Press Statement by Hon Baboucarr O. Joof, Honourable Minister for the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment on the occasion of the maiden press conference organized by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment on 12th January 2024 in Banjul.
The development landscape of The Gambia is a complex and intertwined web of challenges and opportunities spanning many areas. A thorough review and analysis of this landscape is critical to developing a sound and robust development plan. The Government of The Gambia’s new Recovery Focused National Development Plan (RF-NDP 2023 – 2027) charts the recovery of The Gambia from COVID-19, climate change and other shocks. The plan is a successor to the previous NDP 2018-2022. The preparation of the new plan adopts a “whole of society” approach to provide a blueprint that articulates the medium-term transformational aspirations of the country.
The plan has been formulated and will be implemented in a challenging global and regional economic context, and continuous uncertainties are expected to have adverse impacts on developing countries, including The Gambia. This context is characterized by a contraction in economic activities in the main advanced economies and China, which are worsening the current and trade account balances of The Gambia through lower external demand for Gambian exported goods and services. The global inflationary pressures being experienced are putting pressures on domestic prices through imported food and energy prices, and the tightening of monetary policy in the major advanced economies are increasing the cost of debt servicing in developing countries like The Gambia. Furthermore, the tight global financial conditions pose challenges in accessing adequate financing for our development. Finally, there are heightened fears of erosions in the advances made in health, education, environmental protection and livelihoods with the possibility of reversing gains in poverty reduction and increasing household fragilities and vulnerabilities, and potentially undermining gains in democratic governance.
The Gambia faces significant challenges in achieving its sustainable development goals, particularly those goals relating to my ministry’s targets of reducing our trade deficit, enhancing decent employment creation, and promoting manufacturing. In recognition of these challenges, the Ministry has committed itself of pursuing more robust sectoral growth strategies that create an enabling environment for private sector as the engineer of growth. Development of trade would remain remained our critical focus strategy to unlock the economic potential and drive growth for sustainable development. It underpins our desire for industrialization and economic transformation that would create jobs, reduce poverty and enhance wealth creation for the citizenry. To this end, the ministry has been working with development partners to develop a trade logistics and special economic zone (SEZ), within the propose 50km wide Trans-Gambia Corridor as a key transformative agenda of the ministry.
The Trans-Gambia Corridor Special Economic Zone (SEZ), will be linked with the port of Banjul (130km downstream), with multimodal connectivity infrastructure/services: inland river transportation port facilities (at Bambatenda/Yellitenda); improved trunk road network: north-bank and south-bank trunk roads & Senegambia bridge; and a regional airstrip, to transform the regional urban growth-centres of Farafenni and Soma, as future metro poles, and economic engines, for employment creation for the youth, and the underemployed.
The goal of the TGC-SEZ is to support GOTG’s medium to long term economic growth and sustainable development strategy; as well as position the Gambia to compete effectively in the wider – Africa continental single marketplace. To this end, GOTG, through the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Regional Integration & Employment (MOTIE), submitted a formal request for a development support grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) which was approved and currently Mahendra Engineering firm has been recruited to carry out the necessary studies. The team is ready to start work this quarter.
The key objectives of the study, are the following:
- carry out an economic impact assessment of the Trans-Gambia Corridor (TGC), and its anchor project: the Sene-Gambia Bridge, as key enablers, for sustainable Special Economic Zone (SEZ), with potential spin-offs for the national, and also, the local economies within and outside of the TGC corridor;
- prepare GIS-based land-use Spatial Masterplan, for the effective management and development of the TGC corridor;
- prepare Corridor Development Investment Plan (CDIP), to attract investments, in order to boost inclusive growth, trade and regional integration for Gambia, and the sub region.
The Trans-Gambia Corridor is a vital economic and strategic link, of the wider Praia – Dakar –Abidjan – Lagos Multimodal Corridor – connecting both the northern and southern parts of Gambia, Senegal and beyond. The rationale for the assessment of the Trans-Gambia Corridor (TGC) is to ascertain and maximize the potential economic gains of the proposed land-use activities (i.e., Inland Container Depots (ICDs)/Dry ports, Truck-parks/Drayage, bonded/un-bonded warehouses, light manufacturing, agro-processing, hospitality/tourism, institutional, social, residential, etc.) – operating/functioning, within the catchment area of the designated TGC-Special Economic Zone. The bridge will serve as catalyst, and as leveraging agent, to attract strategic investments that contribute to the economic diversification, and national development agenda, of the Government of The Gambia (GOTG).
