Monday, February 21, 2011

National Assembly seeks over $14 million from donors; gets less than $1 million

The National Assembly of The Gambia is currently seeking, from both local and international donors, an amount of $14,388,097 representing 55% of the total amount of $26,253,812 that they need to finance the ‘Strategic Investment and Development Plan of the National Assembly 2009 – 2014’.

The other 45% is to be financed by the government of The Gambia.

In other to raise funds to finance this five year programme, the National Assembly on Wednesday held an official resource mobilization, dubbed donors’ roundtable conference, at Kairaba Beach Hotel, geared towards soliciting the support of donors and development partners in implementing the first ever Strategic Investment and Development Plan of the National Assembly.

However, the total financial pledge that was made public at the occasion was less than $1 million, most of which is from local institutions and individuals. This is due to the fact whilst there are many international donors, in the country, who work in the field of governance, the number of donors working specially on the issue of parliamentary development is limited. Also, majority of these donors are bilateral donors who may or may not be active in promoting good governance in The Gambia.

Delivering the keynote address on behalf of the President, the Vice President, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, said the government has always been fully committed for a vibrant, robust and pro-active legislative that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of the Gambian people.

Though no international donors, present at the occasion, made any significant pledge, the Vice President applauded them saying “your support and contribution in virtually all the sectors of The Gambia’s economy, including notably, the support you give or, are willing to additionally give towards strengthening legislature and governance, has our recognition.”

The VP said the Investment and Development Plan is one that sums up in a single documentation the strategic direction that the government wish to follow, to promote lasting excellence in parliamentary functions and capabilities.

“The development of such a Strategic Plan, which is by our standard, holistic and reflective of our needs, is therefore very important. It is also very timely in that its implementation will become an added impetus to the huge capital investments that my Government has undertaken in recent times for the National Assembly,” she said, adding: “The most notable example here is, the ongoing construction of a multi-million dalasi, state-of-the-art National Assembly complex in the city of Banjul. This complex, when completed will be second-to-none in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

She disclosed that the government has demonstrated attention to the National Assembly by effecting an increase in budgetary allocation to the National Assembly from D3 million in 1996 to around D40 million as at January, 2011.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, said the total cost of the Strategic Development and Investment Plan, which is over $26 million, includes the building and resourcing of new-state-of-the art National Assembly, to which the government of The Gambia has already provided funds for up to $10 million.


At the end of the programme, some local institutions and individuals has pledged in cash and kind including capacity building programmes and technical services to the National Assembly. The pledged was open by Minister of Justice, Edu Gomez, who pledges D5000, though he is yet to fulfilled a D10,000 pledged he made to the Young Journalist Association of the Gambia since the first quarter of 2010.

The Gambia Bankers Association, pledges D500, 000; Social Security and Housing Finance Cooperation (SSHFC) D300, 000; National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) D500, 000; Action Aid - The Gambia D100, 000; Pro-Poor Advocacy Group pledges capacity building package for the Parliamentarians for the next five years to the tune of D500, 000.

Mass Axi Gai, Gambia’s Ambassador to Guinea Bissau pledges D2000; KMC Mayor Yankuba Colley D2000 and Matarr Baldeh of Education for All Initiative pledges to give D1000 annually for five years.

The National Assembly’s five years Investment Plan, which if fully funded, is expected to strengthening the capacity of the National Assembly to deliver its core functions and to ensure that legislations proposed by the government are scrutinized in a transparent manner.

'Public' rejects NAWEC’s proposed tariffs increment

Most of the people at PURA’s Public Hearing held on Saturday at Father Farrell Hall in Westfield vehemently condemned the proposed tariff increase by National Water and Electricity Company Limited (NAWEC), the sole provider of electricity, water and sewerage services in The Gambia.

The Public Hearing, which was organized by the Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), was meant to obtain public comment on an application that they (PURA) received from NAWEC to increase the current tariffs of electricity, water and sewerage services.

“PURA received an application from NAWEC on 27th December 2010 for an increase in electricity, water and sewerage tariffs,” said Mr Maleh Saine, Officer-In-Charge of PURA.

He explained that PURA Act 2001 and the Electricity Act 2005 mandated PURA to consult with all stakeholders on matter of such importance and sensitivity that affect both the operator and the consumer. “Initial consultations have also been held with Central Government, industrial and commercial consumers,” he said.

Mr Saine said PURA is mandated specifically under Section 18 of the Electricity Act 2005 which states that “the Authority may in accordance with the provisions of the Regulatory Authority Act determines, review, approve, modify or refuse the tariff and the terms and conditions of the service provided by licensees.”

