President Adama Barrow did not hide his displeasure with the fact that bakery and bread distribution are operated by non-Gambians. His Minister of Tourism, Hamat Bah, in the same vein hinted of a scheme to purchase 200 motorbikes, among other incentives for youths who want to venture in the business.
Addressing thousands of supporters from the Kanifing Municipality and Banjul that paid courtesy call on him at the State House on Sunday, the President urges the youths to tie their waists and fill up sectors that are crucial to the well-being of the Gambian society.
The President noted that so many opportunities in both the formal and the informal sectors are filled by non-Gambians. As a result, the impact of prices of certain goods and services are negatively biting on Gambians, which could have been avoided if the citizens are running those trades.
He cited other trades like tailoring; bakery, automotive engineering, and even operating corner shops as areas dominated by non-Gambians. Yet their impacts on daily lives are enormous.
“I am urging the youths to tie their waists and work for the progress of the society. My government is committed to working for Gambians so that the impact of the change can be felt by all,” he said.
The Minister of Tourism and Culture, Mr. Hamat N.K. Bah, also echoed the need for the youths to take up such ventures, especially in the bakery sector.
Mr. Bah said the government is rolling out several policies meant to empower youths to stay and make it in The Gambia. However, he is worried that the youths are not taking full advantage of these opportunities.
Citing the bread price crisis that sometimes forces government to step in and regulate. Mr. Bah blames such a situation on the youths’ non-participation in the baking and distribution of bread to consumers.
“Bread suppliers want D2 profit from each loaf sold despite the cost of a 50kg bag of flour down by 70 per cent since this government took office. Yet the prices could not come down and bread remains a daily consumable in every household in The Gambia,” he explained.
The Tourism Minister said Gambian youths would be sleeping comfortable when non-Gambians will wake up by 3 a.m. each morning to load loaves of bread on their bikes and begin distributing them to be consumed in each home.
Mr. Bah said he and the President held a discussion about this and they are convinced that there can be solution. “I have asked him to consider making available 200 motorcycles for youths who want to engage in the distribution of bread. The President is ready to do this, among other incentives,” he said, asking the question if the youths are up to the task.
Stabilisng the economy
The President also went on to explain how his government worked to turn the economy around, after they found it at an all-time low upon coming into office.
“The reserves at the Central Bank were less than a month of import cover. Today they are almost five months. The debt to GDP ratio was at 120 per cent. Today, they are 80%,” he said.
Treasury bills, which stood at 23 per cent interest in 2017 have now gone down to between four and five percent. The interest on loans from commercial banks were between 30 to 50 per cent high, now they have been brought down to 13 and 15 per cent.
He also said the capital, Banjul, is witnessing what it never had in 52 years since independence.
“I signed contract for roads, sewage and drainage construction simultaneously. These works are what I am preoccupied with. The roads and bridge constructions currently ongoing in the URR, the completion of the TransGambia Bridge and the OMVG projects in Soma are all putting The Gambia on a great transformation process,” he said.
The President said he has no doubt that the country will progress, but until the youths partake in the process, the yields of the progress will be taken by non-nationals. He therefore urged the youths to be active participants in the development process.