By Yusef Taylor
The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (MOCDE) held a press conference today 19th January 2024 to highlight their achievements since they were established in 2022. Speaking at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center, Minister Bah thanked the President and fellow Cabinet members for their support and highlighted numerous achievements registered by his Ministry in 2023.
After President Adama Barrow won his second term in December 2021, his government split up the Ministry of Information and Communications into two separate institutions with one focusing on Information which houses all the state communication outlets such as the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) and another focusing on Communications and Digital Economy.
The National Assembly approved the 2024 Budget allocating D91.4 million to the MOCDE while the Ministry of Information (MoI) was allocated D39.7 million in 2024. Our budget research shows that the two Ministries combined spent D63.3 million dalasis in 2022. However, in 2023 the two Ministries were approved to spend a combined D134.8 million dalasis.
Below is a table showing the funds spent in 2022 and the approved amounts for 2023 and 2024.
According to the MOCDE Minister, Hon Ousman Bah, the achievements of his institution “encompass collaborations and as well includes the signing of crucial Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with Bilateral Partners and numerous engagements with various stakeholders within and outside The Gambia”.
However, the Minister failed to provide a list of the “crucial MoUs” signed by his Institutions, what they aim to achieve and who they signed it with.
Minister Bah extended his “appreciation to [his] colleagues in the cabinet, particularly the Vice President and all Cabinet members for their invaluable support in passing and adopting the cabinet papers presented by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in 2023”. Similarly, Hon Bah failed to reveal how many papers have been passed by the cabinet the names of the papers or even what they aim to achieve.
Minister Bah envisages “The Gambia prominently featured in the global indexes for the ICT and digital economy sector”. He added that “The Gambia is ranked 174th out of 193 countries in the UN E-Government Development Index 2022, rising seven places following the prior survey conducted in 2020”.
Another ranking he highlighted appeared incomplete as it included no year or ranking system when he stated that “The Gambia has been ranked 143rd in the world among 193 countries, also placing it behind many African states”.
The third and final ranking highlighted by Minister Bah is that “The Gambia is ranked 159th out of 179 countries in the 2019 International Telecommunications Union’s low consumption mobile data and voice affordability ranking”.
On the issue of Cyber Security, one of the officials from MOCDE highlighted the existence of a National Cyber Security Policy and that some sixty cases have been reported.
Minister Bah revealed that he “led a team of delegation” from his Ministry “to do a benchmarking visit to Rwanda, Mauritius, Nigeria, and Estonia, they are one of the countries doing great in the domain of digitalization and digital transformation”.
According to Minister Bah’s key performance indicators presentation slide 53% of travels from his Ministry were funded externally while 7% were partially funded. His Ministry was allocated D41 million to travel in 2023 and spent only 40% of this amount.
During the press conference, Minister Bah highlighted that it’s important for his Ministry to travel to other countries to understand how the Digital Economy is being harnessed elsewhere as a means of adopting best practices.
With regards to projects, Hon Bah highlighted a $50 million USD project, a $32 thousand USD project and a $25 million USD second submarine cable project secured through the World Bank.
Still, on his slide showing key performance indicators, Minister Bah highlighted that the annual web-hosting pioneered by his Ministry saved D6 million for the Ministry of Justice and D14.4 million for the Ministry of Health in 2023. His slides highlight that 132,937 houses have been provided digital addressing in 2023.
One of the aspects which many will be interested in is the accessibility and affordability of the Internet and ICT Services. This Minister Bah says is of “critical importance” and his Ministry aims to “ensure that internet and ICT services are within the reach of all citizens”.
Minister Bah highlighted that there has been an average reduction of 64% in the cost of mobile data bundles. He showed a slide demonstrating costs of mobile data have been reduced for Africell, QCell and Gamcel. However, the Hon Minister failed to highlight the impact of Comium joining the mobile telecoms industry and forcing competitors to bring their prices down. See the slide below.