Abidjan — The government of The Gambia and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Tuesday signed a US$31.9M grant agreement, earmarked for the former's energy sector. Reached at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan on the sidelines of the 71st Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of ECOWAS, the grant is provided by the ECOWAS Emergency Regional Programme for Improved Electricity Supply Facility (EERPIEF). The other two countries that benefited from the grant are the Republics of Mali and Sierra Leone, which respectively received US$54.34M and US$21.8M. The project seeks to improve electricity supply within these three countries in the sub-region.
The signing ceremony was witnessed by The Gambia's high-powered delegation including the minister of Energy, Teneng-Ba Jaiteh - who appended her signature on the agreement on behalf of The Gambia -, Abdou Kolley and Dr. Abubacarr Senghore, ministers of Trade, Integration and Employment and Foreign Affairs respectively.
In his remarks at the occasion, the ECOWAS Commission chair, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, said the initiative is geared towards supporting member countries improve their energy sector. He observed that the ECOWAS member countries had and continue to grapple with problems associated to energy supply, which "does not meet the demand of the population". This, he lamented, greatly affects the socio-economic development of member states. The Commission chair however applauded the bloc's heads of state for giving priority to the development of the energy sector in their different countries. This support, which came following requests made by the three beneficiary countries, according to Ouedraogo, will ensure "uninterrupted" power supply in these nations by 2015.
Speaking on behalf of the ministers of Energy of the beneficiary countries, Minister Jaiteh thanked the ECOWAS Commission for this emergency support. She acknowledged that the grants that were signed had gone through an extensive scrutiny at various levels by the different statutory bodies, thus commending the ECOWAS Commission secretariat staff for the hard work.
The Gambia's Energy minister also hailed the authority of heads of state for their strong support in assisting member states in dire need of assistance through the emergency facility. She assured that they will quickly work on conditions as soon as they get back to their countries for first disbursement in order to kick-start the implementation of the project. "The funds that have been approved and signed today are urgently required to help stabilise the precarious situations, which we have been grappling with within our different energy sectors," she stated.
She assured that mechanisms will be put in place for the judicious utilisation of the funds so as to achieve the desired goals. With this support, she opined that ECOWAS has once again demonstrated its commitment towards the very ideals for which it was established. "We therefore pray that the [the existing] spirit of integration and brotherly solidarity continue to be manifested through the realisation of tangible programmes, particularly in the energy sector through regional inter-connectivity programme among others," she concluded. The minister of Infrastructure, Patrick Achi, on behalf of his colleague ministers of Energy, also underscored that the energy sector is very crucial in the realisation of rapid socio-economic development within the ECOWAS sub-region. Thanking the ECOWAS Commission for what he called the quick response to the requests, he also called on other institutions to complement the support of the former. Gambian-born ECOWAS commissioner for Infrastructure, Ebrima Njie, emphasised the importance of energy, which he opined is a necessity for human survival. He said it is the Commission's objectives to ensure that power supply is accessible to all by 2015.