A new trade and investment relation between Taiwan and The Gambia has been signed under the aegis of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).
The deal, which will create immeasurable business opportunities for both countries’ private sectors, took place at the First Taiwan-Gambia Joint Business Councils Meeting and the Signing of Cooperation Agreement between Taiwan’s Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association (CIECA) and the GCCI, on Monday at the Jerma Beach Hotel in Kololi.
“The meeting is the first of its kind between The Gambia and Taiwan in The Gambia,” GCCI’s president Bai Matarr Drammeh said. “The purpose of the meeting is for members of the private sectors of both countries to come together and do business.”
The 15-member delegation from Taiwan, who have various types of businesses, had come with “a very effective team” to The Gambia through the GCCI 2009 Trade Fair to form trade relations, partnerships and linkages such as corporations, ventures, trade and investments.
The GCCI president urged members of The Gambia private sector to learn from Taiwan and take advantage of the business opportunities inherent in the cooperation agreement.
“We are blessed to have Ambassadors from Taiwan who are committed, dedicated to the development of The Gambia,” Mr Drammeh said. “We are lucky to have such ambassadors and cooperation from Taiwan; let’s take advantage of that.”
He also commended The Gambia Ambassador to Taiwan, who, he said, is committed and always ready to take care of Gambians in Taiwan. He said: “I want to encourage all of us to do something with this opportunity.
Taiwanese visitors are here to do business and not as tourists. The delegation is here through the trade fair to do business and to assist The Gambia in trade expansion since The Gambia is a gateway to trade in the sub-region.”
The Gambia's macroeconomic position was amply explained to the Taiwanese potential investors who, from the look of excitement in their faces, are all but interested in the enterprising spirit of the Smiling Coast of Africa.
According to GCCI Chief Executive Officer Mam Cherno Jallow, over the past years The Gambia's economy had been growing by 6.5 % and in 2009 it is expected to grow by about 5% due to the world economic and financial snag, while inflation is said be in the region of 4.5%.
The country's 2008 macroeconomic figures for some of the main sectors of the economy were also featured by the GCCI CEO. According to the paper presented by Mr Jallow, agriculture employs 70% of the Gambia's population and constitutes 33.3 of GDP; services, which include the banks, IT providers, tourism and transportation, contributes 59% to the country's GDP, while industry contributes 7.6 % to the GDP.
As regards employment and the labour force, Mr Jallow said agriculture takes the lion's share of 70% of the country's labour force while industry and services carry 19% and 6 % respectively. Although the services sector contributes 59% to the country's GDP -- more than every other sector, it however employs less labour compared to other sectors such as agriculture and industry.
"Exerting the growth of agriculture is very important," the GCCI CEO said, adding: "It is labour intensive and takes more labour force."
Gross Fixed Investment, Mr Jallow noted, contributes 28% to the country's GDP, although "availability of investment funds is a limiting factor as many investors who want to invest cannot access funds".
"The country has high interest rates," the private sector chief said, adding that as government borrows from the banks, for outlay, the situation leads to tight funds or no funds for local investors and eventually leads to high interest rates.
CORDIAL RELATIONS BUT…
The Gambia and Taiwan have had cordial and fruitful relations and friendship over the years, but there is more room for cooperation between both countries' private sectors as members of the Gambia private sector are also keen to make sure trade and investment flourish in the sub-region, particularly in The Gambia.
"Opportunities will always remain the bridge that will close the gap between The Gambia and Taiwan," said Kebba Njie, Chief Executive Officer of The Gambia's gateway to investment and trade, GIPFZA.
"Our two governments are also making efforts to bring together the two private sectors," the GIFZA boss noted, adding that "there is still room for improvement".
He expatiated: "GIPFZA [the Gambia Investment Promotion and Free Zones Agency] is very much keen in terms of making sure that Taiwan and The Gambia become a strong bond of trade and investments, as we have very shrewd, dynamic business groups in The Gambia."
He added: "There is also partnership between the two private sectors at a low key, so we -- GIPFZA -- have to fuel it or make it a reality."
Mr Njie also told the Taiwanese private sector members that The Gambia, through GIPFZA, has very attractive incentives such as tax holiday of up to five years for investors.
In his remarks on the occasion, the Chairman of the Taiwan Africa Industry Development Association, who is also the leader of the Taiwanese delegation to the GCCI 2009 Trade Fair, Mike Hung, said: "GCCI encouraged us to come to The Gambia and we are going to come here again and again. We have many investments - we can do food, packing machines, IT and other important businesses in the cooperation."
Mr Hung, who is also the president of Mike Hung Products Co. Ltd in Taiwan, said further: "We want to maintain a bilateral trade agreement between The Gambia and Taiwan. This meeting should pave the way for more relations and opportunities for trade and development. We want to encourage more Gambians to visit Taiwan. The future investment of The Gambia is good."
Relations between Taiwan and The Gambia is very close but the business of trade and investments will bring it closer, noted the Taiwanese Ambassador to The Gambia, H.E. Richard Shih, who, together with the Gambian Ambassador to Taiwan, H.E. Maudo Juwara, graced the occasion.
"This country - The Gambia - there is political stability, economic prosperity, great potential; so take advantage of your business positions; try to integrate and mingle with one another to find business opportunities," Ambassador Shih told his compatriots from the private sector in Taiwan.
"There are very successful men and women in The Gambia to interact, integrate and mingle with," he told the 15-member delegation that travelled all the way from Taiwan to The Gambia to witness the GCCI 2009 Trade Fair.
"This is the first Taiwan-Gambia business conference, and it is not the last," the Ambassador noted, saying: "I want to see a very dynamic movement in practice; I want to see the successful cooperation between members of the two private sectors."
The Gambian Ambassador, H.E. Juwara, for his part, said: "Cooperation between the two private sectors should commensurate with the cooperation between the two governments."
Both ambassadors have agreed to support trade promotion between the two countries and private sectors, Ambassador Juwara noted.
"Promoting trade cooperation between the two countries will pave the way for a successful mutual beneficial cooperation of the two private sectors," he said.
"There is prospect and enormous business opportunities between the two private sectors. What we want from Taiwanese business people is their experience and expertise. Taiwan is the 16th largest trading country in the world.
"I would like to invite the talented and able Gambian businessmen and women to take advantage of the business opportunities between the two private sectors and countries.
"I would like Taiwanese business people who are not here to be informed and encouraged to show interest in The Gambia and come and invest."
BY: OSMAN KARGBO