To enhance and strengthen our resolve for economic transformation, the Ministry is working with World Trade Organization Enhanced Integrated Framework to leverage on climate financing to expand its intervention beyond the Senegambia Bridge corridor. In line with this ambition, designs a new project proposal called, ‘Green Industrial Transformation through Special Economic Zones and Agropolis Project’. The Proposal is developed in line with climate change adaption and mitigation strategies identified in the National Development Plan.
The project proposal which is also at a completion stage, identified strategy growth centres around the country to pursue the economic transformation as enshrined in the new Green Recovery National Development Plan. The resource mobilization for the implementation of the project will kick start in the first quarter of 2024.
Climate-friendly, sustainable industrialization is a new development paradigm that is being champion by my Ministry at the World Trade Organization. As an inclusive and participatory approach, my ministry from inception has involved the Ministry of Environment and Climate and Ministry of Finance to pursue the project jointly, and we are grateful for their participation and the invaluable contributions to trade and clime change financing.
This project will be a game changer for the Gambia, special for the rural population. The project aims to establish a Climate Resilient Sustainable Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and three Agropoles at selected Agricultural growth Centers and trade corridors targeting specific crops in each Agropoles; with the objectives of enhancing industrial transformation, agricultural productivity, and food security and expanding national, regional, and cross-border trade, to take advantage of the ECOWAS trade liberalization Scheme and AfCFTA to support the Gambian economy. The project is anchored on the Value Chain model that seeks to merge social mission objectives with core business operating principles.
The project will therefore contribute to the government’s structural transformation agenda through manufacturing and agricultural modernization for inclusive and sustainable growth, employment generation, and food security. The importance of the industrial and agriculture sectors for poverty alleviation and economic growth has long been recognized by The Gambia Government in its successive National Development Plans and more recently the Recovery Focused National Development Plan (RF-NDP) 2023-2027.
The project will enable the government to attract private sector investments in the Sustainable SEZ to enhance industrial activities and will promote food value chain development, through increased private sector investment in agriculture, development of out-growers and smallholder farmers, and the effective linkage to agro-processors. There will also be a commitment to transparency, collaborative business planning, and exchange of market intelligence and business know-how among value chain partners, and their interest in developing business strategies and solutions that yield tangible benefits to each participant in the system.
TRADE: PRICE AND STOCK REPORT OF SELECTED ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES 2023
As part of the mandate of the Ministry, we monitor stock and price levels of selected commodities considered essential in the food basket of the population on weekly bases. The report provides an important information to both ministry and Economic Council in term of where we are on critical stock level and the market behaviour in of prices of the commodities. The report also helps us to understand the global commodity market situation both in terms of stock and price movement which assist us to understand to some extend the pressure points for policy intervention. The report covers the stocks and prices of following commodities: rice, sugar, flour, tomato paste, edible oil, onions, potatoes, chicken (whole and legs) and cement. These are basic consumer goods that are sensitive to price hike.
2023 was a difficult year for Least Developed Countries like The Gambia as the global economy is still recovering from the aftermath of COVID-19 and the war on Ukraine exerted inflationary pressure on the prices of essential commodities. Trade restrictive measures do not help the situation as they disrupted the global supply chain with upward pressure on commodity prices.
One of these G20 countries, namely India, plays an important role as a major global supplier of rice which is our staple food. Many of the G20 countries applied export restrictive measures that push the global price of most of those commodities upward.
In response to this situation, the Government of The Gambia through H.E. the President engaged his colleague and broth Prime Minister Modi for support, and a waiver was given to allow rice export to the Gambia on concessional basis. This resulted to in the allocation of successive quotas to the Gambia by the Government of India.
Since the government secured the waiver from the government of India, 150,000 metric tons have been imported in 2023, to ensure that sufficient rice is available to the Gambian populace and exert downward pressure on the price of rice in the markets. Though the price of rice has been high in the international markets throughout the year, the price of rice in The Gambia remains relative stable throughout the year. In the 1st quarter of 2023, the average price of American rice was D1,713 and though the price decreased to about D1,690 through the 2nd and 3rd quarters, it increased back to D1,700 in the last quarter of 2023, which is typical around Christmas and new year period.