“Through hearing your views it will enable us to arrive at a proper decision in ensuring that we have available, affordable and accessible services in respect of electricity water and sewerage services,” said Mr Dodou Bammy Jagne, the Chairman of PURA Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Alhagie Jallow, Finance Director of NAWEC, said the company is proposing certain prices for the different services; for Greater Banjul Area (GBA) “we are proposing 36% increment for electricity, 26% for water, and 27% for sewerage.” He said the objective of NAWEC is to provide affordable electricity, water and sewerage services to Gambian peoples. “We know if we are to charge very high prices, under normal circumstance, it will not be affordable, and the objective of providing these basic services is to make it available and affordable to the people who are going to use them,” he explained.

When the Moderator of the occasion, Mr Peter Gomez, opened the floor for comments and questions relevant to the proposed tariff increase from the people, one speaker after the other strongly condemned the tariffs increment, but NAWEC said they are left with no other option given the ever increasing cost of both light and heavy fuel and lubricants, increasing cost of energy purchased from the Intermittent Power Producer (IPP), and high of cost labour and maintenance.

NAWEC officials said if the company is to remain in operation, they have to increase the tariff because “the current revenue base of the company is not able to sustain the company’s operational obligations resulting them to short term borrowing from commercial banks at exorbitant cost.”

Later on, as the program was coming to an end, the Moderator announced that those who are in support of the proposed tariff increase to raise their hand, but unfortunately, only two people raised their hands in support of the increment.

The comments and concerns of the people are to be incorporated for due consideration in accordance with Section 20(C) of the Electricity Act in making a final determination.

The Public Hearing is the sixth of the nine steps that PURA is to take before final tariffs come into effect.

However, shortly after the Hearing many people who spoke to Marketplace said that NAWEC has already reached a decision to increase the tariff, “so whether the people agree to it or not it will be increased, this is just a formality”, Ousman Gibba said. “I know they will increase, but if they do that it is going to affect average Gambians, because many people are already struggling to pay for the current tariff as it is,” said Demba Jarju.

The last three steps before the new tariffs come into force is for PURA to take a decision with regard to the increment, publish the new tariff, and finally the tariff come into force.

Given the fact that the proposed tariffs increment was received with a strong condemnation from the general public will PURA give NAWEC the go ahead to increase the tariffs?

Gambia gov’t orders civil servants to open salary account

The government of The Gambia, through the directorate of National Treasury on Monday issued a public statement urging all civil servants within the Greater Banjul Area from grade 2 of the government integrate and above to open a salary account, “through which their salaries will be paid.”

“This is in line with The Gambia government’s financial management reform objectives, and which are riding on a platform of efficient and effective services delivery,” the statement says.

“All civil servants who comply with this requirement are required to submit their account details to their respective accounts sections to effect the necessary changes on the government payroll,” the statement added.

According to the statement, this move will help to expedite the salary payment process, reduce the risk of cashier handling bulk cash, as well as providing civil servants the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of banking.

However, the statement did not indicate any deadline for opening the account, and it is not clear whether there is any repercussion for those civil servant who are eligible but do not open.

GTBank in ‘duel’ with former employee over D500,000 wrongful termination claim

Guaranty Trust Bank has continued to contest a D500,000 claim by its former employee Mam Nabou Sambou, who has sued the bank to court for wrongful termination of her services.

Mam-Nabou Samba, who was contracted to work for GTBank as transaction officer, is claiming special damages of D500,000 general damages for breach of contract, interest, and cost.

The ongoing trial between the plaintiff and the defendant proceeded on 7 February at the Industrial Tribunal in the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court before Magistrate Dayoh Small Dago with the testimony of one Neneh Njie, a bank official at GTBank.

Asked by the defence lawyer Christopher C.E. Mene to explain when and how appraisal are done in the bank, since on the evidence of the plaintiff, her immediate boss is responsible for her appraisal; Neneh Njie, who claimed to be the immediate boss of the plaintiff, denied the point, saying that in GTB, appraisals are done every June by members of the bank.

“It is a process and in that process the appraisee, appraiser, a group head, MD, and an appraisal committee are involved,” Mrs Njie said, adding: “In this process, my recommendation is not the final stage but part of the process.”

At that juncture, reports were tendered by the defence to the witness to confirm whether they were the appraisal reports on the plaintiff, but Ms Njie said she would not call those reports appraisal reports since some of the exhibits were not complete.

The report on exhibit H, she said, stopped only at where she made her comments on her own evaluation of the plaintiff’s performance but had not covered up to where the final stage would end.

After the evidence of the witness, the case was adjourned until 15 February 2011.

Guaranty Trust Bank, through its Orange Rules, is committed to the growth of the individual and societal capital, the bank’s corporate statement states, saying the rules include simplicity, professionalism, service, friendliness, excellence, trustworthiness, social responsibility and innovation.

Ministry of Economic Planning changes as government reshuffled the cabinet

Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, which was created last year, is being reconstituted and brought under the Ministry of Finance as departments while the Ministry of Finance is re-named Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the government announced.

This development comes as the President of the country; Yahya AJJ Jammeh reshuffled the cabinet. A news released from the office of the President stated that “His Excellency The President of the Republic of The Gambia Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J Jammeh, acting under the provision of section 71 (1) and 71 (3) respectively, of the Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia has effected a Cabinet Re-shuffle.”

