By Aminata S Kuyateh
The Office of the President and the Ministry of Public Service, Administration Reforms, Policy Coordination and Delivery on Thursday concluded a three-day workshop with private and public sector stakeholders to validate the findings of the recently concluded trade and logistics diagnostic study.
The workshop, held at the Bakadaji hotel from 23-25 January, provided an opportunity to scrutinise and discuss the findings of a comprehensive study conducted at the port of Banjul and along major trade corridors in partnership with Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI).
The scope of the study covers marine operations, customs and port terminal operations as well as logistics and transportation. The result of the study provides insights into the challenges and opportunities within our port infrastructure and trade corridors and seeks to inform a trade and logistics charter that will bind together several reform programs being spearheaded by various players within the port community.
In the opening remarks read on behalf of the PS ministry of trade, Mr. Lamin Dampha emphasised that the commissioning of the trade logistics diagnostic study was timely. “This because it establishes the basis for developing a strategic approach not only for implementing the TFA agreement but also to position the Gambia to regain the lost glory of competitiveness in transit and re-export trade”.
He encouraged the private sector to ‘not only focus on reviewing the issues but also add value to the set of recommendation’ made in the report.
On his part, the commissioner general of GRA, Mr. Yankuba Darboe, stated that the findings of the study present a picture of where we stand and the vast potential for investment. He added that some of the current innovations by the authority such as the introduction of the single window system and the electronic cargo tracking system are in line with the recommendations of the study.
He shared that “reduced dwell times translates to lower costs, faster delivery of goods and ultimately a more vibrant and thriving economy”.
The minister of public service underscored the need for the study and recognized the innovations launched by the GPA and GRA and thanked the Tony Blair institution for its partnership in conducting the study. He also encouraged all stakeholders to engage thoroughly with the report and work together to shape the trade charter to serve as a performance benchmark for efficient at the port.
Mr. Alieu Senghore, the country director of TBI Gambia dilated the crucial role that trade plays in shaping the economic fortunes of the Gambia. He thanked all stakeholders for their participation in the study and their commitment to the development of a trade and logistics charter that reflects the ambitions to establish the Gambia as a key trade hub for the region.
In the same vein, the MD of GPA, Mr. Ousman Jobarteh, highlighted the strides being made in the adoption of IT systems at the port of Banjul such as the recently implemented E-Tally and E-Delivery order systems that enhance data collection and mark the beginning of wider dignitisation effort at the port.
He welcomed the study and the port charter as a commitment to improve trade and logistics flow for the Gambia. “The port of Banjul is the sole maritime gateway for the Gambia, apart from imports for domestic consumption that constitute about 80% of the cargo. The port handles transit cargo for adjoining countries that include Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Mali.”
MD Jobarteh disclosed that the trade diagnostic study was crafted to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the current marine, customs, port terminal and logistics processes, procedures and system in the country. The study encompassed trade logistics activities from the arrival of vessels at anchorage to release and eventual exit of goods from the port.
Summary of study findings
The study reveals the necessity for adopting modern machinery, improving road and drainage infrastructure and eliminating certain manual processes that contribute to inefficiencies at the port. It also highlights the need to improve governance and maintenance practices at the port to ensure close adherence to international best practices and standards.
The recommendation of the study cover staff training, resource mobilization, process re-engineering, financial viability appraisals of proposed projects among others. Certain recommendations were related directly to customs, including expediting the establishment of the national electronic single system and improving the risk management profiling system in the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA).
Following the validation of this study, the feedback from stakeholders will be incorporated and would serve as a basis for the development of a trade logistics charter. Implementing the recommendations from the study would bolster the competitiveness of the port of Banjul on the global stage.