The price of rice in the international markets increased from 121.8 USD in the first quarter to 150 USD in the last quarter showing an increment of about 23%.
The price of sugar was the most affected by inflation and restrictive trade measures from the developed and developing countries as its major source of production is limited to a few countries such as Brazil, India, China and the US. The international price of sugar increased from 0.80 USD in January 2023 to 1.10 by December 2024 representing an increase of 38%, and is projected to keep increasing. This increment in the international price of sugar was reflected in domestic prices which in turn increased from D2, 206 to D2, 725 by the last quarter of the year.
To reduce pressure on prices, the Ministry takes a number of measures including access to priority berthing of vessels carrying essential commodities to avoid demurrage charges that may add to prices in the markets. The government also provides subsidies for both flour and fuel to try and stabilize prices and ensure accessibility. In addition, where critically necessary, the ministry will emgaged Central Bank to provide supports to suppliers of essential commodities and this measure in stances has help not only to ease pressure on prices but ensure availability of essential commodities.
Import Waiver from India:
As international supply chain continued to be disrupted with geopolitical crises and trade restrictive measures, the government of the government successful negotiations with the government of India and secured a waiver for 150000 in 223, and a new extension has been granted for 2024. In addition, MOTIE is also in discussions with the Government of India on a special request to include sugar as a part of its waiver support to the Government of The Gambia.
Commodity Financing, MOTIE in collaboration with Ministry of Finance has also been working with international finance institutions to secure trade finance facilities for Gambian businesses to be able to import essential commodities into the markets. The discussions are well advanced in the case of Badea facility of US$50 million.
Support to Local Producers
The Ministry is implementing a moratorium on the importation of onions and potatoes in order to support domestic producers to boost production and supply the markets. The Jokalanteh project provides an avenue to connect local producers to the markets and ensure that women horticulture producers are empowered to boost their produce and their livelihoods.
Support to Women Business
My Ministry in partnership with ITC launched the SheTrades Hub Programme in November 2021, which now made The Gambia to be part of the Global SheTrades Hub community to continue to support women participation in trade. The Government is currently working with over 90 women owned businesses under SheTrades initiatives funded by EIF and implemented in collaboration with ITC. Under the SheTrades initiative, we were able to build the capacities of women businesses through the provision of equipment and trainings to improve the quality and packaging of their products as well as for them to effectively managed their businesses. An additional Cohort consisting of 15 Fashion companies and 25 food processors were recently selected as SheTrades companies making a total of 130 women business that are now working with the Ministry. The goal was to strengthen women’s effective participation in trade by improving their competitiveness and market linkages. The catalytic project successfully linked over 138 women-owned businesses to buyers abroad and transnational value chains as well as support their participation in national and international trade fairs. The SheTrades Hub conducted an assessment to identify public procurement opportunities for women-owned businesses as public procurement would be important instrument to support the development of women business as government remains the major consumer in any economy.
The HUB also provide equipment supports to women businesses worth US$50,000 with the support of EIF. The HUB awarded 35 women businesses in the fashion and horticulture sectors with equipment valued over GMD3Million. In addition, with the support ITC nine HUB members in fashion and agric business were granted machines and equipment worth over USD90,000. Support is also being provided to the Ministry of Fisheries and Natural Resources in a form of 15 insulated Ice Boxes to reduce post-harvest losses of women fish mongers.
Electronic market platform
To mitigate the effect of the COVID 19 pandemic on women horticultural producers, through the EIF support, the Government in collaboration with ITC has implemented the COVID-19 Recovery through Digitalization and Market Access Projects in The Gambia locally known as “Jokalente Market Platform”. The phone-operated platform connects buyers, farmers and transporters in The Gambia and was successfully launched in June 2023. The objective is to build resilience during and in post COVID-19 pandemic by strengthening the linkage between horticulture producers and buyers. This initiative eases the marketing challenges that in horticultural sector faces, and it has help to improve the quality produces through a grading system. This has linked to the women businesses to both domestic and export markets. Under the project, more than 500 women horticultural producers, mainly onion farmers, were assisted through trainings as well as securing market for their products. During the previous season alone, a total of 6,041 bags, each weighing 18kg, of onions were successfully sold through the platform. This achievement translates to an impressive total value of 2.4 million GMD (approximately 44,000 USD).