Minister of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, Hon. Mambury Njie, has been re-assigned to the Ministry of Finance as Minister, while Minister of Finance, Hon. Abdou Kolley, re-assigned to the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment as Minister.

In the same vein Hon. Yusupha Kah, Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment has been re-assigned to the Ministry of Works, Construction and Infrastructure, which was under the president’s office, as Minister.

The release urges all Ministers are urged to live up to expectations of their portfolio so “as to ensure maximum delivery of the national development programs set in Government’s Vision 2020 Blueprint, as time is ticking fast.”

“Therefore, all are reminded that there will be no room for complacency. Ministers are however assured of the executive’s maximum support to ensure that we collectively achieve our development aspirations,” the release stated.

Businesswomen gearing up to tap the int’l market

Gambian businesswomen are setting up a cluster that will bring businesses, particularly women businesses that are export-ready, to export to the international market, the American market in particular.

“This cluster will help us come together, put our resources and expertise together to access the international market,” said Amie Ceesay-Jaiteh, the proprietor and general manager of C J Enterprise, a company mainly involved in the business of exporting foodstuff (mostly fish) to the UK and America. She opined that when this cluster is ready there will be much foreign exchange coming into the country.

“Exports make the economy more viable,” she said, adding “the American Embassy in the Gambia is helping us in that regard; they are encouraging us to export more into the US market.”

With many years experience in exporting, Amie said the American market is huge, so when exporting there normally they will ask for about 4-5 containers, which is very difficult for individual businesses in The Gambia to provide but with such a cluster, “we can put together our resources and expertise to export in larger volume”, and take advantage of such a huge market.

Challenges of exporting

Amie recounts some challenges she encounter in exporting: “Actually there are challenges because we take fish abroad most of the time that it is difficult. Sometimes we take the fish to Europe, supply to the customers and some of them don’t pay on time. Sometimes you are there for a short period, say, two weeks. Some of them cannot gather your money and give it to you before you leave; they ask you to go, then they will transfer the money to you. You have to be calling them to send the money. That sometimes holds us back.”

Asked how easy it is be exporting, Amie said: “I would not say it is easy because before you venture into export you need to get the market, you need to go and find your customers to be able to sell your products. So if you don’t have the market it is difficult to venture into it. If you see me doing it and you think you can also do it as well, you should have it in mind that it involves a whole lot of things being put in place. You have to get customers who are ready to buy from you anywhere you want to export to.

“Before venturing into business you have to do research and market feasibility study to see what product you would be interested in selling. If you want to be an exporter it is even worth travelling abroad just to look for a market; you also have to go to the internet and search for wholesalers.”

The proprietor of CJ enterprise said exporting fish and agricultural products is something that she find “very interesting”. “I was running my own restaurant after I returned from UK where I studied Tourism and Hotel Management and Catering,” she said.

Mrs Ceesay-Jaiteh continued: “The time I was operating the restaurant I used to go to the market to buy fish and vegetables to sell in the restaurant; I used to meet fishmongers and vegetable sellers; I saw the constraints they were facing at that time. For instance, when you want to buy tomatoes in the market you discover there are abundant tomatoes at some point because they are all harvested together at a time, the same thing holds true of other vegetables. The market also used to be flooded with fish sometimes.

“So I use to think of ways of helping these people; incidentally when I went to UK, somebody approached me and said they needed fish in their shop, so I started buying fish and packing them in suitcases for export to the UK, until they made a law in Europe that we have to pack them properly. So we started air-freighting the fish, but we were doing it through establishments that had export permit. As the demand increased, we started exporting in containers. We started with 20-foot containers, but now we use 40-foot containers because the demand is increasing by the day.”

Advice to Gambians

At the moment “things are very hard”, businesses are experiencing very difficult times globally. When things are difficult, “I think Gambians should help each other; if a Gambian is in business, let’s support the person”. Amie opined that this is the only way the country can move forward and improve our lives.

She called on all and sundry to support Gambian businesses because Gambians are going into lots of businesses that would have been dominated by foreigners. Gambians are in supermarkets, minimarkets, import and export, so let us support each other. If a Gambian makes money, it stays in the country; it makes the economy more viable.

For example, she said, there is a Nigerian shop in London, Nigerians are so proud of going to that shop to buy instead of going to other shops; they will support their fellow Nigerians. So let’s do that - look at each other and support each other. That will take us from this level and probably it might reduce poverty because Gambians will be investing more in The Gambia and invest more in their families and that will lead to the growth of the economy. That is something that we are lacking, let’s give that support to each other.

Gambia’s GDP growth slows down

The growth of The Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the total monetary value of all goods and services produced domestically in the country over a specified period, has drop from 6.3 per cent in 2008 to 5.6 percent in 2009. GDP includes income earned domestically by foreigners, but does not include income earned by domestic residents on foreign ground.

