By Tabora Bojang
The general manager of Jah Oil multi-industrial company limited has disclosed that the company has laid off 100 employees because it is running out of business due to a ‘heavy influx’ of cement imported from neighboring Senegal. Momodou Hydara was speaking to The Standard on the sidelines of stakeholder engagement on conformity of cement products to standards organised by the Gambia Standards Bureau in Senegambia Tuesday. Jah Oil, Salam, and Gacem are the only producers of cement in the Gambia. But according to Mr Hydara, the three companies are forced to send about 300 staff home because they continue to be pushed to the edge with the incursion of the Senegalese cement which is sold at cheaper prices with low quality of 32.5 R compared to 42.5R made by the Gambian industries.
Hydara warned that these are preliminary measures taken by the Gambian companies and warned that they could be forced out of business like the Banjul Breweries Limited if the government fails to address it. “There is a heavy influx of cement from our neighboring Senegal and the manner in which it is dumped here is killing the local industries. We don’t have any competitive edge and we have a lot of overheads to pay including paying staff, our bills, and other things and the business is not flowing as usual. So, we have a choice of either laying off the entire staff and locking those business and then converting them into a training company or streamlining them,” he said.
Hydara said they have been crying out for the government to come up with a mechanism to protect these local industries but have not yet got feedback. “So, the next phase and may God forbid, could be a dead-end and a replica of what happened to the likes of Julbrew. This is a huge insult and the cement they are bringing from Senegal is very low in quality compared to what we produce here but they are selling it at cheaper prices and so unsuspecting buyers will always jump on the cheaper price and this is the cause of the problems we are facing”, Hydara added.
According to Mr. Hydara, the Gambian industries on the contrary are not tapping into the Senegalese market due to their regulations.
“Even tapping into a third country going through Senegal is a hurdle much more to go into their market. It is because the way they drafted those Ecowas laws did not qualify any of our industries to tap into their market.”
He said the local industries are only calling for ways to harmonise and ensure Ecowas countries wanting to trade in the Gambia bring the same quality to allow healthy competition.