Trade and Climate change nexus
In September 2022 and June 2023, The Government of The Gambia in partnership with the EIF organized high-level public and Private sector dialogues respectively on accessing climate change financing as part of activities of the EIF Post SSP Project under the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment. The workshops enhanced the capacities of the public and Private sector officials on the processes and procedures of accessing the global climate change funds such as the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the Adaptation Fund, and the Climate Investment Funds. The Gambia’s ambition to pioneer trade and climate change nexus initiative, with EIF support, is strengthening the country’s ability to access trade-related climate finance. The dialogues brought together the trade and environment and climate change ministries as well as the private sector to better co-ordinate on trade-related climate change issues and to develop climate-financing proposals, as well as inform the 2024-30 National Trade Policy update with a green focus. The events were the first concrete steps in reshaping The Gambia’s commitment in accessing trade-related climate change financing
Quality Infrastructure: Standardization and Conformity Assessment
The lack of an accredited food testing laboratory has been a major challenge, especially for our food exporters but also safety and quality assurance of imported food items. To address this challenge once and for all, the Ministry has funded the construction of a National Reference Food Testing Laboratory under the auspices of The Gambia Standards Bureau which is the Institution mandated by law to provide Conformity Assessment of goods which includes Testing and Certification. I am pleased to announce that the construction of this Lab. is complete and we have Secured some support from the West Africa Competitiveness Project (WACOMP Gambia) to provide part of the equipment needs of this Lab. and to support it in acquiring international accreditation. This Lab is expected to begin operations by the middle of this year. Related to this is that The Gambia Standards Bureau is very well advanced in the establishment of a National Certification Body which, when accredited this year, will be able to provide internationally-recognized certifications for goods meant for export. This is significant because currently one of the major bottlenecks for exported goods is a lack of recognized certification.
Trade Metrology (Weight and Measures)
The issue of fairness in trade has been a perennial challenge which the Ministry has worked on by Updating the Weights and Measures Act to a new Legal Metrology Bill 2022. Furthermore, to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and better coordination this Bill merges the current Weights and Measures Department into a Department of Legal Metrology under the Metrology Division of The Gambia Standards Bureau. We look forward to the enactment of this Bill by the National Assembly during the First Quarter of this year so that it will take effect without further delay.
Approval of the National Employment Policy and Action Plan 2022-2026: Following the approval of the Policy, a National Employment Technical Committee (NETC) has been constituted to guide the effective implementation of the Policy and is expected to be inaugurated before the end of this month. This committee is in three folds, thus:
- the main committee,
- employment champions,
- The development partners.
A National Employment Forum is slated for early this year. This will be a two-day activity where key stakeholders will be invited to discuss the status of employment in the country. The Forum will also be used for resource mobilization as development partners will be invited. There will be panel discussions during the activity to further discuss the issues of unemployment and opportunities that are available for the youth of this country.
The policy is being popularized nationwide popularization and we have just concluded one tour that was held from 10th to 15th December 2023. The strategies, the action plan, and the target to facilitate 150, 000 jobs were key during the popularization activity
The Labour Act 2023 was enacted by the National Assembly in June 2023, and with this development, there is will be a great deal of improvement in the labour administration. It will ensure that both employers and employee are well protected by the Act. In addition, it ensures that positions that can be manage by Gambians are given to Gambians. The Act also empowered the Commissioner of Labour to strengthen labour inspection throughout the country with emphases on occupational and safety for all players in the field. It also requires that all recruitment agencies registered with the Commissioner of Labour before they can operate legally in the country.
In December 2023, the ministry embarked on a five-day popularization tour of the new Labour Act 202from 10th to 15th December 2023. Key stakeholders like NEDI, GYIN- Gambia Chapter, NYC, GID, DOL, the Media Houses, GYCC, NYSS, and PIA accompanied the ministry during the process.
