Last Friday was a good Friday. It was the birthday of our dear nation, The Gambia. The head of state, President Adama Barrow, led Gambians from all walks of life including cabinet ministers, lords temporal and spiritual, as well as men and women in uniform and school children in celebrating the day at the McCarthy Square in Banjul.
It was a day to dress in the finest and dandiest grand boubou and suits, sing and watch spectacles of crisp-uniformed marching men and women. But it is also a time to reflect. To reflect on how far we have come and what course to chart for this nation of about three million souls.
In his traditional Independence Day message, President Adama Barrow said today, the dilemma of African countries largely remains the attainment of economic independence in an inter-dependent world. Like many other nations around the world, he said, this is one of The Gambia’s major challenges.
He waxes that although absolute economic independence is impractical, it is certain that we can reduce our heavy dependence on the outside world. The billion-dollar question, he pointed out, is: How can we do this meaningfully?
Let us quote the president at length: “The solution depends hugely on how practical we are and how far we choose to go in raising our productivity and production capabilities and outputs, while minimising imports and maximising exports.
“The imbalance between imports and exports for the country is enormous, and this needs to be offset. Generally, there is a great need to transform the population into a more productive resource.
“To free ourselves from economic dependence, among other strategies, we must invest more freely in the productive sectors, produce as much of what we consume as we need, and eat more home-made products. By the same token, we need to expand and patronise local businesses, while developing, encouraging and tapping local talent…”
This is exactly what we have argued in our editorial published on independence eve last Thursday. The president spoke with pith and with candour. His speechwriter deserves a lot of kudos. Now the question is: how is President Barrow going to put the flesh on the bone of this brilliant speech? How is he going to translate these sapient and profound statements into realistic programmes? That is the challenge for the president, his cabinet and the leadership and the men and women in the civil service.