Trade is a key component to sustainable development, but the current level of Gambian exports at about D4 billion for 2013 out of a provisional total trade value of D16 billion, is very low and this must change if we are to create more wealth and employment, stressed the Trade Integration and Employment minister, Abdou Kolley.
The minister made the remarks Tuesday while presiding over the inaugural ceremony of the National Export Strategy (NES) Implementation Committee at his Ministry's conference hall in Banjul.
The Committee comprised officials from lead government institutions, private sector, NGOs, donors and technical agencies, who are directly engaged in economic activities of the priority areas of NES. The minister argued in his statement that the implementation of the export strategy should be pursued with vigour and commitment by all stakeholders in order to achieve the target of not only boosting domestic demand, but also having a presence in export markets. He explained that NES is being established as part of the important structures to support its implementation by providing a unifying framework to coordinate and monitor export promotion and export financing activities and ensure successful implementation of the strategy. Kolley urged the new committee members to familiarise themselves with the terms of reference and commit themselves as responsible members to help provide the necessary guidance for the effective implementation of the NES. "Let me also remind you that the focus of NES in promoting export is very central in the crusade to achieve the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) objectives of accelerating growth for poverty reduction," he noted.
He added: "As members," he pointed out, "you are expected to help in ensuring that the activities of the various strategies in the NES are mainstreamed in the programmes and activities of your respective sectors." The Trade minister advised that in designing programmes and projects in the sectors identified by the NES, consideration should be taken of its activities so that they can become part of the national efforts to implement it such that their outcomes contribute to the promotion of exports. "This is indeed a challenge for all of you, but I am confident that with commitment and collective determination in our duties as members of the NES Implementation Committee, we surely can do it," he assured.
Speaking further, the Trade minister opined that the programmes and projects in the NES priority sectors should help in ensuring effective restructuring of these sectors toward increased productivity and quality assurance for improved market access for Gambian exports.
"Let me assure you of my Ministry's support at all times in our collective effort to ensure that the NES is successfully implemented. We should all set our targets high so that after four years of NES implementation, we are able to lift The Gambia's exports from its current low level to a level that we can all be proud of," he concluded.
The chief executive officer of The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), Fatou Mbenga-Jallow, said the inauguration of NES Implementation Committee marked an important day towards the realisation of The Gambia's exports competitiveness through the implementation of a detailed National Export Strategy. "As you are aware, the trade sector in The Gambia is dominated by import with exports accounting for slightly below 40 % of the total trade. Thus, the exports is dominated by re-exports and our country is highly dependent on the re-exports, and the Tourism sector, for its foreign exchange earnings" She indicated. The GIEPA boss pointed out that over the years, The Gambia's trade performance has been inconsistent with evidence of fluctuations in total trade, exports, and re-exports. Whilst the total trade has increased over the years, according to her, exports have tended to be more erratic over the same period with intermittent periods of increase and decrease. "Though exports, especially the re-exports have benefited from the country's competiveness in port clearance costs and efficiency in terms of turnaround time, this advantage was overtime eroded by tariff harmonisation policies of ECOWAS and improvement in efficiency in other competing ports within the sub-region," Mbenga-Jallow added.
To this end, she underscored that conscious efforts had been undertaken to develop the NES to help reverse the trend in the country's trade position and improve its merchandise trade balance, balance of payments and terms of trade. Through this strategy, she said it is envisaged that the structure of output and the contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the NES target sectors would help improve and diversify the country's export base, and in the process, realise some degree of industrialisation. Other speakers at the ceremony were the director of Trade, at the Ministry, Abdoulie Jammeh, who dilated on the way forward of the NES Committee and Modou Ceesay, a member of the private sector. The ceremony was chaired by the permanent secretary, Ministry of Trade, Integration and Employment, Naffie Barry.