The growth of GDP from one period to another is an indication of how healthy the country's economy is.

The latest report of the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG), explained that the contraction in the country’s GDP growth “was due to the decline in the growth of agricultural output and the impact of global economic crisis”. “However, this growth rate was higher than the International Monetary Fund revised forecast of output growth of the world economy, which is -0.8 per cent and 1.6 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa in particular,” the report states.

The CBG report, which was recently presented to the National Assembly, by the Governor of Central Bank of The Gambia, Amadou Colley, noted that the Macroeconomics performance in The Gambia was solid in the past three years, evidenced by GDP growth rates of 6.0 per cent in 2007, 6.3 per cent in 2008 and 5.6 per cent in 2009.

“These growth rates are also within the 6 – 7 per cent range commonly used as a marker, if a country is to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by 2015. Given the population growth rate of 2.8 per cent in 2007, average per capita growth for the past three years (2007 – 2009) was 3.2 per cent,” the report noted.

The Gambia has maintained macroeconomic stability amidst the global economic crisis with a flexible monetary policy, implementation of structural reforms and technical and financial support from development partners.

Growth in agriculture

The report indicated that agriculture, which is the mainstay of The Gambia economy, employing about 60 – 70 per cent of the workforce, grew on average by 6.2 per cent between 2001 and 2009. “Low domestic production against the backdrop of myriad of factors including low agricultural technology, lack of inputs, and challenges involve in marketing the produce implies that the agricultural sector has not been able to address the food needs of county. With a population growth of 2.8 per cent, average agricultural GDP growth was only 3.4 per cent,” it says.

Food inflation decelerates

Food consumer price inflation declined markedly from 8.6 per cent at end-December 2008 to 2.9 per cent in December 2009, attributable to the removal of import duties on some basic food items, and also enhanced supply.

The report observed that at the beginning of 2009, food consumer price inflation was 8.8 per cent. It decline to 8.3 per cent in March, 6.7 per cent June, as well as 2.7 per cent in September, before edging up slightly to 2.9 per cent in December 2009.

Non-food inflation

Non-food consumer price inflation, which was at 4.7 per cent in January 2009, has increased slightly to 4.8 per cent at end-March before declining to 3.9 per cent in June and 1.9 per cent in September 2009. “Non-food inflation rose gradually to 2.8 per cent in December 2009 albeit lower than 4.4 percent recorded the same period last year,” the report says

SSHFC to roll out more homes for Gambians

Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) has revealed plans to roll out more housing projects in Tujereng, Jabang and Brikama Jamisa.

Corporation has been providing affordable housing for thousands of Gambians through the numerous housing projects its housing finance fund is executing.

Some of its housing projects executed are the Bakoteh project, the Kanifing project and the Brusubi project.

The Bakoteh project provided 200 housing units of two and three bedroom houses that were allocated to Gambians under a mortgage arrangement of 25 years, though the period of the arrangement, which started in 1985, has elapsed.

Under the Kanifing project, 754 properties were also given under mortgage arrangement on a 25-year term. All the three phases of the Brusubi project provided close to 3000 housing units, which were also allocated to Gambians.

“Currently we are working on housing projects in Tujereng, Jabang and in Brikama Jamisa,” the Corporation’s Estate Manager Alhagie Fatty, said.

The Tujereng, Jabang and Brikama projects, whose works are ongoing, will collectively provide about 3000 properties, says Mr Fatty.

Land banking

As part of its strategy to decentralize its operations to other parts of the country, which is in line with the government’s Vision 2010 blueprint, the Corporation has embarked on land banking across the length and breadth of the country.

“We are extending our tentacles to other parts of the country,” Mr Fatty said. “We have already banked 19 sites and within few months’ time will be adding two more sites to make it 21 sites across the country - in all the growth centres for that matter - in cognizance of the fact that land is a scarce resource; so it is ideal that we start banking it now for our future uses.

“We are doing all these to close the gap of housing as this is the only avenue that some people can have access to housing, especially those within the low-income bracket, because if they should go to the open market, prices are high there, with arrangement they cannot satisfy. Most of the private real estate companies often ask for one-off payment or an installment payment, which many people cannot afford. In our own case, you put a deposit of 20% of the cost and then the balance we allow you to pay over the period of time.”

The SSSHFC housing scheme has benefited a lot of Gambians, especially owing to the manner and conditions the property are mortgaged to them. “The housing projects have benefited a lot of Gambians because when you look at Kanifing and Bakoteh very closely, likewise all projects that we have executed, you will definitely find people there who obviously if they were allowed to compete in the open market would find it difficult to own property in this country,” Mr Fatty said.

It is not only property owners who benefit from the Corporation’s housing projects but also the satellite communities around those areas, because whenever the corporation does a project, it also provide essential amenities in the area, which benefit all those living there, and contribute to making the property appreciable.

