial Transformation through Special Economic Zones and Agropoles” programme. 

The objective, he said, is to establish a Climate Resilient Sustainable Special Economic Zone and three Agropoles to accelerate manufacturing and agricultural transformation.

He disclosed, “I am happy to add that there is funding from the African Development Bank for a feasibility study to establish a Special Economic Zone along the Senegambia Bridge. An Indian consulting firm has been recruited to conduct the study”.

“Also, we have secured one hundred thousand dollars (US$100,000) from the ECOWAS Commission to modernise the Wellingaraba Lumo for cross-border trade facilitation,” President Barrow added.

In the area of industrialization, he said that the construction of a Special Economic Zone along the Senegambia Bridge corridor is underway, with significant investments projected to create over one thousand (1,000) jobs. 

He averred that the Gambia Standards Bureau has developed over one hundred (100) national standards to improve market access for Gambian products, and a food testing laboratory is under construction to support national quality infrastructure. 

The Government, he said, has also launched the new Employment Policy, 2023-2028, and enacted a revised Labour Act to enhance employment conditions and productivity. 

These efforts, as explained by the President, reflect their commitment to strengthening the economy, protecting consumer rights, and ensuring fair competition. 

Besides this Act, he said that there is a Legal Metrology Bill to replace the Weights and Measures Act of 1977. 

“The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Corporation administered one hundred and sixteen (116) consumer cases in 2023 and recovered substantial amounts of money through its Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanism. Despite this, there are plans to amend the Competition and Consumer Protection Acts and develop a Merger Review Regulation framework,” he informed the lawmakers.

Relative to employment, he unveiled that a National Labour Force Survey to assess employment trends and challenges has been conducted. 

The government, he said, is equally working hard to equip the youth with essential skills for gainful employment and entrepreneurship. 

He also reported that they have also signed bilateral agreements with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to facilitate secure and transparent employment opportunities for their youth abroad. 

“These efforts are aimed at building our trade capacity, improving labour market conditions, and supporting the nation’s economic growth. They will also contribute towards realising our target of creating one hundred and fifty thousand (150,000) job opportunities over a five-year period,” he concluded.