George Staples said: “A booming economy has truly transformed the African landscape. Over the last decade, real income per person has increased by more than 30 percent. In the next 10 years, GDP is expected to rise by an average of 6 percent a year throughout Africa.
“As a result of this growth, Africa now has the fastest-growing middle class in the world. Despite the impressive growth and energy that is transforming the landscape, we still have difficult challenges ahead. Lack of integration hinders opportunities to attract large-scale investment.
“Another significant obstacle to economic growth is the deteriorating human rights situation in countries like The Gambia. [Human rights are] a signal of the transparency of the government and the predictability of the political climate on the ground. Investors need to know that they will be able to enforce contracts and that their transactions will be free from corruption. It is a reality that a country’s human rights conditions and its state of governance have implications on trade and business opportunities, as well as foreign investment. And let me tell you, a country’s international reputation has a very large bearing on the local business community, its employees and potential customers.”
The top US diplomat made these remarks on Saturday at the fourth annual gala dinner of the American Chamber of Commerce, held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.
He continued: “This past August, a three-day US-Africa Leaders’ Summit was held in Washington, representing the largest engagement between any US president and African heads of state. This summit brought leaders from across the African continent together with policy makers and business leaders from the US to discuss issues of trade and investment, democratic development, peace and security. The United States views African business as being at a critical point for the future prosperity of this great continent.
“I want to commend the American Chamber of Commerce for being at the forefront of the entrepreneurial movement here in The Gambia. Your commitment to bringing awareness to the numerous businesses and investment opportunities in this country has inspired Gambians to start businesses, learn a trade and take charge of their finances. Through a variety of programs, such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Week and the micro-enterprise development training, AmCham is equipping a new generation of enterprising Gambians whom, through your help, will set out to start businesses of their own.”
The annual event was graced by government officials, diplomats, officials of the American Chamber of Commerce, a cross section of Gambian business people and institutions.]]>