By: Aja Musu Bah-Daffeh
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs is set to co-finance the OIC Bertil Harding Highway covering about 50km for D1 Billion whilst partnering with its main funding groups; Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Arab Bank for Development in Africa (ABDA), the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED).
This revelation was made by the Minister of Finance, Hon. Mambury Njie at a ceremony for the foundation stone laying for the widening of the Bertil Harding Highway, the Airport VVIP or Presidential Launch Project and the Inauguration of the Airport Rehabilitation Project, held at the Airport junction in New Yundum, on Wednesday 17 November, 2021.
Mr Njie said the project is a significant milestone in President Barrow’s agenda for infrastructural development for the Gambia, adding that it also forms part of the preparatory works for the upcoming OIC Submit which will be hosted by The Gambia in 2022.
He affirmed that a comprehensive and enabling road network is the backbone of any country’s transportation system, thus, he noted a robust road network has positive implications to ease businesses and ease the access to social amenities such as schools and hospitals, and equally improve the Gambia’s tourism infrastructure.
Talking on the Airport’s infrastructural improvement, the finance minister stated that the building will be able to handle up to 500 passengers in a peak hour, hence, the development is in line with Government’s aim to increase operational capacity and efficiency at the Airport. He also stressed that the rehabilitation at the Airport and the new VVIP Launch will enhance the county’s regional competitiveness in travel and tourism, because he said, it will uplift its image and standards in line with the international protocols and high-level reception requirements.
Also speaking was the Governor of West Coast Region (WCR), Lamin Sanneh said when the project is completed, it will facelift the country’s image and highly improve the transportation system, as well as boost the security reforms strategy.
Waleed Sh. Al Bashar, the Director of Operations for KFAED, highlighted the importance of the said project saying that it aims to contribute to the social and economic development of the Gambia by integrating the road with the road network within the country. He added that it will also increase the level of its safety, reduce transportation costs and travel time.
Dating back to history, Al Bashar revealed that the development cooperation between the Gambia and Kuwait dates back to 1977 when the fund extended a soft loan for financing the Soma Yoroberikunda road project with an amount of about 11.5 million US Dollars. He said since then, Kuwait Fund extended 13 soft loans to the Gambia with a total amount of about 152 million Dollars to participate in the financing of development projects in various sectors, such as agriculture, energy, transport, education and health.
Furthermore, he stated that the fund has extended 7 technical assistances with a total amount of 4.5 million Dollars and a grant allocated by the government of the State of Kuwait for an amount of about 3 million Dollars within the framework of the Kuwait goodwill fund for the promotion of food security in Islamic countries.
Al Bashar recognized that the government of the Gambia has demonstrated high degree of efficiency in the planning and implementation of development projects assuring the Kuwait’s Fund continuous support for the socio-economic development of the friendly country.
The Chief Executive Officer of the SFD, Sultan Bin Abdulrahman Al Marshad addressed that this is an important milestone in the growth and prosperity of the country thus, the development of the Banjul International Airport is an extension of the ongoing support provided by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Gambia, which he said, includes 14 development loans and 5 grants with a total value of 215 million Dollars across transport, education, water and economic development.
He asserted that laying the foundation stone for a major infrastructural project, is a result of a financing agreement between SFD and the Government of the Gambia that the new road project will have a budget of 50 million Dollars which will cover over 50km and he said it aims to reduce traffic congestion across the city.