Gambia and Foreign Aid,
Though some Gambians like me are not huge fans of encouraging foreign aid, the majority of our fellow citizens from all walks of life are. People were excited about the outcome of the EU donor conference recently held in Brussels. According to media sources, this conference was jointly organized by the Gambian government in collaboration with its main development partner, the EU. A total of 1.45 billion Euros was pledged by the international community at the conference, which will boost the Gambian economy in the next three years. The EU promised it would inject an additional 140 million Euros, on top of the 225 million Euros which it had already committed, boosting our country’s ailing economy. There is no doubt that Gambians are really grateful with the assistance rendered to the country by the EU since we gained independence in 1965. The EU gets a MASSIVE THANKS from me.
However, here is my question: can we celebrate this achievement or should we do some soul-searching?
Firstly, I think it’s essential to acknowledge the efforts made by President Barrow and the government because since they took office back in 2017, he is using every means possible to encourage foreign investors to come and invest in the Gambia, in order to create jobs and improve the country’s economy. Furthermore, President Barrow and his entourage use the commercial flight from Banjul to Brussels to attend the above mentioned donor conference. He has demonstrated that fiscal discipline is profoundly crucial to him and his administration, which is indeed a very encouraging sign.
Conversely, it’s very disappointing after 53 years of self-determination that a significant proportion of our GDP is still entirely dependent on foreign aid. Where did things go wrong? Despite the abundance of human capital which is in our possession, in addition to the natural resources that we have in our disposal, fifty years down the line we are still relying on those who are supposed to be our equal partners in commerce and trade. We literally exist like beggars receiving aid in order to survive. If that is not a cause of national concern for patriotic citizens like me and you, then what else would be? In my opinion, we can do much better than this. Rather than celebrating a short term financial achievement, why can’t we do some soul-searching in order to determine why in many aspects the Gambia is still not economically and intellectually self -sufficient?!
I maintain that there is a need for Gambia to emulate the economic style of Botswana, particularly in the areas of how to explore a country’s natural resources, human development and job creation. The southern African country is a small land locked country but it managed to build a strong institution and became a middle income earning country without any foreign dependency whatsoever. To illustrate my point, according to Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid, Botswana ceased to receive foreign aid in the year 2002. Yet the country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Their GDP is purely relying on its natural resources and human capital.
The Gambia a small country, similar in size to Botswana, and she is blessed with the river Gambia which links it to the Atlantic Ocean, a vast amount of agricultural land, and a youthful population. Imagine for second that if we utilised all these properly, foreign aid would be unnecessary.
Finally, though corruption is always a major concern in Africa, I am optimistic that President Barrow’s vision of the National Development Plan 2018-2021 will utilise all funds gained through foreign aid accordingly. With the prospect of more transparency and accountability from Barrow’s government, hopefully,financial embezzlement and misuse of public funds by public officials would soon be a thing of the past. I haven’t seen details regarding Barrow’s Plan, but I would assume that it will prioritise improving education, healthcare, energy supply and agriculture for people in rural areas to ensure that Gambia embarks on a journey of self-sufficiency in development before the next election.
Meanwhile, I will continue to pray that the EU will seriously consider giving amnesty to illegal migrants who move to Europe through using the Back Way. It’s worth remembering that in third world countries, where there is no reliable health infrastructure, or a genuine social security system, when government fails to deliver to the public, desperate families can only rely on help from their sons and daughters living in the Diaspora.
May God bless you and may he bless the Gambia.