“When we bring road there, we bring electricity there, and we bring water, to help the people in the area,” he added, saying: “Our success stories include Brusubi. Those of you who know Brusubi in those days will definitely know that it is the Social Security project scheme in Brusubi that has turned things around in that area, and the coastal road that was built by the government contributed a lot to enhancing those areas as well.”

He reiterated: “The Brikama, Jabang and Tujereng projects will follow the same trend. The moment those projects are fully operational, people will derive lot of gains from those projects, not only the prospective property owners but also people who live around those areas, because they will have their properties upgraded in terms of value.”

Criteria for land allocation

SSHFC has criteria in place in allocating land cardinal among them is citizenship; that is being a Gambian national.

“In a nutshell the rest is based on need and affordability,” Mr Fatty said. In assessing your need, we try to be sure that you don’t own a property within the Greater Banjul Area and also verify whether you are really in rental property and in congested family dwelling. We also look at your family size and consider your living status in the Greater Banjul Area.

“On affordability, we make sure that you are in gainful employment. It does not necessary mean you have to be in the civil service, but you must be doing something from where you earn your living, whether in business or whatever, in order to be able to demonstrate that you can pay the down payment when we allocate you a property as well as to be able to pay the monthly mortgage fee and also develop the land. This is because we don’t want to give you a land and it continues to lie fallow for the rest of your life. So obviously we make sure that you have the capability to develop it. We determine that by checking whether you have access to bank loan, access to loan from your employer, and whether you have savings. Then we look at your status; that is the total family income - your monthly salary, your wife’s monthly salary, whether you have kids who are earning and how much they earn at the end of the month; we look at all these to judge your affordability.”

Clarification on costing

The Corporation also considers the cost of providing amenities in an area in pricing the property they mortgage to interested citizens.

Factors mainly consider include bringing basic amenities, such as electricity, road, and portable water, to an estate, which cost the Corporation a lot.

“When we acquire the land we naturally do the infrastructure. Normally these lands are virgin land and they are far from social amenities and other services. We therefore make sure that we use our own resources to bring the services over there; that is water, electricity and road. We make sure that we really facilitate the water distribution network, distribute electricity across the estate to the doorsteps of all the people there, and also the road network, we make sure that we do the road network to standard,” Mr Fatty said.

He continued: “When you go to Brusubi you see a network of tarred road there; all these things cost money and also when there is an issue of compensation, we foot the bill these are also other expenditure we incur.

“So, at the end of the day, these are the expenditures that we look at closely and add a little margin to it, to be able to arrive at the price that we charge for a plot. We add a margin there because this is an ongoing process; so without any margin we will not be able to continue and replicate what we are doing so that those who are on the queue can have property from the SSHFC as well.”

Takaful to improve its model, hit the market with ground-breaking initiatives

Takaful Gambia Limited is poised to further improve on its operations and introduce innovative and ground-breaking initiatives after a-two member delegation of the company returned from Sudan, the father of Islamic insurance in the world, where they were exposed to improved ways of Islamic insurance.

The Managing Director and Head of Operations of Takaful, Mr. Momodou Joof, and Mr. Adama Marong respectively recently returned to Banjul after a two week working visit to Shiekan Insurance and Reinsurance Company Limited in Sudan. The aim of the visit, among other things, was to familiarize themselves with the operations of the company and to learn best practices from them so as to replicate it in The Gambia in order to take Takaful’s operations a notch-higher.

“We had learnt a great deal of weight to improve on our model and we promised our participants and the whole country at large that we are coming to apply a little bit of changes into our model to make it more transparent, more viable and more profitable,” the Managing Director said. “I cannot reveal everything to you at this point but I can tell you we are looking at a possibility where even the board of the company will include representative of the clients, the participants who gave us their money, so that they know how much we are making, what we are doing, and also to know our mission and vision.”

He continued: “Again as part of the changes to the model, we are saying not only those who do not suffer accident in the year will benefit from the profit of the company. As Islamic insurance belongs to the policyholders, those who insured with us, when that is the case if there is any profit generated it must reach everybody whether you suffered an accident or not in the year, because it was not self designed for you to get involved in an accident. Thus, profit generated by the company in 2011 will be distributed to all our policyholders even those who suffered losses during the period will still be invited to participate to the profit that we generated.”

Mr Joof said his three-year old company is coming up in a greater grand style to prove to “this nation that Islam has it all” and that the beauty can only be found best in it.

Products to roll out

The two-week visit to Sudan, which was fully funded by Shiekan Insurance and Reinsurance Company Limited - there host in Sudan, serves as a morale booster for Takaful as the management has revealed plans to inject new policies in addition to the existing ones “in order to make sure that we cover more people”.

Takaful MD said: “Among the things that we had learnt from that ‘mature market’ is that if we limited our self to providing the usual classes of insurance like motor insurance, general accident, fire insurance etc, we are only addressing the wealthy members of the society, those that are rich enough to think of insurance. So we have to think of ways to actually consider how to operate in such a way that we accommodate SMEs, those poor members of the society who are doing business but at a very low scale, how to reduce our premium and give them cover that will benefit them.

