The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is the voice of business in The Gambia, has continued to express itself by leaps and bounds year inyear out.
Since its establishment in 1967, the private sector umbrella body has steadily and professionally been playing its role by creating business opportunities for both large firms and micro, small and medium enterprises in The Gambia, and lobbying for a favourable business environment.
In the course of 2013, the management has been able to reposition and rebrand the chamber, with the completion of a new constitution which will be circulated for review and adoption at the next AGM in March 2014, the formulation of an updated strategy for 2014-18 to move the chambers' activities to higher heights, and the publication and circulation of its Business Directory.
The management also had fruitful discussions on many issues of concern to the chamber and the Gambia government, as well as enhanced public and private sector dialogue, in collaboration with GIEPA, through gainful business forums and trade and investment opportunities.
Projects and schemes such as training needs assessment and the ISRT operations were also undertaken in the course of 2013, as its stewards continue to ensure free flow of information to members and the general public via regular bulletins and consultative visits.
Highlighting the chamber's key achievements in 2013, its Chief Executive Officer Alieu Secka said that through their various engagements with government Ministries and Agencies, they have been able to discuss many issues of concern to all parties.
"We also used these opportunities to enhance Public and Private Sector dialogue and are fully committed in strengthening this to the highest level," he says.
"We are experiencing some momentous partnership and renewed support from relevant Ministries and Agencies and will need to reciprocate accordingly with topmost representation to all such forums and invited high level meetings, so that the decisions made are those that we all contribute to, but also so that this new partnership is taken even more seriously."
One of these forums, in which business leaders actively took part, dilated on gainful business topics, and formed fruitful business and investment relationships, specifically looked at the prospects and opportunities of PPPs in The Gambia.
As part of the activities of the Trade Fair the GCCI, with the support of the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), organised a Business Forum which aimed at giving more prominence to the issue of PPPs on 13 February 2013 at the Coco Ocean Spa and Resort.
"We further have great partnership with the GPA [Gambia Ports Authority]," the GCCI CEO notes, saying an outreach forum was organised on 13 June 2013 by the Chamber in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MOFEA), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA).
The meeting discussed issues relating to Value added Tax (VAT), its ramifications on the business sector six months after its implementation, as well as tax policies beyond VAT.
"We are encouraged that the Gambia Government decided to revise Corporate taxes by one per cent downwards," Mr Secka notes, saying the GCCI will maintain a positive engagement with GRA. The GCCI, he says further, aims to pave the way and continue to drive the agenda for the promotion of Public Private Partnerships in The Gambia, to change mindsets for both economic operators and policymakers to give it more focus, and fast track the process of the establishment of a framework for PPPs.
"We note the steps taken by the Government and hope to have a structure in place during 2014," CEO Secka states.
GCCI also received at its Secretariat a team of Turkish investors, who had an investment forum by GIEPA on 8 June 2013. The forum, which involved some members of the Gambian business community, looked at the opportunities that exist in the areas of Construction, Fisheries, Port and Shipyard Projects, Airport Security, and General Trading.
"Presently we are setting up joint Business Councils to further promote trade relations," he said about the outcome of the meeting with the Turkish investors.
Through the efforts of the GCCI, EXIM Bank has allocated substantial funds to exclusively support Gambian businesses.
"We invite all interested businesses requiring finance to consider this very low cost of funds available through the Chamber," Mr Secka said.
GCCI, in collaboration with GIEPA, organised the Polish-Gambian Investment Forum on 28 November 2013 for potential investors and business leaders.
The forum was organised on behalf of the West Africa Foundation and Foreign Investments Services from Poland with the primary objective of developing business relations between The Gambia and Poland.
In line with the Federation of West Africa Chambers of Commerce (FEWACCI), the GCCI organised the Sealink Investment Forum on 3 December 2013.
The Sealink project, initiated by FEWACCI in collaboration with NEXIM Bank of Nigeria and with the full support of the ECOWAS Commission, aims at providing reliable maritime transport of goods and people along the West African Coast line with an extension to Central Africa.
The objective of the business forum provided the people, members of the private sector and the relevant government authorities, full briefing on the project, its investment prospects, and to solicit the active participation of stakeholders for its success.
Several other missions were also hosted in the course of 2013 by the chamber.
Talking about the projects rolled out by the Chamber in 2013, CEO Secka said: "IntraConsulting was contracted by The Gambia Growth & Competitiveness Project (GCP) on behalf of GCCI to carry out a critical needs assessment of the information and training needs requirements of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) bearing in mind the different business areas of the SMEs. The study also looked at the mission's critical competencies required by GCCI to implement and roll out the outcome of the study, which we have started addressing already."
On the Inter State Road Transit, the CEO states: "Five years after the official launching in July 2008, Inter State Road Transit (ISRT) operations commenced in The Gambia on 17th July 2013.
"An office space kindly provided by Gambia Ports Authority is being used for the implementation of the scheme. Whilst there are a few challenges still to be overcome, the scheme is now well in place."
The Chamber continues to keep its members and the general public constantly informed about its programmes and activities in a timely manner, through the publication of its bulletin and monthly e-bulletin, as it welcomes contributions of new developments and information from its esteemed members and partners.
Its President, Muhammad Jagana, and management also embarked on consultative visits to some members and partners, which they hope will eventually reach all their members.
While extending the chamber's compliments to all its members on the occasion of the New Year and sending best wishes for a successful and profitable year ahead, Mr Secka also solicits suggestions and proposals from all members and partners, saying: "As the new Chief Executive Officer, I am looking forward to welcoming you in person at your GCCI office in Kerr Jula and to receive suggestions and proposals that you all have to enable GCCI to serve you and your business even better."