A spokesman for the Gambia Association of Cement Importers has rejected Jah Oil company’s claim that the cement imported from Senegal is of low quality. Yesterday, the company’s managing director Momodou Hydara said Jah Oil will cease producing cement and instead join the rest to be importing from Senegal because operations in the local factories are not sustainable with Senegalese cement flooding the market. He said the issue has already caused massive job losses with many factories laying off staff.
However, speaking to The Standard anonymously, a spokesman for the importers association said importing cement from Senegal for sale here is not a crime as it is allowed under the Ecowas protocols and the Africa Free Zone Trading Agreement.
“It is not entirely true also that the quality of the cement from Senegal is of low quality. If that is the case, why is it that Senegalese are using it to build structures that are tenfold higher than any building in The Gambia?”, our source asked.
According to the cement importers, most of the people in the business of importing cement from Senegal are Gambian businessmen and they too have a right to take part in the free movement of goods and businesses across borders in West Africa. Meanwhile, The Standard learnt yesterday that Jah Oil have themselves started importing cement from Senegal as has been predicted by MD Hydara.
Last month, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Assan Gaye, told The Standard that as an Ecowas member state, it would be difficult for The Gambia to prevent Senegalese or citizens of other member countries from doing business in the country.
“The issue is not that there are no cements coming into the country or it has been illegally dumped in the country from Senegal. What we are saying is how can we address the issue of The Gambia’s signatory in the AfCFTA as well as all the many Ecowas protocols that we are signatories to?” DPS Gaye explained.
The director of investment & industrial development at the trade ministry, Fabba Jammeh, also told The Standard that under the Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), a trade instrument designed by the Ecowas, one can sell his/her products in any of the Ecowas member states. “Today, most of the cements that are coming are coming under the ticket of the ETLS. The others that are not coming under the ticket of the ETLS are paying duties to the Gambia government and we are making revenue.”
Mr Jammeh advised the local producers to instead toughen up and stand up to the challenge. He said that the government has invested “billions” into supporting the local industries in the past four years alone. “We are giving them a lot of incentives, from special investment certificates to duty waivers to sometimes moratorium,” he said.