Now we are coming with policies that will make it possible for us to cover every cadre of the society including the poor members. So now we are not only leaving it to that traditional system where only the rich can afford insurance, we want to bring it as low as covering the poor members of the society.”

He disclosed that they are also looking at the possibility of coming up with an agricultural insurance policy. Agriculture has been a key issue of attention to the government, but unfortunately there is no insurance policy to back it up, now Takaful Gambia is looking into the possibility of coming with a policy on agricultural insurance in order to make farming a more sustainable and lucrative venture.

Mr. Joof, who recently served as a facilitator to the ‘regional course on rudiments of Islamic banking’ organized by West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management and held Lagos, Nigeria, said: “We will not also relent in our endeavor to make sure that we are not limited to Gambia, this is the first Islamic insurance company to register in West Africa and we must make sure that we give the market all that they need. We are even looking at the establishment of a live section, where we will cover live insurance. We are also looking into the possibility of expanding out of our national territory; these are all part of our plans.”

More profit to distribute

Takaful is the first insurance company in The Gambia to pioneer the process of profit sharing at the end of the term. At the end of 2008 there was no profit for the company to distribute, as promised, to its clients, due to obvious reason that they started operations in that year and had many establishment expenses. In 2009 the company distributed over D2 million to its policyholders. “So we are very happy to say that we had delivered in 2009. Since inception, we promised the people, we promised the market that this concept of Islamic insurance is a very fair concept whereby returns or profits generated by the company belongs to those who provided the capital, the insures,” said Mr. Joof, adding that apart from the D2 million distributed to the policyholders, the company also distributed ‘Zakat’, alms, between 8 high schools as part of its corporate social responsibility. He said: “Though we are yet to distribute the profit for 2010, I can certainly tell you that it will be higher than the D2 million and we are working hard to pay it earlier this year.”

Commenting on their trip, Adama Marong, Head of Operations, said Sudan is where Islamic insurance started in the whole world, “so we feel it necessary that if you want to do what is correct you have to go to the root that is why we visited Sudan”. “Upon our arrival there we found out that Islamic insurance is doing well there in fact the whole system there is Islamic financing. We visited many places there including their refinery, and the national insurance company that is owned by the government,” he said.

He said the visit to Sudan has further enhanced and deepen their knowledge of Islamic insurance. “We had copied best practices from them, in terms of their operations, policies and the like, that we are going to replicate in the Gambia. You know the practice of insurance is such that it’s not static, it should be flexible. We have come with policies from Sudan that we will modify to suit the need of the society in The Gambia and this is what we will embark on in not distant future,” Mr. Marong explained.

He added: “We are going to roll out many innovative products that will really suit our customers and there are many things in the offing all for the benefit of the customers so all that want to say is that let people come to Takaful and they will really enjoy the value for money.”

Five more customers of SCB beam with delight

Five more customers of SCB beam with delight

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Written by Yankuba
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 14:08

Customers who emerged winners of Standard Chartered Bank ‘Together To Win’ 4th monthly raffle draw, held in December, had recently beam with delight after receiving their various prizes.

Buba Barrow, Sulayman Touray, Mrs. Sainabou Jammeh, Bakalilou Kebbeh and Harriet Sonko received Qcell dual SIM phone, Qcell Muslim phone, Qcell USB data card, Qcell dell laptop with USB data card, and Qcell 32” plasma TV with a home surround system respectively. These proud winners received their prizes during the fifth monthly draw, where the bank selects another set of five lucky winners, held on 12th January 2011 at the SCB Serekunda branch in Westfield.

The winners of the fifth monthly draw will received their prizes during the sixth and the mega draw, to be held in April.

The SCB ‘Together to Win’ promotion underpins the bank’s philosophy of rendering essential and efficient services to its customers, who continues to win various prizes of substance on a monthly basis from the campaign, which started in July 2010.

“In Standard Charterer’s quest to becoming the world’s best international bank, its innovative marketing team conceptualized this campaign to recognize and reward customers for their loyalty with the bank,” a statement from the bank indicates. “Customers got coupons for every D10, 000 they deposited into their accounts and maintaining the funds on their accounts for at least a month makes one eligible for that month’s draw. This is for both new and existing funds.”

Richard Mendy, the Excel Relationship Manager, in his welcoming remarks, reaffirmed the bank’s ‘here for good’ brand promise, which he said “reflects on Standard Charterer’s belief in developing long-term and deep relationships with our customers and clients”. He further encouraged the customers to continue to leave their funds on account to be eligible for the mega draw in April.

The lucky winners for the 5th monthly draw are Ebriam Jaiteh who won a Qcell Muslim phone, Daniel Able Thomas, a Qcell dual SIM phone, Omaru M.Z. Lamin, a Qcell USB data card, Bintou C. Keita won a Qcell laptop with a USB data card, and Pa Modou Njie won a Qcell 32” plasma TV with a home surround system.

