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City of Banjul
Friday, March 1, 2024

Doma Yi

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I am not depressed! No, I am not even frustrated. I have tried to describe my emotions and the closest word that comes to mind is exasperation, or even better still, peevishness. If I were a woman, it would have been “that time of the month” but since I am not, I would have to dig deep to figure out what this has to do with my anatomy…or biology…if anything.

So, why the confusing emotion, you might ask. Well, I can blame it on fatigue or maybe for a better word, exhaustion. When exhausted, the human mind seeks solace somewhere else. It is human instinct to lean on a strong shoulder (it’s metaphorical people so don’t, I repeat, don’t send the “gay police” my way) and where no strong shoulder is available, it is human instinct to turn to a superior being…call it God, Allah or whatever name first comes to mind. So instinct took over and I did number one (and when I say number one, I do not mean the one that takes place in a lavatory), however, I found I wasn’t the only tired person. It was then that I noticed the loss of that fire in people’s eyes, the lack of desire to seek the truth or to change it; whatever rocks your boat. I discovered dear reader (notice the singularity of the word…for I imagine by now I have lost my 5 readers to something more mellow) that people were just simply satisfied. 

It all started weeks ago, but I will save you the boredom of going through 500 pages of my pink diary. No I do not keep a pink diary, It is but a figment of my very wild imagination. I guess that’s why I could pen 4 essays even within the confines of an (what’s the word again?) exasperated mind. My essay however, comes from a place closer to today and the fuel for my anger. It all started with a young niece of mine preparing for an examination. I must say I was baffled to see how much she struggled to answer questions I could have answered when I was at least 2 years younger than her. Now I do not blame the child. Why? You dare ask me why I don’t? Well, for starters because she is A CHILD dummy! It was not the look in her eyes at my sign of disappointment that took a part of my soul away. It was the thought that she was not alone. That a great percentage of young people her age would stumble and fall with the same questions that scared the living hell out of me. So instead of publishing my essays on “Operation Bulldozer” or “acute nepotism in The smiling coast”, I decided to pen a random rant about nothing. 

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So I complain about my predicament to a friend and instead of offering some useful advice, he pours out his heart on his own issues. In my confusion, I am unsure whether I am supposed to console him or further drive my point home. His qualms are not with regards education in The Gambia, rather, they are with issues of a financial nature. As a young man, it was expected. Like me, he is at that age when things are supposed to be difficult and people are EXPECTED to fail at the things they do so they can learn and grow. However, when I noticed his blood filled eyes and his “watery look”, I was terrified. That was when I realized that he also was not alone, for his story was one I had listened to over and over again. 

It is not the first time that I have harped on the youthfulness of our population and the fact that people either do not notice this or simply do not care. No nation in the world was driven forward by money. Every nation under God’s blessed sun was driven forward by IDEAS first and money later. Unfortunately, no idea stands tall without money. I would hate The Gambia to turn into a country where hatred brews between the very rich and the moderately poor. Now Gambians are very easy to satisfy. I have discovered that as long as we have food on the table, a roof over our heads and family to smile at, the rest we leave with a simple “Insha’Allah” or like my mother would say, “By God im power”.

The Gambia is fast becoming the “wild wild west” of ideas. Young people all around the smiling coast complain about ideas being stolen by the stronger, healthier herd (not that the ideas are usually great in the first place). My indignation however is the fact that, smart young people like my friend up there are allowed to feel frustrated to the point of exhaustion by a system that does not encourage creativity. I do not want to blow trumpets as I have spoken about this before on a different topic. However we must admit the fact that our nation is not endowed with great ideas. The reason is simple! Like the problem of nepotism, most people feel threatened by creativity and inventiveness. The formula should be simple. A country as young and in need of support as The Gambia should not dilute its blood with water. Young smart people willing to make a difference should always feel the need to contribute. The struggle should be at the top but never at the bottom.

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A brilliant young woman comes home from studies, she does not work for the government or a big GSM company. She decides to use her experience and her expertise to create something out of nothing. All this young woman needs is the support to make it happen. She will employ at least a hundred people in three years and will inspire many other young women to start businesses of their own. Registration of her business is not a problem. The financial support in the form of investment however turns nigh suicidal. Even after that struggle with Benjamin Franklin, she is swept over by taxes that cripple every effort she could ever muster to make a decent life for herself. Her idea fails, so she decides to work for someone. At her workplace, she encounters the same reasons why she wanted to invest in her ideas in the first place, so she fails at working for someone else too. She moves to Senegal where she has to go through the hard work of speaking another foreign language. Two years down the line, she’s running a joint business with a wealthy Senegalese man and is contributing to the economy of our brothers (which is not a bad thing If I may add that our economy is kept standing quite evidently by foreign contribution). How then can she encourage any other young Gambian to invest time and money in our motherland.

Private companies do not understand the term “social responsibility”. They fail to recognize the fact that they must invest in the lives of their customers in as many ways as possible. A little bird told me that many organizations in the country do not even attempt to finish their budget attached to social responsibility and it is even more irritating to see that even where some of these companies are foreign, departments dealing with the financing of ideas and projects are actually run by Gambians. How much more enslaved could we be? Selfishly worthless cowards! “Yen dor len musa am dara wai!” Don’t for once get me wrong, I have seen companies throw support to organisations and people that have indeed contributed to these people’s lives.  However, do you think it is a coincidence that our artists continue to try to catch the attention of His Excellency, the President on their songs and albums? Is he supposed to be some sort of universal donor? They run to him because NO ONE ELSE WILL OFFER A HELPING HAND! All they get from those that are supposed to support them are “words of bloody wisdom” ( “bloody” in this case means bloody), a pat on the back and a beggar’s tray of coins.

I have personally received support from people and institutions I believe will always be ready to show some kind of support. However, like many other young people in this country, I have discovered that doors remain closed even as we feed the accounts of these companies and businesses. However, the winds will surely change. When young Gambian people discover their strengths and decide to work together to create their own businesses and their own companies, they will realize the strength in numbers.

People that feel they have a bone to pick with the government complain about how young people with brilliant ideas sell themselves cheap to the system and sing the praises of politicians and leaders. They sit in their corners and criticize young people when they do not in any way offer a helping hand in support of ideas. If I would pick a bone with the government, it would be on taxes! There is no way our young entrepreneurs can grow if taxes continue to be so astronomical and confusingly impossible. The system DOES NOT WORK. 

I seriously wish all companies and institutions that feed off the hard work of the people and refuse to invest in them and those around them realize that people always wake up eventually. We cannot selfishly guard the interests of our companies whilst the rest of society is struggling to grow. I applaud those that take up the initiative (these are certainly not more than few) for many are only seen for ceremonial reasons but contribute nothing meaningful to anyone or anything. I also wish government would find a way to ensure that companies set up in The Gambia live up to their responsibilities of investing in growth. Our nation cannot tolerate selfish business. I wish taxes were considerate of the growing poor and the hardworking young middle class and not just a means to impress at the race to the finish as the most efficient money maker in the country. I wish I was not so EXASPERATED and made at least a little bit of sense. Do read my piece with some Mandingmorry playing in the background if you want the anger to be evident…some Jali Madi if you want it to be softer…and some John Legend if Gambia’s not important to you!


Author: Latirr Carr


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