Creating a New Chapter of China-Gambia Relations
By H.E. Liu Jin, Chinese Ambassador to The Gambia
Over the past ten years, President Xi Jinping’s visionary Belt and Road Initiative has paved the way for peace, development and win-win cooperation, with over 150 countries and more than 30 international organizations forming the Belt and Road family, marking a new level of international economic cooperation and creating a new engine to promote the global development. The future is full of hope, and African countries that share a common destiny with China have actively responded to and participated in the Belt and Road cooperation, building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future in the process.
In September 2018, H.E. President Xi Jinping met with H.E. President Adama Barrow, who attended the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). The two leaders jointly witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding on Belt and Road cooperation between the two countries. Under the strategic guidance of the two leaders, China-Gambia relations have developed healthily and steadily, and high-quality Belt and Road cooperation between the two countries has yielded fruitful results, bringing benefits to the two peoples.
Chinese builders overcame the challenges posed by the pandemic and completed the China-Aid Road and Bridges Project in URR ahead of schedule. The project successfully connected the key leg of the Gambian national highway network. It not only promotes economic and social development, public services, and people’s well-being of the URR, but also facilitates the free flow of people, goods, and services between neighboring countries and sub-regions. Local people told me that in the past, when there was no bridge, pregnant women had to rely on ferries to reach hospitals on the other side of the river. Nighttime crossings faced a bigger challenge, often leading to delays in emergency medical treatment. Now, with the bridge, it takes only a few minutes to reach the other side, significantly improving the health care and well-being of the local people. Illumination lights have been installed on the bridges and shining at night, just like the beautiful “pearl” on the Gambian river.
The Gambia will host the 15th OIC Summit in December this year. The Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center, constructed and delivered by China in 2020, serves as the main venue for this grand event. The International Conference Center, after nearly thousands of meetings and events, has proven its hardware and software capabilities, meeting high standards for hosting international major events. It has also promoted the development of the conference and exhibition economy in The Gambia, driving tourism, trade, and investment, and adding momentum to the economic and social development of The Gambia. As a landmark building, the International Conference Center has an elegant and dynamic design, resembling a wave splashing on the “Smiling Coast”, becoming a popular destination for both Gambian people and foreign visitors.
China is actively promoting the Greater Banjul Area Electricity Improvement Project in collaboration with The Gambia, assisting in resolving issues related to aging power lines and overloads. This project will contribute significantly to The Gambia’s economic development and the well-being of local people. China has provided The Gambia with multiple batches of large-scale food aid, and Chinese agricultural experts have implemented agricultural technology cooperation projects, helping to cultivate high-yield rice varieties and transfer agricultural knowledge to Gambian farmers, actively contributing to The Gambia’s food security and self-sufficiency. The high-yield rice seeds cultivated by Chinese agricultural experts have a yield of 10.7 tons/Ha, which is nearly three times of the local rice varieties.
China actively promotes trade and investment cooperation with The Gambia. The two sides have signed an exchange of letters on China granting duty-free treatment for imported goods from The Gambia that cover 98 percent of the tariff lines. China fully supports The Gambia’s participation in the 3rd China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo and the 6th China International Import Expo this year, helping The Gambia’s high-quality agricultural products enter the Chinese market of 1.4 billion people. I believe that it won’t be long before Gambian agricultural products like peanuts, mangoes, and cashews on dinner tables of families in China.
Chinese companies leverage their strengths to actively respond to The Gambia’s development needs. They undertake projects in The Gambia, including the National Broadband Network, 5G Networks, power storage and transmission upgrades, and national road network renovations. These projects enrich the forms of practical cooperation between the two countries and inject new vitality into The Gambia’s economic and social development. We will encourage more outstanding Chinese companies and individuals to invest and start businesses in The Gambia.
The Gambia has formulated its National Development Plan (2023-2027) and is fully committed to its implementation. I believe that the docking of the Belt and Road cooperation and the Gambia National Development Plan will create a synergy for development, and achieve mutual benefit.
When I talk to some elder Gambian friends, they fondly recall the unforgettable moments when Chinese doctors treated them in their childhood. Since the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, China has sent five consecutive batches of permanent medical teams and one batch of short-term anti-epidemic medical team to The Gambia, and provided medical supplies and vaccines, helping The Gambia fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese doctors worked with their Gambian colleagues in clinics and hospitals around the country, helping improve national public health service capabilities. China has also provided equipment and supplies to four health centers in The Gambia which were built by China decades ago, revitalizing their functions to continuously benefit local people. The Chinese medical team successfully performed The Gambia’s first cardiac pacemaker implantation. Through paired support and cooperation, Shengjing Hospital of China Medical University helped Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in The Gambia establish a center of excellence in obstetrics and gynecology, helping promote health of women and girls.
Since the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Chinese Government Scholarship Program has provided opportunities for around 300 Gambian students to study in China. The Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship has supported 150 outstanding Gambian students in completing their studies. The Confucius Institute at the University of The Gambia provides an excellent platform for Gambian people to learn Chinese language and culture, enhancing mutual understanding between the two peoples.
People-to-people exchanges between China and The Gambia have been fully restored and are rapidly advancing this year. China and The Gambia signed a memorandum of understanding on vocational and technical education cooperation. Over 300 representatives from all walks of life in The Gambia have been invited to visit China this year. Gambian National Assembly Members visited China and were deeply impressed with China’s achievements on governance and democracy. These friendly exchanges vividly reflect the important role of the Belt and Road Initiative in promoting people-to-people connectivity.
As an African proverb says, “one piece of wood cannot build a house.” China and The Gambia are trusted friends and partners, and China will march hand in hand with The Gambia on the journey of modernization, supporting each other and seeking mutual benefit. High-quality Belt and Road cooperation is a common strategic choice. This month, Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing. We will seize this important opportunity to deepen exchanges and cooperation in various areas between the two countries within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, creating a new and beautiful chapter of China-Gambia friendly relations.