A country is more than one leader, no matter how evil. It is the sum of its land, the resources of that land and its inhabitants ability to unite and develop it for the common good. In a nutshell, this is what makes up a country.
Following independence we saw a great expansion of the Gambian economy and population in what were seen as the good years. One aspect was the re-export trade. Gambia had low customs duties and businessmen who were not too greedy. This meant that imported goods in Gambia were much cheaper and easily available than in Senegal, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and even Mali. The result was a massive re-export trade with huge benefits to the Gambian economy at every level. The geographical asset which made this possible was the port and the river.
The Jawara government recognized the benefits of this trade and kept customs duties low. They abolished the preferential tariffs of the colonial era which kept duties from Britain lower than from other competitive countries. In contrast to Senegal which raised its duties to 100% on certain items. Traders from Senegal and neighboring countries flocked to Banjul to buy good for their home markets. The government took the duties paid and asked no questions about the destinations. Hence the trucks with foreign number plates which filled what was then Buckle St.
Greed in the form of Jammeh killed this trade after his takeover in 1994. In attempting to control the export trade and make more money out of it, he strangled it. That once great source of revenue that benefited the whole nation lies almost dead. However, the port still exists and so do the re-export markets. It is a source of national revenue that could be rejuvenated under good economic governance.
The river still exists, although little used. It is a source of irrigation for much of its course which could be harnessed to produce food and cash crops for export. The world market has moved on from groundnuts, but I believe that there is a strong world market for palm kernels (nyule). Gambia has no need to import rice. The Chinese proved in the 1970’s that using irrigation we could produce enough for national demand and for export. It is a free highway to the interior, for both heavy goods in Gambia and for much trade to Guinea and its neighboring countries. This was the reason for the success of Basse, as a regional trade centre. One of the greatest hindrances to Gambia’s development is the absence/shortage of electricity. Our River begs to be harnessed and developed to provide hydro-electricity not only for ourselves but 5 neighboring countries. It has been talked about since the 1960’s but Jammeh has single handedly does the most to block it for short sighted and selfish motives. However our river was here before him and will exist after him and his selfish evil regime.
Our tourist industry has fallen on hard times but the essentials still remain. Our climate, cheap easy access to Europe by air, and our infrastructure of hotels and linking roads. Although Ebola free, the threat and publicity did much to erode the confidence of tourists. The threat of Islamic State and Jammeh’s threat to create and Islamic State in Gambia has set our tourist industry back many years, but the essential resources have not changed.
In short, as a united country committed to its development and prosperity for ALL, Gambia could have a good future and be even better than it was before. It’s time to review what we have and focus on how to use it. The alternative is a small selfish minority who will continue to monopolize power and wealth at the expense of the majority. Currently the so called Jolla hegemony.
My mother used to say “do the best you can with what you have”. This advice has always helped me though some very dark moments and I recommend it to Gambians. We have a lot left to work with after Jammeh and his criminals leave or are removed from power.
Gambians, please don’t despair. A bad captain is not the ship!!! Or as someone put it, don’t scrap the car because of the driver!
United, we are a great people who can create a great country greater than better than before. Above all we have an educated, politically aware youth who have the energy, power and ability to shape the future of 1.5 million Gambians.
Written By A Concerned Gambian