The turbulent journey of Gamtel
The Jawara government encouraged network and revenue growth, the Jammeh government was bent on milking Gamtel’s revenues whilst the Barrow government choose to ignore Gamtel and concentrate on private operators.
President Jawara through his great vision established Gamtel in 1984 and built it to the most successful telecoms entity in Africa within 4 short years. To the surprise of many, turned to France instead of England to help build our telecoms industry. France wasted no time in providing financing to build new digital exchanges and an optical fiber network from Banjul to Basse. The project was so successfully implemented that France converted the loan to a grant. All the funds were used for the project and there was zero corruption. France continued to give us a further grant to complete the network expansion including the access network. The then government gave Gamtel total independence to run the company through the board of directors. To make Gamtel more efficient, yearly performance contracts were signed with Gamtel setting out specific targets like network expansion, revenue increase, improved quality of service etc. Large bonuses were to staff for achieving these targets which helped them improved their quality of life. Obviously this brought in more efficiency year in year out. Gamtel was the envy of Africa. Many African countries used to come over to Gambia to under study Gamtel. Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was an exceptional visionary leader. The first MD B.K Njie needs special mention too.
Then came the Jammeh government which was just interested in how to drain Gamtel revenues to the personal benefits of some individuals. They kept of firing MDs who would not play that game with them. Mr. Abdourahmen Mboob was one who would not play that game and he was fired. The Jammeh regime started by bypassing the Gamtel and terminating international at State house. They made Gamtel go into useless project just to satisfy their political base. Gamtel had to fund the purchase of groundnuts, hire airplane to take footballers to Pure, sponsor state events and the list goes on and on. Gamtel was then deprived of the gateway by bringing in crooks to manage the gateway. This was just a way of enriching themselves as was evident in the Janneh commission.
The Jammeh government totally destroyed Gamtel/Gamcel and brought these companies to near bankruptcy whilst some individuals including some senior Gamtel officials went away with millions of dollar. They destroyed what Sir Dawda built for their personal gains.
Then came the Barrow government which totally ignored the plight of Gamtel/Gamcel and instead concentrated on how to work with and build the private operators. Gamtel/Gamcel was not given financial help to pick up the pieces nor were they allowed to take loans and do it themselves. These companies are struggling and government looks the other way. It is only in Gambia that private operators are ahead of the incumbent. I think they deserved to be helped when they are in difficulty looking at all the assistance they did for this country for the past 32 years. Do you know that the building housing the ministry was build by Gamtel and on Gamtel land.