22 November 2012

Gambia: New GCCI Board Eyes More Business Opportunities

The new Board of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Wednesday called on the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, at her office in State House, during which they discussed with her a wide range of business opportunities as well as means to further heighten the public-private partnership in promoting growth and investment in the country.

GCCI is a non-political, non-profit making, self-governed, voluntary and private sector organisation representing Trade and Commerce, Agriculture, Industry, Transport, Telecommunication Services, Banking and Finance. The principal functions of the Chamber are to provide essential business services to the private sector in general and its members in particular, and to advise and influence government in creating a favourable business environment. It also serves as a one stop spot for foreign investors.

Speaking to reporters shortly after meeting the vice president, Muhammed Jangana, the new president of the Chamber, explained that during their discussion, they raised quite a lot of issues some of which has to do with public-private partnership as well as government policies in terms of taxes especially the pay roll tax.

He added: "The meeting was very constructive and positive and it shows that the vice president, the president of the Republic and the government of The Gambia are here to support the private sector and the private sector is also here to work with the government to achieve the Vision 2020, which is just around the corner."

Jangana further explained that the private sector is looking at different options and opportunities in The Gambia critically in terms of enterprise development funding, that is to have Gambian Enterprises Fund and capital and policy issues in terms of making the business environment more conducive.

"We also raised the issue of business law reforms to make the business law in the country at par with international standard, which will help to create growth in the country," he added, while describing the vice president's response as welcoming and positive.

For his part, Papa Yusupha Njie, the chief executive officer of Unique Solutions, who is the First Vice President of the new Board, also shared his impressions with journalists. He said the discussion gave them an opportunity to intimate to government some of the things they think the private sector can partner in terms of moving the business environment and economy forward.

"In my intervention, I talked about the ACE sub-marine cable because it's a perfect example of a positive public-private partnership between the government and the private sector. That has got us to where we are and as you know, the cable will be launched in the next couple of weeks and the model that the government put forward is now being touted as a model for public-private partnership around the sub-region. It also gave us [the private sector] the opportunity to participate in a project that spans 25 years. So I think we wanted to highlight the support of His Excellency who was personally involved in this project and getting us far," he explained.

Njie further disclosed that The Gambia has been chosen to host the launching of this sub-marine cable on behalf of 23 other African countries, something he said didn't happen as a coincidence, but as a result of a number of issues being taken into account. He stressed the need to create more public-private partnership in others sectors citing the renewable energy and investment bank.

He added: "So as a new Board, we want to promote entrepreneurship not just by saying but looking at funds that can help set up the next businessmen of tomorrow. Because at the end of the day, it's our job to make sure this Vision 2020 is actually in action rather than on paper and the way to do it is to create more entrepreneurs."

Almameh Taal, the chief executive officer of the Chamber, emphasised that what the Chamber has been doing all this many years is to try and create a valued preposition, which will encourage people to become members.

He said GCCI is a voluntary organisation and that the secretariat and its activities are the only thing paid for by subscription of members.

He acknowledged the fact that VP Njie-Saidy mentioned the success of their trade fair and how it contributed towards the country.

"We have a big membership and we are very pleased about it. Those who had not yet joined us may have their reasons. But regardless of that, as an organisation, we will set the best example, corporate practices and the best alternative financing and alternative energy sources," he said.

Taal explained that what they are interested in as an organisation is to create a critical mass of business of ideas from public-private partnership to things like Islamic finance and business law reforms among a host of others.

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