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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Abdoulie Matarr Touray Chairman, SaHel Investment

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Upon conclusion of his studies and return home in 1980, he worked at National Investment Board rising to the position of chairman and CEO. He has served as the secretary general of GNOC, chairman of UTG governing board, Zenith Bank, WAII, Marina International School and vice president for Commonwealth Games in Africa as well as president of American Chamber of Commerce in The Gambia, among others. In this edition of Bantaba, The Standard editor, Sainey Darboe picked up from where he left last week by asking ‘Baax’ Touray:

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You always ask Gambians to do away with Pull Him/Her Down (PHD) syndrome and celebrate our heroes. What message are you exactly trying to ram home? 

What I mean is that every human being has some innate potential in him or her and whatever we are doing we should be the best that we can be. Being the best you can be doesn’t mean I have to be better than Mr Darboe or Mr Ceesay but let me be the best that I can be. That is self-actualisation. I always tell people that when you open the computer you have two icons -minimise and maximise. I want every Gambian to maximise his or her potential. I drew inspiration from Bill Clinton at one time when he was running for president of the US. He made a very formidable statement that the cankerworm that is eating Washington is that everyday people are only interested in who is up and who is down, who is in who is out, who is being hired and who is being fired. That in itself doesn’t help the country’s development. I believe in a win-win proposition. In life you have three paradigms: win-win, win-lose or lose-lose. If you read Steven Cobway’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he says that the most durable proposition is a win-win scenario. 

 

But why is that Gambian entrepreneurs tend to prosper and flourish in foreign lands rather than their own? 

One thing I always say is that we should celebrate our own. We should celebrate success. The general thinking is that they prosper outside because they have a bigger market. But I am also of the view that as Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Do what you can with what you have where you are’. No Gambian including myself ever decided who our parents were going to be but you can make a choice as to the kind of parent you want to be. The whole idea is what are you going to make out of your life and Steven Cobway again says we come to this world for four things. We come to live learn, love and leave a legacy. I for one believe that The Gambia within a generation can be a highly developed country. I believe we have the human talent. I believe in a small nation things can happen very fast. One of the two books I have always prescribed to policy-makers which is a must-read is Small is Beautiful by EF Schumacker and the other one is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Small is Beautiful is premised on the idea that countries like The Gambia do not need mass production but need production by the masses. Think and Grow Rich was written by Napoleon Hill who was a great thinker. He was commissioned by the Carnegie and Ford families who said to him, “our very existence will be threatened in this USA if we remain the only millionaires in the US”. He was given all the resources to study what behavioural tendencies and mindsets do people need to evolve from 0 to 1 and then having a multiplier effect. I also recall attending the University of Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew’s book From Third World to First World. The Gambia and Singapore were independent the same year in 1965. Sir Dawda and Lee Kuan Yew got the flag of independence the same year. If you go into records, the per capita income of Singapore in 1965 was lower than that of The Gambia likewise Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Malaysia. Singapore had no resources, not even water which they had to import from Malaysia. Li Huna Yu said the only thing we have is our mindset and how we utilisee it to our positive advantage. He said we must inculcate an abundance mentality not a scarcity mentality. A scarcity mentality is if I am successful I think I should be the only one successful. When Bill Gates started Microsoft within a period of 10 to 15 years, he created over 3,000 millionaires and likewise Apple by Steve Jobs. If you go through the Forbes List of the richest people in the later part of the 1980s, the richest people were using resources given to them by the Almighty Allah like the King of Saudi Arabia and the Sultan Brunei. If you go into the list now, the richest people are digging into their minds to come up with innovative projects like Steve Job and Mark Zuckerberg. God gives us comparative advantages which whether we discover oil or not depends on the generosity of Almighty Allah but complete advantage is how we are able to use our mental faculties to develop products and services for the benefits of humanity. 

 

You have been involved in a much-publicised power tussle with GNOC. Has there been reconciliation? 

I was very involved in the development, evolution, progression and sustainability of GNOC. If you look back you will see a very formidable picture of the people who were at the GNOC and we worked as a team.  The Gambia was the 100th country visited by Juan Antonio Samaranch when Omar Sey was the president of GNOC. I never contested for any position in my life. If I don’t get it by merit, I don’t want it. I was GNOC secretary general from 1985 to 2009 and at no point in that period did I ever have opposition. I was always elected unopposed. The Gambia was the first country to host the IOC’s Jacques Rogge and his delegation and when they visited they said if there was an Olympic gold medal to be given to any country for efficiency in sports administration it will go to The Gambia. The tussle started in 2009 when Abu Dandeh Njie decided to step down. I was seen as heir-apparent because I had the pedigree locally and internationally. What has happened since then is water under the bridge. What I believe is that if I have a relationship with you, it will have its ups and downs but the ups will be more than the downs. I cannot be your friend for twenty years and we have a misunderstanding for two days and I make you an enemy for life. It does not make sense. Outside the Qur’an, I have two prayers that I use. One is for serenity. Every morning I pray to God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference. And the second one is for quiet among all the noise and palaver in the world and maintain my composure. The only person who can bring you down is yourself. What has happened… I was in it for principles and I still stick by those principles. I have been exonerated. 

 

Have you reconciled with Dibba and others? 

There is no palaver. We were fighting principles and principles have been established. When I established my principles, the first thing I said was that I have no interest as long as I continue to live, in holding any position within the Olympic movement in The Gambia. I was invited by the IOC in my individual capacity to make a presentation to all the sports authorities in the world on sports autonomy and good governance of sports and that document is in the archives of IOC. I was not invited then as secretary general but I was invited because I had something to offer. 

 

But are you having good relations with Momodou Dibba and others? 

Sports is all about solidarity. If sports cannot unite us nothing can. I always say that we have two important things in the world. Sports is supposed to unite us and provide solidarity. Prosperity is supposed to alleviate poverty. We never get to see so there is no question of sitting down to talk. When we see, we greet but there is no issue in terms of reconciliation. I am no longer in the Olympic movement. I wish them the very best of luck and hope they will build on the foundation that has been built. If at any point in time they require my advice, it will be given free of charge without any ill-will. 

 

Final words? 

My final words are that The Gambia has the potential to emerge as a middle income country, as a heaven on earth provided that we have a serious paradigm shift as it relates to our attitude. I have a very inspirational movie that I will encourage you and every Gambian to watch.  Your attitude determines your altitude and that is the motto of our school WAIS. The movie is about a gentleman who was born without any hands and feet. It is called No hands, No Feet, No Worries. It is a three-minute video which says do not limit your possibilities. When you get inside a plane they will tell you where the parachutes are and you hope you never have to use them so the mind is like that because it is only useful when it is opened. So let us think and be positive and achieve. 

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