National Labour Force Survey 2022/23
As unemployment remains a challenge, the ministry in collaboration with the Gambia Bureau of Statistics conducted a National Labour Force Survey in 2022-2023, to update the National Labour Force 2018 key findings. However, the findings of the NLFS 2022-2023 revealed the following:
Unemployment rate 7.6%; For a person to be considered unemployed, the following conditions have to be met: actively looked for a job, have been available for a job, and is not offered employment
Time-related underemployment rate 14.4%; These people work less than 35 hours, if they have the opportunity to work more hours, they will take it
Potential Labour Force rate 27.3%; These are people either seeking employment or are not available
Bilateral Labour Agreement
Bilateral Labour Agreements to recruit Gambians to work in foreign countries. Technical committees are constituted with various key stakeholders who thoroughly review the agreements with detailed employment contracts. All the agreements signed were preceded by consultations with key stakeholders.
Bilateral Agreement with the State of Qatar: This agreement is reviewed, and await response the Qatar side on the draft submitted by the Government of The Gambia for final signature.
Bilateral agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: This agreement is reviewed and signed between the two Governments. The process of implementation is set in motion.
A bilateral agreement with the Kingdom of Spain. A review of the agreement is in progress and is not yet finalized.
Bilateral with the UAE. The review is in progress and it is not yet finalized
The design and development of the following documents:
- The Labour Migration Strategy and its Plan of Action for migrants 2021-2030,
- The Pre-departure Training Manual for migrants, and
- The Policy Guidelines on Ethical Recruitment for Gambian Migrants.
The above documents will help minimise the irregular migration menace
ESTABLISHMENT OF INDUSTRIAL TRIBUNAL
The Ministry of trade (department of labour) in collaboration with the Judiciary had established industrial tribunals in all regions across the country. The chairpersons and the panel members have been appointed and sittings have started in annex. All the tribunals across the country are operational The Industrial tribunals will assist in settlement of controversial disputes that the Department could not settle within the specified period through mediation processes.
The Trade union bill and the Injuries Compensation Bill are in the process of review and are expected to be passed by the course of 2024
CHILD LABOUR POLICY
The Department of Labour through the Line Ministry has contracted a consultant to draft a child Labour policy. The policy has been completed and the final draft has been submitted to the Ministry and would be presented to the Cabinet soon for consideration.
5 KEY ACHIEVEMENTS/PROGRAMS FROM IID
- The Feasibility Study on establishing a special economic zone along the trans Gambia corridor; Evaluations conducted, most responsive bidder identified, negotiations on draft contract completed and awaiting Letter of No objection from the AfDB
- Develop National Formalization Strategy and Action Plan for the Informal Sector: Final Strategy validated
- Implementation of the Made in The Gambia Strategy (Industrial Support): Strategy and Action plan developed and validated
- National Strategy developed for the inclusion of green initiatives in implementation Strategy of AfCFTA (Two Groups of Value-Chains identified: 1) Vegetable Oils & Fats 2) Fruits and Processed Fruits
- Livelihood enhancement and job creation of 700 Youth and Women through the provision of boreholes, rice threshers, training on contract farming, digital marketing, Provision of solar carts, poultry, and gardens, and training on packaging, branding, handling, and e-business.
Ease of Doing Business in the Gambia
The recently report being circulated on the social piubished Forbes news is an old news report that the Ministry in 2018 worked with the support of the World Bank and UNDP. Currently, the National Business Council Technical is assessing the current situation vi-si-vis the current situation. The ministry is also in discussion with World Bank for their publication which is coming up in Spring this year which is entitled Ease -to do Business. The publication will feature the Gambia business environment reform initiatives. The Ministry will be working on them to improve the gaps.
Issuance of Special Investment Certificates
The GIEPA Investment Incentives Awards Committee (IIAC) held three meetings in the last nine months of 2023 and made recommendations for the approval of thirteen Special Investment Certificates by the Honourable Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment. The incentive applications included seven Manufacturing projects, three Other Services (river transportation, medical facilities & air transportation), one Tourism, one Agriculture and a Fisheries project respectively. The projects are expected to invest an estimated USD41,763,762.00 and create employment for one thousand two hundred and seventy-one (1271) Gambians for a period of five-eight years. The projects include nine new Special Investment Certificate (SIC) applications and four expansion applications respectively.
