By Lamin Saho
It is often said that some men are born great; others become great by virtue of their outstanding deeds.
I will dare say that Kaliba Senghore was a great man by virtue of his deeds in this universe and sadness fell upon me recently when I heard of his demise.
I crossed path with Kaliba later in life as both of us made a foray in to tourism. It was precisely in 2001 when the Gambia Tourism Authority was just constituted to take over from the National Tourist Office as the lead agency for tourism promotion, development and regulation.
Kaliba was just recruited as one of the directors – Director of Tourism Human Resources to be precise and I recall one morning I was summoned to attend a meeting at the newly established Gambia Tourism Authority in Kotu.
I later realized the newly recruited Director of Tourism Human Resources had proactively called this meeting to engage the official Tourist Guides and as he would explain during the opening session, the meeting was called to strategize on the way forward and to look in to the myriad of operational issues confronting the Tourist Guides. As the former coordinator of the Tourist Guide scheme project at the level of the National Tourist Office, it was a wise and pragmatic move to involve me in the meeting.
I shared valuable insight and perspectives on the genesis of the scheme, its modus operandi and preached one or two things on the way forward. Kaliba was clearly impressed given his background in development and by extension human resource management and straight away remarked that such meetings would be organized periodically to brainstorm on issues and suggested for other tourism stakeholders to be involved in such meetings.
That was Kaliba Sengore – a very pragmatic man, who deeply understood the role of Human Resources in national development and most importantly in tourism development and equally grasped the need for inclusive approach in tourism management.
In terms of career progression, Kaliba rose through the ranks in the civil service and cut his teeth as a top technocrat at the Personnel Management Office in the twilight of his career in government and subsequently joined the Action Aid to work as the Human Resource expert for this development oriented agency and once explained to me how he used to spend the best part of his time flying from one destination to the other mostly in East and southern Africa to attend to his numerous assignments in development circuits of Action Aid. Perhaps those travels whetted Kaliba’s appetite in the travel domain and it was no wonder that he later joined the Tourism and Travel Industry – first as the Director of Tourism Human Resources, then as Director General of the GTA and later as the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
Given his background as people development expert, Kaliba was an able general of the many battles in tourism human resource development at the level of the GTA and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
He understood the role of human resources in tourism development and as he pointed in one of his interviews “generally speaking Gambia Tourism is its people because we don’t have any resources as such. We have the human resources thus our slogan “the Smiling Coast of Africa”.
Invariably, under Kaliba’s watch the GTA made tangible strides across the critical areas of capacity building at institutional level, destination marketing, product development, infrastructural development and quality control.
Furthermore, during his tenure of office the Responsible Tourism Partnership (RTP) became central in bringing together all players in tourism including tour operators, ground tour operators, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and small scale operators, members of the public sector to maximize the benefits of tourism, minimize the negative impacts and increasing the positive impact.
As such under Kaliba’s watch ASSET (Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism) now ASSET came of age and embraced the advocacy role of the small scale enterprises in tourism with a view to increasing the positive impact of tourism in terms of income generation and employment creation, cultural and environmental preservation.
Through a multi- stakeholder process, the RTP looks at the relationships between formal and informal sectors in tourism with the objective of resolving conflicts and defining operational relationship and addressing issues of responsibility and sustainability in tourism.
Kaliba was indeed very pragmatic and as the Director General of the GTA the policy of open door was actualized and as such the wishes and aspirations of various stakeholder institutions in tourism were mainstreamed in GTA operations.
These initiatives had boosted the image of the GTA within the tourism fraternity and at the same time various committees were constituted such as the Human Resource and Training Committee as well as the Security and Sensitization Committee were given prominence in the scheme of things, as well as the Responsible Tourism Partnership, thus giving credence to the principle of inclusive and collaborative management in tourism.
In terms of staff development and promotion, Kaliba was very instrumental in my elevation first as Marketing Manager and then as Director of Marketing.
As a seasoned manager and administrator Kaliba understood the need for staff motivation and he was quick to spot talent. On many occasions he would call me in to his office and confide in me the various efforts at management level to give me the due recognition and elevation I clearly deserve.
This he felt was necessary to reward me for all the experience, professionalism, grounding in tourism and hard work and dedication to duty.
I could vividly recall in one of our many overseas trips, I think it was in Sweden to attend the TUR Travel Fair when out of the blues, in one of the tourism convergences, he made a remark to the effect that I was in jubilant mood because in his words ‘Alfabaa is about to be elevated “and for him “ALFABAA”as he used to fondly call me, “was about to reap the fruits of hard work and dedication to duty” to thunderous applause from the audience. Kaliba was indeed a very upright, simple and unassuming personality.
Another day on the way to the airport to attend a very important operational meeting and upon arrival at the check point en -route to the airport, he jokingly made a remark that time and again he would come across a security check point and the security personnel would urge him on only to ask “where is the GTA boss”? This summed up the type of personality he was- very unassuming, simple, humble with a common touch. Kaliba was a warm, sincere and honest person who left a lasting impression on all those who came in to contact with him.
Jovial and good natured, he built lasting friendships wherever he went.
True to the nature of his open mindedness, he left behind a large circle of friends and acquaintances and a great family. Kaliba will be greatly missed.
May his soul rest in perfect peace and may ALLAH the Almighty grant him Jarnatul Firdaus. Sir Kalis rest in peace.
The author is a tourism Consultant and formerly Director of Marketing GTA/GTBoard, Director of Planning, Ministry of Tourism and Culture.