The Gambia government has reiterated its commitment to working closely with the apex body of the private sector to ensure the sector takes advantage of the business and investment opportunities the country offers.
Hon. Kebba S. Touray, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, made these remarks on Saturday at the Independence Stadium at the opening of the 6th edition of the trade fair organised by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) under the theme: "More Business Opportunities, More Jobs".
"Let me reassure you all that the Government of The Gambia under the leadership of his Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh will work closely with the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry as focal point to ensure that the private sector takes full advantage of the opportunities that The Gambia offers," the Trade Minister said, while delivering the launching statement on the occasion on behalf of the President.
Hon. Touray noted that the development of businesses, particularly MSMEs, in The Gambia should be linked to continuous pursuit of new technologies for low-cost production, quality products and market linkages with larger enterprises.
He subscribes to the decision of the GCCI to now organise the trade fair on annual basis starting this year.
The annual trade fairs would give business operators the opportunity to not only showcase their products but also learn and access new technologies that could boost production, reduce wastage of resources, save time and improve output, he said.
"As you may already know, one of the core mandates of my Ministry is to promote the development of the private sector, especially the MSMEs," Hon. Touray noted, saying government would continue to support the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, to develop and implement programmes that are geared towards addressing the challenges and constraints faced by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the country.
He added: "As part of the activities of this year's trade fair, my Ministry and GIEPA, with support from the Social Development Fund, is supporting the participation of 15 wood makers.
"As a result of this effort, there would 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.
"In our drive towards the attainment of Vision 2020, the Government of The Gambia under the distinguished leadership of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, who is also the Chief Patron of the Chamber (the GCCI), will continue to adopt programmes and policies to improve and strengthen the business environment, and to support private sector initiatives.
"To this end, Government through the Growth and Competitiveness project is vigorously working on a number of initiatives to improve the investment climate and to strengthen the competitiveness of key sectors of the economy. Key amongst the reforms will be the establishment of a single window business registration and a collateral registry."
In his opening statement on the occasion, GCCI president Muhammad M. Jagana said the development of the private sector in The Gambia is mainly government-driven.
"This," he noted, "is demonstrated by the fact that the government is a major player in business and that private sector development services such as training and mentoring, product development, market research and financial support are largely provided by government institutions and through the establishment of Executive Agencies such as GIEPA, NTA, GHHI and GTBoard. In addition, private sector policy and legislative issues are initiated by government. "
Therefore, the GCCI president noted, private sector leadership is limited, with only GCCI playing a visible partnership role...There is, therefore, a need to change and reengineer the approach to private sector development."
Mr Jagana also commented on tax law and corporate regulations, calling on the government to consider laws that will permit business operators to have a level playing field so as to generate productivity in the economy and commerce of the country as much as operators in other parts of the world are realising.
This, he noted, would give rise to more production, quality finished products and goods that could be exported, which could generate more income and tax return to government as well as boost economic growth and government's capacity to register more development for the people of The Gambia.
The trade fair, which drew participants from within The Gambia and abroad such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia and countries from the sub-region, was chaired by GCCI CEO Almami Fanding Taal, and graced by government ministers, members of the diplomatic corps and dignitaries from the public and private sector.