25 C
City of Banjul
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Baks Touray outlines what Gambia needs to do to be buoyant

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Mr Touray, who is president of the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry The Gambia, called for effective state investment in the small-scale businesses and processing industries.

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“The Gambia has been said to be dependent on groundnut but the reality on the ground which is the paradox of most African economics is that we are not adding value to our raw products,” he told The Standard recently. 

To recall, the Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, in his 2015 state of the nation address, pledged that his government will commit the energy and resource required to making sure that whatever is grown here is processed into a finished good, thereby saving the economy of the burdens of importation. 

Agreeing with the president, the Harvard-trained economist added: “I have always made the point that Africa [in general] and The Gambia in particular will remain underdeveloped as long as we continue to eat our raw products. Yes, you may say we are exporting groundnuts and it is bringing in some foreign currency, but there are over two hundred derivatives of groundnuts and what we export out of the country is unprocessed. This groundnut alone can be used as a model for economic transformation. My concern is that we have not gone to get the full value chain out of groundnut. If we are to go for the full value chain of groundnut, then it can be an anchor for the accelerated development of the Gambian economy.”

According to Touray, the economic problem of the country is “the chronic obsession with consumerism”. 

He called for the country to diversify its economic base away from agriculture and tourism, adding that the contribution of remittances should also be recognised. 

“What we need to recognise is the role of the service sector in the economy. If you look at the balance of payment, there is a significant portion that is coming out of remittances from Gambians in the Diaspora. But there is indeed need to diversify and there are lots of opportunities for us to do that. The enabling environment has to be progressively developed for that to happen,” he said.

He then went to explain the key drawback of agriculture as it is currently practised in the country. “We are producing rain-fed agriculture and we have rains at most three months in a year. So that means that our agricultural land is being put to productive use for only three months and that shows utilisation factor of 25 per cent; meaning 75 per cent of the time the land is going fallow. We are not using it. The water table in this country is barely 3 to 6 meters. So, why can’t we produce all-year round? And don’t forget that we can also utilise River Gambia.”

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