The Agency continues to receive applications for SIC to attract incentives to facilitate operations of their projects in priority sectors of the economy. During the period under review the following applications have been administered and awaits next sitting of the Investment Incentives Awards Committee for considerations. The applications include tourism, financial services, manufacturing and other services projects with an estimated planned investment of USD101, 964,543.00 and employment of 1,185 Gambians over the period of five-eight years. Below is the list of companies including the sectors, locations, planned investments and projected employments respectively.
Land for Investment Facilitations
Under the coordination of the Office of the President, GIEPA and other members of the land for investment taskforce embarked on a series of treks to CRR and URR to finalize discussions on the identified lands in the two regions. The communities expressed readiness and appealed to the government to facilitate land lease documentation as soon as possible to start the agricultural projects. In January 2023, the technical team embarked on consultations with communities and mapping of the identified rice fields in Lower Fulladu West, Nianija and Jimara Districts respectively. The meetings were chaired by Governors of the regions and attended by Deputy Governors and District Chiefs of Lower Fulladu West, Nianija and Jimara Districts respectively. The task force developed land agreements and undertakings forms which were endorsed by the respective communities to facilitate the leasing process by stakeholders. The documents for Lower Fulladu West, Nianija and Jimara Districts were submitted to the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government to process the lease documents accordingly
National Local Content Development
The Government has tasked MOTIE to lead in the development and establishment of a National Local Content body, policies, and their implementation to bring about more national participation in our economic activities and wealth creation for our citizenry. Recognition is made that our citizens cannot be left outside the value-chain of economic development.
The establishment of a National Local Content Board and associated tools will be a catalyst for employment creation and a driver for domestic private sector development in public procurement, value-chain entrepreneurship, Made-in-The Gambia products and services development. This will create opportunities for wealth creation for the citizenry, foster economic empowerment for women and youth, spur foreign direct investment, encourage knowledge and technology transfer. Some of these elements are crucial to ensuring national food security and combat rising high-cost of food.
Farafenni Entrepreneurship Development Centre
The Farafenni Entrepreneurship Development Centre – UNTFHS Project: The United Nations Trust Fund on Human Security (UNTFSH) project on localizing SDGs – Improving the livelihoods of vulnerable women and youth around the Senegambia Bridge was developed to support communities and people around the bridge to cope with the adverse shocks created by the bridge construction while creating pathways for women and youth to take advantage of new opportunities. The project addresses the ecosystem support along the corridor. It provides community-oriented support, specifically focusing on women and youth taking ownership of the project interventions in the two Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Mansakonko and Kerewan. It seeks to strengthen the economic and social rights of women and young people in the two LGAs, especially those whose livelihoods have been adversely affected by the construction of the Senegambia Bridge. The project will also address issues related to climate change and COVID-19.
The project has two components (economic and social) supported by UNFPA as the lead partner and supported by ITC. In NBR, the project will facilitate the creation of a One-stop Centre for business and entrepreneurship. The Centre will serve as a regional hub for sustainable businesses by supporting training, business advisory services, access to finance, decentralized business registration, weights and measures, packaging, labeling, and marketing support. The project will build an EDC in Farafenni, which will be handed over to GIEPA. The business hub will be based on a partnership model engaging different institutions and service providers interested in expanding their presence in the region. It will also create linkages to new economic zones planned by the Government.of the facilitators.
Jenoi Market Platform
The Belgian Development Agency (Enabel) has partnered with the European Union and GIEPA to construct an agri-food Platform in Jenoi, LRR. This follows a request by the National Association of Vegetable Growers Cooperative (NAVGC/SOSOLASO) in 2019 to the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), later transmitted to ENABEL to get a space to establish a market Platform that will promote the marketing of vegetables grown in the country. The Gambia’s National Export Strategy (NES) promotes increased horticultural exports by encouraging private investment, developing markets, and constructing storage and processing facilities. GIEPA is coordinating the NES and has secured a sub-lease on the land in Jenoi to create the Platform. Enabel took the responsibility of building it. Once made, the Platform will be handed over to GIEPA by Enabel and rented out for a term of at least ten years to a private company selected through a competitive process to use the Platform.
