Gambia gets first food packaging hub

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By Olimatou Coker

The International Trade Centre (ITC) and its partners yesterday launched Gambia’s first-ever food packaging hub worth over 2 million dalasis for small businesses.

The EU-funded Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) initiated a packaging program to improve the packaging capacity of MSMEs particularly youth-owned businesses in the country.

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Packaging is an essential determinant of the competitiveness of micro small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). It affects post-harvest losses, value addition, food safety, marketing, and sales.

According to the initiators, entrepreneurs and MSMEs in the Gambia face several bottlenecks including access to affordable quality packaging materials and solutions, knowledge of packaging processes and systems, and related business support services.

The ITC in collaboration with GHE then set up a packaging hub to supply both packaging material and equipment. The project provides 17,00 glass jars, 7200 stand-up pouches, 10,000 paper bags, and 13,500 plastic containers for cosmetics.

The investment is also expected to boost small business growth and contribute to value addition and jobs in The Gambia, particularly for women and youth.

Speaking at the launch GHE in Banjulinding, Momodou Cessay, the managing director of Gambia Horticultural Enterprises, said packaging is a basic necessity of every product because it  serves to contain, identify, describe, protect, display, promote and make the product marketable and keep it clean and safe. .

“The GHE packaging hub we are launching here today in partnership with ITC under the youth empowerment project and supported by the EU will go a long way in addressing the packaging challenges faced by the youth entrepreneurs in the country.”

Ms. Dorothy Tembo, deputy executive director of the International Trade Centre, said the new service center will not just facilitate access to affordable packaging materials but also provide packaging services for small businesses.

She further encouraged young entrepreneurs to venture into this industry.

Corrado Pampaloni, European Union Ambassador to The Gambia, said such initiatives are very important to EU’s commitment to boost the private sector.

”The packaging hub for small businesses that we launch today brings us one step closer to this objective. And it is a pleasure for the EU to be part of this achievement. It marks another milestone of the YEP which puts the Gambian youth at the center of the economic transformation and value addition.”

Baboucarr Ousmaila Joof, the Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, explained that the launch of the packaging hub for small businesses is very timely and consolidates their work in this area.

He added that over the years, YEP has invested in training trainers, business coaching and the development of a sales hub for affordable packaging materials. The packaging hub will add more services in support of small businesses, and fledgling business can now use the machines at this hub to add value and packaging their agricultural and cosmetics products.