Back in 1998/99, I Pa Njie Girigara facilitated Mr. Muhamed Jah have access to the first USAID Africa Internet initiative project in Abuja Nigeria. I was selected to take up the project but because the meeting date fell on Tobaski day, I declined and proposed Muhamed Jah hence his first ISP (Internet Service Provider) set up in the Gambia. The main servers, routers and modems were a grant from USAID.
I went further to help Muhamed Jah and provided him with inverters, solar panels, batteries and air conditioners to keep constant power supply for his ISP equipment on a loan that he paid. I was then the pioneer in the private sector to help open the telecommunication industry to private sector participation. The Gamtel executives can bear me witness on this assertion.
In 1998, I set up the first and only scratch cards production factory and calling card service in the Gambia. I invested over two hundred thousand US dollars in setting up the plant and eventually increased the investments on production capacity to well over five hundred thousand US dollars.
When Africell was in its infancy period, we happily produced their scratch orders on credit for two years. As soon as they grew stronger they shifted their card orders to foreign companies abandoning us. That is what you call real economic patriotism among foreign Lebanese companies at the detriment of an indigenous Gambian company.
Gamcel also came to us on an emergency situation when they ran out of stock in 2001 and we did our best to serve them. We also won two contracts in an open tender from Gamcel and serve them well until 2009.
When Qcell came into existence, I was so happy given the relationship I had with Muhamed Jah. I then went to see Muhamed Jah for patronizing us with their scratch cards needs. As I write this piece not a single scratch card order was given to us by Muhamed Jah. I therefore ask myself what economic patriotism is Muhamed Jah talking about.
By 2010, after waiting for two years without business from the telecommunication operators in the Gambia, I had to close the scratch card production facility and closed the company that had employed 32 staff members. What a waste of a million dollar investment? I then left the Gambia for other countries in West Africa just as Mustapha Njie of Taf Construction did and thank GOD we are surviving out of our homeland.
Today after 7 years of closure of the factory, all the equipment and machineries of the card production facilities are aging and rotting in my warehouse in Banjul, thanks to companies like Qcell, Africell and Comium who refused to patronize an indigenous Gambian business who, hitherto helped the private sector enter the telecommunication industry in the Gambia.
I would have never come in the open to reveal and shed light on our story in promoting industrialization in the Gambia if Mr. Jah did not evoke economic patriotism in his famous speech at the GCCI 2017 Dinner award.
Personally I do not need anything from Mr. Jah; He knows it, he is not richer than me but for him preaching economic patriotism cannot go unchallenged. Just as I did not need Dictator Yaya Jammeh to survive in business, we do however need to educate Gambians and specially the new government and put the records straight on who is who in the business community in the Gambia.
Let us stop the greediness in the business community, let us encourage and practice “live and let live” within the Gambian economy. Such is the true meaning of economic patriotism and economic nationalism. Wanting to grab all sorts of business activities in the Gambia for one’s self is not a good sign of economic patriotism. That type of capitalism is even un-Islamic.
We should encourage small businesses to grow up instead of competing them or putting them out of businesses as done in the past by Dictator Yaya Jammeh.
Jammeh the president cum businessman who preferred to work with foreign partners at the detriment of Gambian business people should be a thing of the past.
Can Mr. Jah and other former Jammeh business enablers boast of contributing over five millions dalasi in the struggle to remove Jammeh from power? I did with pride. The freedom of Gambians is worth paying the price.
Today most of these former business enablers of Yaya Jammeh who turned their back on the struggle can now run knocking on President Barrow’s doors pretending to be nationalists and patriots. What a small world? The race for wealth accumulation by any means necessary will be useless when ready to go to the final resting place. That day only good deeds will count in the eyes of GOD.
Well, to Mr. Jah and others, I am sorry if you feel offended by this article.
Preach what you believe in for no one can fool GOD.
Written by Pa Njie Girigara.