Gambia Investment and Diaspora Outreach Forum Held In Cologne, Germany
Monday, July 16, 2012
The delegation led by the Honourable Minister of Trade, Industry, Employment and Regional Integration (MoTIERI), Kebba S. Touray, met various stakeholders of the German economy and learned about the work ethics that made Germany standout as the backbone of the European political economy.
The delegation also held an interactive investment and outreach forum on 7 July 2012 with members of the Gambian community associations from Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne and other parts of Germany.
In welcoming the guests, the Lord Mayor of the Cologne city district of Lindenthal, Mrs. BlomerFerker, regretted that she knew nothing about The Gambia, but was glad that the forum provided her and other Germans like her the credible chance to know about the Smiling Coast of Africa.
The President of the Gambian German Cultural Association (GCCA) of Cologne, Alhagie Falai Jallow, called on participants to unite and work towards the common good of The Gambia. He thanked the delegation for choosing Cologne as the venue for this important Diaspora outreach gathering.
The Honourable Minister of TIERI, Kebba S. Touray, extended greetings from President Jammeh, the Government and people of The Gambia to the Gambian communities in Germany.
He said the decision to come to Cologne confirmed the importance the government attached on Gambians Overseas.
He recalled that the Foreign Affairs Ministry was renamed Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, and in January 2012, the Diaspora Consultative Forum in Banjul provided space and opportunity to dialogue and formulate formal strategy for the participation of Diaspora Gambians in national development process.
He reminded them of their role as ambassadors of The Gambia in their respective activities and added that one key fundamental prerequisite for achievement was unity.
Minister Touray re-echoed the clarion call of GGCA for solidarity towards the common good, despite the differences in worldview and personalities.
He drew from his experience as former Gambian Ambassador to Spain where he successively convinced 36 different Gambian associations to form a federation.
A similar federation of Gambian Diaspora associations in Germany is being considered with the guidance of the Gambian Embassy in Brussels and the Consul-Generals in Germany.
Other members of The Gambia Government delegation explained the mandates of their various institutions respectively:
GAMBIA INVESTMENT AND EXPORT PROMOTION AGENCY (GIEPA)
The Director of Investment Promotion and Facilitation of the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), Mr. Musa Bah, told the gathering that his institution was set out to be the one stop-shop for domestic and foreign investors, seeking to take advantage of the Gambia’s investment potentials.
He said the priority sectors that The Gambia Government provides incentives include Agriculture, Manufacturing, Energy, Transportation, Mineral Exploitation, Financial Services, Information and Communication Technologies and Tourism and Culture.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GIEPA, MadameFatou Mbenga-Jallow, reminded the participants of the need to liaise with GIEPA in order to get the right professional services in the field of investment and export development.
She revealed that a Standard Office had been created to make sure Gambian products and services met the quality standards for the respective target export markets.
GAMBIA TOURISM BOARD (GT BOARD)
The Director of Marketing of the Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board), Mr. Adama Njie, explained that Tourism contributes 16% to the GDP of The Gambia and the goal was to move the revenue generation-base from US$ 178 million to 250 million and 500 million respectively by the year 2020.
He dwelled on the unique advantages The Gambia offers to holiday makers in terms of proximity to Europe, rich culture, value for money, security, sun, beach, stability, ecotourism and fauna and flora.
The Director General of Gambia Tourism Board, Mr. Benjamin Roberts, announced plans to recapture the German market, as Germans were among the high spenders.
He told the participants that arrangements had been made for the German air service provider, Condor, to provide two-weekly flights between The Gambia and Germany with the hope of increasing the frequency over time.
The lack of adequate and reliable air services to The Gambia had been one of the reasons discouraging German holiday makers, despite the proximity advantage, said Mr Roberts.
Mr. Roberts also talked about the need to sanitise the tourism industry and address the challenges raised by Diaspora Gambians who once invested in The Gambia tourism industry or facilitated group travels to The Gambia.
In the area of diversification to include cultural and event-tourism with sustainable pull effects, the Director of International Marketing at the GT Board London office, Madame Ida Jeng-Njie, explained how the Roots Homecoming and the Kanilai International Festivals served key pillars of marketing Gambia’s cultural tourism.