FRAMEWORK FOR THE GAMBIA, SENEGAL, AND GUINEA BISSAU TO SUPPORT TRADE
In 2023, the ministry through the Directorate of Regional Integration secured funding from ECOWAS Commission for the development of a Tripartite Framework between The Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau to promote cooperation in ETLS implementation, cashew trade, and transit formalities. In 2023 the Minister of Trade Honorable Baboucarr led a Trade Mission delegation to Guinea Bissau and Senegal to discuss the possibilities of forming a tripartite Trade Agreement among the three countries. The Gambia has therefore proposed and obtained the support of Senegal for the formulation of a tripartite framework to strengthen cooperation among the three countries to address issues related to ETLS implementation, cashew trade, and transit formality issues.
Also, it will develop efficient transit systems and infrastructure in the Sene-Gambia-Bissau Corridor to ease the movement of goods, particularly cashew nuts, across borders. Moreover, it will advocate for the organization of a Sene-Gambia-Bissau trade fair on a rotational basis. The trade fair should not be rigid to the capitals. More trade fairs should be organized in other towns and cities. Eg, Brikama in the Gambia- Ziguinchor in Senegal-Sao Domingos in Guinea Bissau.
In 2024, MOTIE is planning to initiate the technical expert meeting in Banjul in February once the funds are transferred to our accounts, and the agreement will be signed in March 2024.
THE ECOWAS CROSS BORDER COOPERATION PROJECT AND THE WELLINGARABA LUMO CONSTRUCTION
The ECOWAS Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) Support Programme is a multi-sectoral development programme that works with border communities, national and local authorities, and civil society to ensure social cohesion, regional construction, and sustainable development. It promotes regional peace and security, manages migration and free movement, and supports joint socio-economic development initiatives and local community development projects that empower community citizens, and strengthen cooperation, integration, and development across borders. This project is spearheaded by the ECOWAS Department of Trade, Customs and Free Movement supported by international partners like AU, CILLS, EU, IOM, GIZ and WAEMU.
The main objective of the project is to strengthen Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) among populations, States, and Markets and accelerate and deepen regional integration from the grassroots level in the ECOWAS Region. In 2023, the directorate of Regional Integration under the Ministry of Trade and in collaboration with the (ECBC), conducted a need assessment on 27 lumos within the country, Lumos, provide market opportunities and promote cross-border trade for The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, and Mali traders. Lumos like the daily regular market an important center for buying and selling food items, livestock, and important commodities, especially in rural areas with the highest incidence of poverty and fewer daily regular markets and the wellingaraba community lumo was successfully selected. Project Proposal on Transformation WELLINGARABA LUMO to Modern Cross-Border Trading Centers was developed and submitted to the ECOWAS Commission.
The development of the wellingaraba lumo will transform and modernize the Local Lumos to be a conducive and business-friendly environment for cross-border traders. It will serve as a trading Center, by providing security fence, shade, floor concrete, and toilet facilities for the vendor. It wil increase the income, security, and hygienic conditions of the Wellingara Lumo, and increase revenue for the Mansakonko Area Council, In a nutshell, it will be used as a Pilot project to expand and upgrade the infrastructure and facilities for all 27 existing Lumos in the Gambia.
The Ministry has received funding of 5.2 million dalasis The ECOWAS Commission, to kick start the implementation of the project, the six-month project will commence as soon as approval is given by the GPPA for the ward of contracts to various construction companies that bided for the project.
Competition and Consumer Protection.
Key Highlights for 2024
The work of the Commission is guided largely by the GCCPC strategic Plan 2018-2023, developed by the Commission and themed “enforcement for impact”. The goal of this plan is to shift more focus to enforcement in order to make markets more competitive and enhance the welfare of consumers, especially the vulnerable.
In 2023, the GCCPC has administered one hundred and sixteen (116) consumer cases with a total value of Three Million, Five Hundred and Two Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty-five (D3,502,465). Two Million Seven Hundred and Eight-one Thousand Three Hundred and Fifteen Dalasi (D2,781,315) was recovered through the Commission’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Mechanism and the balance forwarded to the Tribunal for adjudication. The Commission has also conducted market investigations into the essential commodities market such as rice, cooking oil, evapourated milk and bread and issued directives against enterprises that violated provisions of the Competition Act 2007. The Commission has also issued policy advice in the cement, flour and bread markets.