At the end of the ‘Together to Win’ campaign, SCB will hold a mega draw with a grand prize of a D1 million investment account. To qualify for the mega draw, customers need to deposit or maintain a balance of D200, 000 or more in their account for at least three months.

Customers are also encouraged to introduce their friends and family and become eligible to be part of the monthly draws.

Gambia’s airport to be positioned as a regional hub

Banjul International Airport - the one and only international airport in The Gambia – is to be upgraded and positioned as a regional hub that will link the West African sub-region with the rest of the world, the Director General of Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Mr. Fansu Bojang revealed on Wednesday while submitting the activity report of the Authority at the National Assembly.

“The GCAA is vigorously working towards achieving this objective,” he told the Lawmakers. “The Authority has put in place various incentives to encourage the creation of a home-based airline, a key requirement for the realization of a hub-and-spoke system. Running parallel with this, the Authority is also actively and progressively pursuing other existing major carriers with the view of luring them into Banjul.”

He said The Gambia has signed an Open Skies Agreement with the United States of America, and Banjul International Airport (BIA) has approved to serve as a Last Point of Departure for flights into the United States of America.

“In addition, it is hoped that major in-roads would be made in convincing major carriers, such as Delta Airlines and Ethopians Airlines, into serving Banjul as a destination in the very near future,” he said.

Mr. Bojang further said works that were executed in 2009, particularly within the context of BIA, continued to address the infrastructure requirements necessary for the realization of this goal.

“Now that the industry is breathing a bit of fresh air, following what was arguably, a financially suffocating period; the GCAA will continue to pursue discussions with government leading to the restoration of airport tariff to their pre-June 2007 levels as well as the introduction of, at least, the Airport Development Fee (ADF) in the fee structure of BIA,” he said.

He added that investments being made by the government in terms of expanding and renewing airport infrastructure and facilities make the generation of revenue through the introduction of a development levy compelling case.

He continued: “This will literally subsidize the cost of operating the Airport in order to maintain the desired level of international standards. This resulted in huge financial burden on the Authority while at the same time not achieving its anticipated result of attracting more carriers into BIA. Hence lifting of the hold would see the Authority gradually ease back onto a sound financial footing while maintaining international standards and continuing to reinvest into major developmental areas for the continued modernization of BIA.”

He explained that Phase 1 of the Banjul International Airport Improvement Project is nearing completion. To this end, he said the GCAA through the Gambia Government secured additional funding from international funding agencies; in particular the Kuwait Fund, Saudi Fund and OPEC Fund for International Development for the implementation of Phase II of the Project.

“This Phase shall include works for the expansion of the current apron, construction of an ultra-modern fire and rescue service station, replacement of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) as well as refurbishment and possible expansion of the existing Passenger Terminal Building. This Phase will automatically kick-in following the completion of Phase I, and it will also cater for the infrastructural needs of the Authority for the foreseeable future and thus putting BIA on a competitive footing in attracting major carriers into the country” he noted.

Gambia’s Human Development Index Ranking Drops

The UNDP’s 2010 Global Human Development Report 2010 has placed The Gambia 151 out of 169 countries ranked in its Human Development Index.

The latest ranking means the country has dropped by one per cent from its 2009 ranking.

The Human Development Index (HDI) measures a country’s average achievements in three basic aspects of human development. These are health, education and income.

The HDI ranking is part of the UNDP’s Global Human Development Report 2010 on the theme ‘The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development’. It was launched by the Vice President, Dr Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy on Wednesday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. The 2010 HDR is the 20th anniversary of the edition. The report was launched at global level by the UNDP Administrator Helen Clark on 4th November 2010.

The Gambia is ranked below many countries in the region including Ghana (130), Benin (134), Nigeria (142), Senegal (144), and above some countries such as Sierra Leone (158), Mali (160) and Liberia (162).

The HDI was introduced as an alternative to conventional measures of national development, such as level of income and the rate of economic growth. The HDI was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone.

In her launching statement, the Vice President of The Gambia, Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, said: “An analysis using the gender inequality index, as stated in the 2010 report, noted that investments in girls and women to have equal educational and employment opportunities, access to health services, participation in decision-making at all levels, is a catalyst to a nation’s human development given its multiplier effects.”

Against this backdrop, she said, The Gambia is poised to achieving universal primary education by 2015 “as parity was attained at this level as early as 2003”. “The Net Enrolment Ratio rose from a low of 45 per cent between 1991/1992 to about 75 per cent in 2008/2009,” she added.

On health, the Vice President said that some significant progress have been made focusing on the three health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4, 5, and 6 and relevant targets such as child and maternal mortality, and morbidity; HIV/AIDs; and Malaria reduction.

She continued: “Overall, there has been considerable achievement in child survival as infant mortality rate according to national census dropped from 217 per 1000 in 1973 to 75 per 1000 live births in 2003. Maternal mortality also declined from 1050 per 100,000 in 1990 to 730 per 100,000 in 2001 and 556 per 100,000 live births in 2006.