She added that Gambian culinary diversity would be promoted through an annual food festival. Additional festivals would be institutionalised with the approval of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, as part of the cultural development and event-tourism marketing drive.
The role of Gambians in Germany in supporting the aggressive marketing of Destination Gambia was also discussed. Adding his voice to the diversification drive and Diaspora involvement in the marketing, the Assistant Secretary General of the Gambian-German Cultural Association (GGCA), Prince Bubacarr AminataSankanu, said, as a film industry practitioner, he could mainly use his authentic Gambian film and film-related projects to seriously market The Gambia’s Cultural Diplomacy, Tourism and General Investment Promotion in a cost-effective manner without wastage.
He explained how the UAE (Dubai Studio City, annual Dubai Filmfest, Abu Dhabi Filmfest, movie productions), Qatar (Sunderance, Dohar), Los Angeles (Hollywood), South Africa, Shanghai and other tourism hotspots secured prominent positions on the global tourism maps through the effective development of their respective film industries with crowd-pulling effects.
“If people don’t come for the classic sun and beach, they will come for the food, culture, location, dress codes, traditions, languages, festivals, peoples, biodiversity and landscapes they see in the authentic festivals and movies,” he said.
The officials of the Gambia Tourism Board expressed interest in taking advantage of this option in eventual sustainable collaboration with Prince Bubacarr AminataSankanu.
SOCIAL SECURITY AND HOUSING FINANCE CORPORATION (SSHFC)
The Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) was represented by its Director of Public Relations, Mr. Raymond A.K. Njie, and Senior Estates Manager, Mr. Alhagie Fatty.
Mr. Raymond A.K. Nije told the participants that retirement was a fact of life and one would not have the energy and the luck to earn well at a certain age. He encouraged them to think of homecoming and to take advantage of the retirement planning packages of the SSHFC to complement the ones they already had in Germany.
He also talked about the Corporate Social Investments of the SSHFC in the areas of Housing, Health, Agriculture, Education and Tourism, as deliberate inclination to shift away from a hand-out philosophy to a developmental approach with empowerment and sustainability.
For his part, the Senior Estates Manager, Alhagie Fatty, reviewed the previous housing projects of the SSHFC. He also explained the ongoing housing schemes in Jabang, Tujereng and Brikama Jamisa that Diaspora Gambians could benefit from.
Mr. Fatty said the criteria for allocations were, Gambian nationality, income, need and attendance of an interviews. Since many Diaspora Gambians would not be able to appear in person for interviews, he said the SSHFC would address this issue appropriately. Another concern of the participants was the nationality question.
Some of the Diaspora Gambians who would be interested in SSHFC housings had either dual nationalities or renounced their Gambian ones.
Both Mr. Raymond A.K. Njie and Fatty referred to the saying that “no matter how long a stick stays in water, it will never turn into a crocodile”. Applicants would be asked to provide at least a document that they are Gambians by birth or otherwise as required by Law.
The two gentlemen told the community members that the SSHFC would respond to the demands by considering the development of a Diaspora Village as part of its next estate projects.
GAMBIA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY (GCCI)
The Manager of Business Development of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and industry (GCCI), Madame SarataKonateh, talked about the new initiative to promote “MADE IN THE GAMBIA” brand for economic diversification, domestic consumption and export.
Diaspora Gambians disclosed that there was a ready market for authentic ‘Made In The Gambia’ products in Germany, but the issues of quality, finishing, standards, packaging, timely delivery and appropriate marketing should be addressed with priority attention.
The GIEPA CEO Madame Mbega-Jallow, explained the GIEPA, as the statutory body in charge of working with the private sector to develop and export “Made In The Gambia,” would work with the GCCI and the Gambia Standard Office to ensure that Gambian products and services were exported according to the due quality standards. She reminded participants of the investment opportunities in the value chains of “Made In The Gambia” products and services.
The presentations were followed by interactive question-and-answer sessions and networking. Participants promised to stay in touch, so as to follow-up on the issues raised during the deliberations.
The members of the Gambian-German Diaspora communities in attendance requested the Trade Minister and head of the delegation, Honourable Kebba S. Touray, to return their greetings to President Jammeh, the Government and the people of The Gambia on their behalf.
The forum was chaired by The Gambian Ambassador accredited to Germany, His Excellency .