By Ebrima D. York and Fatoumata Joof
On 11th January 2020, President Adama Barrow presided over the inauguration ceremony of the newly constructed Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center in Bijilo. According to the Minister of Infrastructure and Works, Bai Lamin Jobe, China has spent $50 Million United States Dollars in constructing the over 1,000 capacity Conference Center which also includes office spaces, cafeteria and other facilities.
The Conference Center has been constructed in anticipation of the International Organisation for Islamic Conference scheduled to be held in 2022.
Approximately one month from the 66th Independence Day Celebration, Gambia’s third President decided to the name the Conference Center after the first President of The Gambia, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. The event was attended by senior government officials, the diplomatic community, members of Parliament, project coordinators and youth groups.
The facility consists of a plenary hall with a seating capacity of 1,031 individuals including a number of offices and conference rooms. During the President’s speech he highlighted his government’s intention for the center to “attract tourist, meetings and avenues for decision makers to come to” The Gambia. In his view “this initiative has unlocked Chinese investment in Africa”
Appreciating the work of his partners, China, in particular, President Barrow highlighted his government’s intention to “continue to work and remain committed to the one China policy” because he views China as The Gambia’s primary development partner.
Speaking on behalf of the Jawara family, Nema Jawara, daughter of the first President D.K. Jawara expressed her “heartfelt pleasure” to celebrate the opening of the grand conference named after her father. She reiterated that “my father has delivered to standard and always keep up to his promise and so this state of the art building has been built to standard and named after our father the former president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara”.
Minister of Infrastructure and Works, Bai Lamin Jobe expressed appreciation and gratitude to President Barrow, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC), the Chinese government and all the government institutions for their efforts towards the construction of the Conference Center. He expressed particular appreciation for the positive responses he received whenever he knocked on the doors of the various stakeholders.
According to the OICGambia Facebook page below are “10 Facts About the Sir Dawda K. Jawara International Conference Center”
1. The Center comprises of a 1000-seat major conference hall, four 200-seat meeting rooms, one VIP lounge, four press rooms and news centers, fourteen meeting rooms, office sections, two Banquet halls, and other accessory rooms.
2. It is a grant from the People’s Republic of China to the government and people of The Gambia
3. The costs of the building is $50 million
4. The conference center has been built to host the 2022 OIC Summit in The Gambia
5. As part of the bilateral agreement, The Gambian government is responsible for the provision of the 13 HA land at Bijilo, the availability of the utility connections (water, electricity and internet), and doing the soft landscaping for beautification.
6. The Project is located in the Bijilo National Park right on the Atlantic Ocean.
7. The design of the building is inspired by the white “waves” of the Atlantic Ocean.
8. The project schedule started on August 31st 2017, and was completed in October 2019.
9. A team of Gambian engineers and architects comprising the Project Implementation Unit actively took part in the construction of the project
10. Local staff will be trained to maintain the building