The Sixth Edition of Trade Fair Gambia (TFG) organised by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) officially opened Saturday at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
Presided over by Dr. Njogou Bah, the secretary general and Head of the Civil Service who is also the Minister for Presidential Affairs on behalf of the President of the Republic, the trade fair is a biennial event organised to create a platform for Gambians and international companies to showcase and sell their products. The Sixth Edition is organised on the theme 'More business opportunities, more jobs'.
Declaring the event open, Kebba Touray, the minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, expressed gratitude to GCCI for organising this important event which he said has attracted diverse' participants from around the world. He disclosed that the decision of the chamber to organise the fair on an annual basis starting in 2013 complemented by the "Marche Jula", offers the opportunity to promote trade and showcase Gambian products and services at closer intervals.
He said: "I encourage you all to interact, create linkages, exchange information and trade among yourselves especially the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSMEs)." Minister Touray further stated that trade is one of the most solid activities to generate wealth and eliminate poverty, adding that the theme of this year's trade fair exactly seeks to achieve these objectives.
"We cannot attain the theme of this year's trade fair in the absence of the right business environment for the private sector development and effective participation of the MSEMs," he stressed, adding that despite its importance, the MSME sector has continued to experience several constraints which include limited access to markets, inadequate technology, inadequate business skills, limited access to information and limited linkages with large enterprise.
He opined that the development of business and MSMEs in particular in The Gambia should be linked to continue pursuit of new technologies for low-cost production, quality product and market linkages with large enterprise. He further remarked: "The annual trade fair, will give you the opportunity to not only showcase products but also help participants learn and access new technologies that could boost production, reduce wastage of resources, save time and improve output.
"As you may know one of the core mandates of my ministry is to promote the development of the private sector especially the MSMEs. Government will therefore continue to support the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) in partnership with all the relevant stakeholders to develop and implement programmes' that are geared towards addressing the challenges and constraints faced by MSMEs."
Minster Touray informed the gathering that his ministry and GEIPA with support from the Social Development Fund (SDF) is supporting the participation of 15 wood carvers. "As a result of this effort, there will be the 'Made in The Gambia Wood Exhibition' to enable them showcase their products as there are excellent furniture made in The Gambia but not known to many," he disclosed.
He assured that in the drive towards the attainment of Vision 2020, the government of The Gambia will continue to adopt programmes and policies to improve and strengthen the business environment and to support private sector initiatives. He said government through the growth and competitiveness project is vigorously working on a number of initiatives to improve the investment climate and strengthen the competiveness of key sectors of the economy.
"Key amongst the reform will be the establishment of a single window business registration and a collateral registry. My ministry through the enhanced integrated framework programme is also establishing a trade information centre to provide trade and market information to the public and business community," he concluded.
Muhammed M. Jagana, president of GCCI, explained that the theme of this year's trade fair is aimed at shifting focus on improving on local products and services, ensure economic comparative advantages and improve efficiency and product quality with ultimate goal of increasing exports. "This I believe will lead to greater opportunities for the youths. We must strategise to diversify our economic base and more importantly, reduce our dependency on import trade," he added.
Jagana noted that The Gambia is part of West Africa, home to over three hundred million consumers, with many food items imported in spite of the vast land for agriculture ."It means while we grow what we consume in Africa, we have left the processing, manufacturing and adding value in the hands of other nations outside Africa," he lamented.