By Ndey Sowe
The Government of The Gambia has promised to continue to carry out the necessary policy and institutional reforms, remove obstacles and create opportunities for the diaspora to engage in economic development.
“My government will continue to carry out the necessary policy and institutional reforms, remove obstacles and create opportunities for the diaspora to engage in economic development,” said Baboucar Ousmaila Joof, the Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment (MoTIE) while speaking on behalf of President Adama Barrow.
This disclosure was made by Baboucar Ousmaila Joof on Saturday, 14th January, 2023, during the Sixth Stake in the Nation Forum (SNF6), organised by the Migration and Sustainable Development in The Gambia (MSDG) project held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre (SDKJ-ICC) and the theme for the event was: “Supporting Private Action for Public Benefit”.
“My government also believes that with credible reforms, we would be able to nurture innovation, promote responsible business, social enterprise, inclusive economy, and sustainable development,” Mr Joof underscored.
50 people were appointed and sponsored as Diaspora Fellows, through the MSDG Diaspora Development Fund. The MSDG also provided support that empowers women, youths and rural communities. Mr Joof indicated that the roll call of diaspora fellows includes some of the most experienced Gambian professionals in the diaspora, and recent returnees, adding that the fellows recognise the power of collective action and the pooling of resources as a mechanism to achieving expanded and enhanced development results.
The Gambia Diaspora Strategy was launched at the First Stake in the Nation Forum on 13th January 2018 and also a creation of a Diaspora Development Fund (DDF). On 10 December 2018, the United Nations adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which incorporated similar proposals for DDF.
“It is my honour to formally announce the establishment of a ‘Diaspora Advice Desk’ at the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA). The diaspora desk shall seek to be a one-stop-shop for advice, guidance, signposting and facilitation for Gambian diaspora investors and entrepreneurs,” Mr Jood announced.
Seedy Keita, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affair, said the theme for this year’s forum could not be more apt. He said it captures the spirit of individual contribution of the diaspora community to the public good of every Gambian.
“Through their remittances and other informal transfers, the diaspora has demonstrated their commitment to invest in the local economy. We have the policies, the strategies, the political will, the technical expertise and the patriotic motivation to make The Gambia a world leader in diaspora finance,” Mr Keita emphasised.
Dr. Veronica P.S. Njie, Associate Professor of Nursing, University of Maryland, Baltimore Diaspora and the Co-Founder of the Gambia Diaspora Experts Initiative (GDEI,) said moving forward, “we need intellectual transformation”, laws and institutional policies “must” be enforced, and people incentivised if “we” want successful engagement with diaspora Gambians to address public needs.
“We cannot have diaspora engagement that contributes to national development without being included at the decision-making table”, she stressed. We can progress from visionary stance to visionary strategies utilising best practices and lessons learnt, creating enabling environments, engendering trusting relationships, and inclusivity to actualise Gambia’s full potentials.
The government of The Gambia has declared the Gambian Diaspora as the 8th Region of the Gambia and created a diaspora directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Claudiana Cole, Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, said the pronouncement of the Gambian Diaspora as the 8th Region of The Gambia has demonstrated their commitment to the diaspora, considering them as immense potential to contribute to the development of the country.
“Diaspora can and has been playing an important role in the economic development of this country although mostly limited to sending remittances,” Mrs Cole reflected.
Professor Gibril Faal, Director of MSDG project, said that the remittances that the diaspora sent do not subtract and diminish the sender but they improve and consolidates all. Prof. Faal added that Gambians in the diaspora are an addition to our socio-economic development.
SNF, which is mandated as an annual consultative event in The Gambian Diaspora Strategy and Gambia National Development Plan brings diaspora groups together to engage with government ministries, departments an agency, as well as NGOs and CSOs, on a wide range of development matter to contribute towards a formal policy, as well as strategic, thematic and sectorial consultations initiative by different government and quasi-government institutions.