The GCCPC has initiated a bi-weekly market surveillance into the essential commodities market as a proactive measure to eradicate anti-competitive conducts within the markets. Through the surveillance anti-competitive conducts were detected and addressed.
The GCCPC has also initiated weekly inspection into expired products with the view to protecting consumers from consumption of expired products in line with Consumer Protection Act 2014. GCCPC has collaborated with Weight and Measures Bureau to investigate into the weight of bags of cement sold in the Gambia. The investigation serve as mechanism to protect consumers from misleading and unfair market practices. The Commission suffered a setback in prosecuting Alvihag and Others and GACEM company found selling expired products and underweighted bagged cements. However, The GCCPC intends to institute a fresh action on this case on grounds of public policy and efforts are being made to solicit the required support needed to file the case. The Commission has relocated the Consumer Protection Tribunal with support from UNDP from Bundung Magistrate Court to the Futurelec building in Kotu. This has addressed the space constrain that affected the effectiveness of the Tribunal.
The GCCPC has conducted a market study in the pharmaceutical sector and the report revealed exclusivity agreement as the main anti-competitive conduct affecting the sector. The report has been shared with relevant stakeholders for the implementation of the recommendation of the report. A nation-wide school study is being conducted by the GCCPC to establish the existence of the alleged competition and consumer protection issues in schools. The study is expected to be validated this year with participation of all the relevant stakeholders. The study is being supported by MOBSE, Action Aid and Child Fund, Gambia.
The GCCPC in collaboration with GCCI trained members of the GCCI on the provisions of the Competition and Consumer Protection Acts with the view of enhancing voluntary compliance. The Commission has also shared the main anti-competitive conducts (tying, refusal to sell and hoarding) discovered by the market surveillance. The Commission also utilized the radio, TV and print media to engage the public on its mandate.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Acts have been reviewed by the GCCPC. The review recommended for amendment of the Acts in order to address the inadequacies and enhance the capacity of the Commission to effectively enforce the Competition Act.
The Commission successfully hosted the 2023 African Competition Forum Biennial Conference in the year under review. The conference brought together competition experts from national and regional competition Authorities in Africa and development partners to share best practices on how to foster competition for inclusive growth and sustainability in Africa.
Plan Activities For 2024
The Commission plan to implement the following activities in 2024
Launching of the Guidelines on Promoting Competition in Public Procurement in February 2024
The Commission plans to launch the guidelines on competitive procurement in February of 2024.The Commission in collaboration with the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), and the Complaint Review Board formulated guidelines on Promoting Competition in Public Procurement. These guidelines are intended enforce competition and create equal opportunities for enterprises in procurement.
Amendment of Competition Act 2007 and Consumer Protection Act 2014
The Competition and Consumer Protection Acts are to be amended in 2024 to enhance the capacity of GCCPC in enforcement of Competition.
An assessment report on the assessed Competition Act 2007 and Consumer Protection Act 2014 has been produced by the Commission. The Report provided recommendation for support for the amendment of the mentioned Acts with a view to include punitive provisions that would strengthen deterrence and ensure compliance with the laws.
The Commission is collaborating with donor support partners such as COMCEC, Common wealth and African Development Bank to provide funding for the review and amendment of these Acts.
Formulation of Merger Review Regulations 2023
The Commission Plans to develop a Merger Review Regulation to enable GCCPC control mergers in the Gambian economy. The Regulations is required under section 33 of the Competition Act 2007 to prescribe measures relating to the control of mergers.
The Merger Review Regulations will require parties to a merger/acquisition to notify the Commission of a merger as well as set time limits within which the Commission must respond to the notification.
Develop a Competition Policy for the Digital Market
The GCCPC plans to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to development a policy for the enforcement of competition in the digital market. The policy intends to remove entry barriers, promote effective competition, support innovation and increasing the variety of available products and services at competitive price.
Quarterly Market Surveillance in the Provinces
The introduction of the bi-weekly market surveillance has increased the detection of anti-competitive conducts in the GBA, 2023. The GCCPC plans to expand the surveillance to major markets in the rural areas with a view to eradicating anti-competitive conducts in the markets.
Investigation into Alleged Sales of expired products
The GCCPC plans to continue its investigation into the sales of expired products. The exercise is aimed at removing harmful products from the Gambian market and protect consumers from the consumption of expired products.