Monday, October 3

Senegambia traders lament cross-border challenge, gov’t reacts

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The Gambia and Senegal have signed multiple trade agreements and bilateral relations but traders continue to register challenges despite some privileges offered.

The Point visited The Farafenni and Amdalai border posts to engage traders on the difficulties faced in cross border challenges.

Speaking to this medium, Abdou Chuba, a Gambian driver, said drivers are so frustrated at the Senegalese borders, saying even inside Senegal they normally pay large amounts to their custom officers.

“Our permit used to be valid for only 10 days and if expired, we normally meet the Chief Customs Officer where ever he might be to renew our permit. The Senegalese vehicles are not disturbed in The Gambia and they normally have a permit that lasts for months without facing any difficulties in the Gambia.”

He called on The Gambia government to engage the Senegalese authorities in order to promote fairness among traders. He said “the Senegalese cannot be enjoying on our soil with extreme freedom while we suffer in their hands,” Chuba said.

Mustapha Taal, a Senegalese driver, explained the difficulties entering Gambian soil, saying it’s too much and needs urgent redress. Amongst the first concerns he raised is the issue of multiple checkpoints. He said it’s disturbing them, claiming such doesn’t exist anymore in Senegal.

“At a time when Senegal was having multiple checkpoints, we felt bad about the situation and then protested for the government to reduce them, which they did. Therefore the Senegalese government should call for dialogue, because at every checkpoint, we pay some money to the security officers,” Mr. Taal stated.

“Amongst a host of issues we faced,” he said, “included high tariffs” when crossing the Senegambia Bridge, a bridge constructed to facilitate trade among West African countries. “Could you imagine we always pay huge money to cross the Gambian bridge? We pay per ton 250 CFA.”

Fatou Sarr, a Gambian trader confirmed that the Gambia has more checkpoints than Senegal, adding both security officers normally asked them for monies after realising they have stuff to cross with.

“I think the Gambia government is not looking into the issue of traders, especially the women. They should be visiting their policies and engage traders on the difficulties we face. We want them to act as per the trade agreements in order to avoid difficulties.”

Lamin Dampha, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade, said he wasn’t aware of the difficulties faced by Gambian traders, saying ECOWAS stay is 90 days and it doesn’t require a permit as long as the person has not committed any crime.

“If Senegal is allowing them for only 10 days, then we will look into that because we have a bilateral trade agreement with Senegal. In diplomacy, what I offer you, I also expect a similar one.”

Dwelling on multiple checkpoints, he said that should only be for security reasons and there shouldn’t be hurdles that will affect the trade flow. He added that the outcome is always bad whenever it happens because it increases the trade cost unnecessarily.

“We used to complain that Senegal has many checkpoints but it seems the opposite now. We have not received any formal complaint from Senegalese but we will look into it and engage the police and the army. Those that are not key for security reasons, we will negotiate to be reduced.”

Clarifying the charges at the Senegambia Bridge, PS Dampha explained that they are not in charge of the charges at the bridge. “The bridge has facilitated trade from one part of Senegal to the other because they no more spend days crossing the country. The bridge is an infrastructure and with time it will require maintenance. We must be able to generate the resources now so that we wouldn’t have problems in the future.”