By Tabora Bojang
The European Union will continue to provide financial assistance to the Gambia in realising its development agenda as long it continues to remain and demonstrates a democratic trajectory, the European Union ambassador to the Gambia Attila Lajos told a gathering during the signing of a €65 million loan agreement between the Gambia and the European Investment Bank.
The loan is part of a whopping €142 million backing from the EU and World Bank to help the Gambia’s renewable energy programme to harness solar power and supply clean energy across the country.
The EU will provide €106 million with additional €35.7 million from World Bank for the implementation of the clean energy programme by NAWEC.
With it, the first engagement in the Gambia for over two decades the EU Investment Bank is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its member states and aims to make long-term finance available to contribute towards EU policy goals.
Ambassador Lajos said The Gambia would enjoy continuous EU support in its democratic transition, adding that there is only one condition attached to any European Union support to the country, which is as long as it remains committed to strengthen good governance, rule of law and protection of all human rights.
He said: “The Gambia will be the first country in Africa to have provided renewable energy electrification for all public schools and health facilities.”
Vice president Ousainu Darboe said: “Investment in Gambia’s energy infrastructure is essential to improve economic opportunities and daily lives in our country and this new project demonstrates how harnessing the power of the sun can power Gambia in the years ahead.”
He added: “The close cooperation between Gambia and international partners such as the European Investment Bank, World Bank and European Union will ensure that Gambia benefits from the most cutting-edge technical experience in the industry from around the world, and become a model for renewable energy for the rest of Africa.”
Mamburay Njie the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs said the Gambia takes pride in the EU’s contribution to the national development, adding that despite all odds the delegation never relents or stops its support to the country.
He said the project will help reduce dependence on expensive heavy fuel oil based generation while expanding renewable energy generation and access to alternative sources.
The Renewable Energy Programme is expected to generate 20 MW of solar energy, provide 430 km of new transmission lines and electrification to 1,100 schools and health centres in the country.