Gambia: 'Gambia, Spain Have Best Relations'

The Gambian leader has told a consortium of Spanish investors that The Gambia and the Kingdom of Spain have best relations among countries in Europe with which they have relations.

The two countries, according to him, have over the past seven years developed a very excellent fruitful relationship and that is why, "We have no doubt as to your credibility when you come and choose Gambia as your base for your operation". Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh made these remarks on Friday during a meeting with Spanish investors.

The group comprising seven companies is in the country to discuss with the authorities their will to invest in agriculture, engineering, fisheries, sports and youth development courtesy of the government. The eleven-man delegation whose trip was facilitated by MALIGAM Gambia was welcomed by the Gambian leader who is hopeful of a reliable partnership that could serve as a model in North-South Cooperation.

President Jammeh described the consortium's areas of speciality as strategic to The Gambia's development agenda as far as the relationship between Banjul and Madrid is concerned. This, according to him, is not only limited to political relationship, but the two also coordinate their actions even at international forums. "With regards to the political level between the two countries, the sky is the limit to our collaboration," he assured the investors.

"We have a very excellent relationship with your government and so I see no reason why our partnership with your consortium cannot be a model for the whole world. And I see no reason also why Gambia cannot become a major olive oil producer for it used to be an exporter of craves food that was favour in the UK from The Gambia," he further told the Spanish investors.

According to him, The Gambia is still capable of producing high quality crave that can also be exported to the European market. "So you have come to a country which has a very excellent relationship with your country of origin," he said, while conveying his heartfelt condolence to the president of the delegation on the demise of his wife.

"We share with you the grief and anything you want to do in her memory in The Gambia, it is an honour for us and we want to stand by you in whatever you want to do in her blazzette loving memory," President Jammeh said, praying for the Almighty Allah to grant her an eternal place in paradise.

He continued: "We feel honoured that you decided to set up a foundation in memory of your late wife in The Gambia. You have all our support and I want to assure you that The Gambia and my government would be an eternal partner with your consortium, your organisation and the entire group." He acknowledged the fact that all the areas that the investors highlighted as areas of focus are of strategic importance to his government. The group intends to focus on construction, agriculture, fisheries and energy among other things which are also the major priority areas of Jammeh government from the dawn of the revolution.

On the issue of fertilizer, the Gambian leader said it is a major problem for agriculture not only in The Gambia but in the entire West Africa sub-region. "This is also very important to agriculture in this country. Looking at the size of the country and the fact that The Gambia has the highest concentration per kilometer of people in the population concentration in Africa, you will realise that most of the farm lands being used year-in year-out requires large quantities of fertilizer.

So it is indispensable in agriculture in this country. I see no reason why we cannot be self-sufficient in agriculture if we are able to master nature by not depending entirely on rainfall but depend on irrigation system and using the water resources that we have to be able to not only self-sufficient but also export to other countries," he said.

The Gambian leader used the opportunity to show the visiting team the vast potential of the River Gambia to so many agricultural activities. He told the team that The Gambia gets it source of water from the Futa Jallon highlands to the Atlantic Ocean. "So this part of the country is where we have the irrigation agriculture based on high tide. When there is high tide in the river, it overflows the banks and that is the time waters flows into the rice fields and makes them [farmers] to wait for nature for the river to decide when to have high tide and what quantity of water it will push out to the rice fields," he added.

According to President Jammeh, an irrigation system based on solar energy in place will enable farmers, specifically the rice growers to be able to produce rice all year round. In addition to that, he went on, The Gambia is blessed with a lot of ground water with its depth depending on the region. "So not only we have the River Gambia waters that we can depend on, but we also have a lot of underground water which we can also use boreholes to irrigate large space of land for agricultural purposes," he told the Spanish investors.

However, President Jammeh singled out lack of agro-processing in the country as the biggest challenge to agricultural production and told the investors that if the country has proper agro industries, it can export a lot of things to most parts of the world.

"With agro processing, we can be able to become a major exporter of tomato paste to the rest of the world. The same thing applies to the rest of all the sectors you represent here and with regards to construction, The Gambia is a developing country, so there are a lot of large, middle-scale and small-scale construction projects. We have to build more schools, more roads, bridges, power plants and of course hotels and government offices among other things," he explained.

President Jammeh at that point tasked the ministers of Presidential Affairs and Health and Social Welfare, Dr Njogu Bah and Bala Garba Jahumpa respectively, as focal point persons between the consortium and other ministries that have direct linkage in the areas they intend to intervene in. This, according to him, is meant to fast track the implementation process of the investment so that before the team leaves, they will be able to work out a clear-cut mission and a long everlasting partnership.

"We are an action-oriented government and we believe in action. So, we want to make sure that whatever we say, we do it. I want to assure you that you are at home and I see no reason why we cannot build a permanent fruitful partnership that will lead to the mutual benefit for both the Kingdom of Spain and The Gambia," he concluded.

Presenting their proposed areas of focus for investment in the country, Santiago Jimenez Barrull said they want to invest in the energy sector, agriculture, construction and fisheries among other things. Barrull also not that The Gambia is a country whose potential for rapid development is high.

Also speaking at the meeting, the executive chairman of the group, Francisco Rossi Escalona, acknowledged the development strides made by the Jammeh administration and noted that their partnership with the Gambia government will enhance economic growth. He also spoke of their ability to harness the opportunities in The Gambia to suit the needs of the country.

The ministers of Basic and Higher Education respectively, Fatou Lamin Faye and Dr Mamadou Tangara, also welcomed the investors and assured them of the huge investment opportunities in the country. Both of them also spoke about the government's willingness to partner with them on the highlighted areas of focus for their investment in the country.

Minister Faye assured the visiting Spanish business tycoons that mechanised agriculture will boost food production as well as provide employment for the youths of the country. "Your areas of focus are all of interest to us," she said, while singling out agriculture and employment as two key areas that are of paramount importance to the government.

The Higher Education, Research Science and Technology minister also dilated on the country's peace and stability and the Gambian leader's visionary leadership, which he said makes The Gambia conducive for any investment opportunity in the country.

"You have come to the best country in Africa and I would say this without any degree of much remark," said the Higher Education minister, while also quoting a quote he said he read on a Spanish newspaper which, according to him says, "the lost paradise in Africa is in The Gambia". "And we can assure you that you will find peace and stability conducive for every business in The Gambia," he remarked.

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