On the other hand, the prevalence of HIV infection dropped from 2.8 per cent in 2006 to 1.4 per cent in 2007, whereas, HIV 2 dropped from 0.9 in 2006 to 0.5 per cent in 2007 receptively.

On malaria, recent data from the six sentinel sites showed that the incidence of malaria has been declining in the country. “The number of under-five year old children sleeping under insecticide treaded bed nets has increased from 15 per cent in 2000 to 49 per cent in year 2006,” she said.

The HDR 2010 adopted the holistic approach by using a variety of information related to different aspects of human life, concentrating on what remains to be done, and focusing on key priorities such as climate change, mortality and morbidity, poverty and deprivation, as well as inequality and insecurity, with room to accommodate new concerns and considerations including forecasts of the natural levels of the Human Development Index.

Janis James, who spoke on behalf of the UNDP resident coordinator, Ms Chinwe Dike, and the Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia, also spoke at length about the report and its significance.

Friday, February 4, 2011

GAWFA: Building safety net for the poor

The Gambia Women’s Finance Association is on the onward match of building a safety net for the poor and promoting the economic empowerment of Gambian women. Lamin Jahateh reports the call on the general public of its new finance company to buy its shares up for sale, in a drive to building the company’s equity and capital for sound business operations.
The latest financial institution to be launched in The Gambia is calling on the general public to join its cause of building safety net for the poor and promoting the economic empowerment of Gambian women by buying its shares to provide an opportunity to change a woman’s life
Established in 1987 as a not-for-profit NGO, the Gambia Women’s Finance Association (GAWFA) recently launched its own financial institution called GAWFA Finance Company, to provide trade finance for Gambian women who would like to expand their businesses or establish new ventures.
“The c
Pic: GAWFA CEO, Oley Njie Mbye
Company has 6,100,000 ordinary shares for sale, at ten dalasis (D10) per share,” says GAWFA’s chief executive officer Oley Njie Mbye. “I urge you to please reach out and get GAWFA shares today and not tomorrow. Please help build safety nets for the poor and promote the economic empowerment of Gambian women.”
Mrs Mbye calls on the general public to review the company’s prospectus, complete an application, make a sound decision and invest in GAWFA’s shares.

She said: “With GAWFA shares you are providing an opportunity to change a woman’s life one day at a time, providing safety nets for the poor, empowering women at the socio-economic level and creating the opportunity to make positive changes to a new generation.

“In addition you are contributing to make GAWFA sustainable both financially and institutionally to reach the mission and vision of the organization,”

Hannah Davis, chairperson of GAWFA board, said by purchasing the shares of GAWFA Finance Company one is providing an opportunity to contribute to the economic empowerment of Gambian women. “I urge you to buy GAWFA Finance Company limited shares,” Mrs Davis says.

Beatrice Allen, a board member of GAWFA, added: “The shares of the company are up for sale to the general public but specifically for women, because really we want to be able to do for women what nobody else has done for them so we want to encourage the women first to buy. Nonetheless, we have got some allocations for other members of the public, both companies and individuals, who want to buy shares.”

“We encourage strategic investors both national and international level to invest and buy GAWFA’s shares,” a statement from the company says, adding: “GAWFA is the first and the largest microfinance institution in The Gambia established since 1987 and an affiliate of Women’s World Banking network headquartered in New York. GAWFA’s activities are intended to promote social and economic changes in The Gambia.”

Brief background about GAWFA

GAWFA’s vision is to build a sustainable financial institution that meets the aspirations of women in the vanguard of an evolving financial system, and to regain market leadership by 2020 with a share of at least 50% of the market represented by low Gambia women.

The association has it mission to offer an innovative financial solution that contributes to lasting economic and social benefits for low income Gambian women and their families; and create value for our shareholders and stakeholders.

GAWFA was incorporated in September 1987 with the main objective of catering for the financial needs of the poor and low-income women of The Gambia. The association was the first micro-finance institution to be licensed by the Central Bank of The Gambia.

Over the years, the association has grown from under 100 members to over 48,948 clients, over 90% of whom live in the rural areas.

GAWFA provides financial service to low-income women engaged in income generating activities, such as farmers, traders, and handicraft. It continues to provide services that are innovative, flexible and meet the needs of each category of its clients as they grow in a profitable and sustainable manner.

Between 1994 and 2007, GAWFA disbursed over D127 million as loans. The association was also able to build a culture of savings among women with more than 48,000 clients accumulating a net savings of D12 million.

GAWFA offers three loan products - individual loans, solidarity group loans, and large group loans. Group loans represent 65% of GAWFA portfolio and are concentrated outside Banjul. Individual loans represent 35% of GAWFA disbursement in 2006, and Greater Banjul accounts for 83% of the individual loans disbursed in 2006.

GAWFA achieved a high growth in both credit and savings operations over the past five years, but the credit operations have increased more rapidly than the savings.