H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad
H.E. Madame Speaker of the National Assembly
Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps
Honourable National Assembly members, ladies and gentlemen
Dear compatriots, it has been a long time since the French National Day has been celebrated in Banjul. As you know, the 14th of July is an occasion for us, French, to commemorate the founding event of our Republic: the seizing of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789.
It is also an occasion to celebrate with the people of the world the universal ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity.
It had also been a long time since a senior French official paid a visit to The Gambia. On the 5th of November 2018, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, marked France’s commitment to the New Gambia through an official visit.
For two and a half years, France has been engaged in substantial support to the Gambian government in order to guarantee the success of its democratic experience.
This multifaceted support resulted in a series of significant decisions:
Unreserved support to the President that the Gambians had chosen, His Excellency Adama BARROW;
His reception at the Africa-France Summit;
His invitation to France on an official visit;
The decision to reopen a diplomatic mission in Banjul;
The listing of The Gambia as one of France’s 19 priority countries for development aid
The announcement of a €50m grant for a budget support, and for the financing by the French Development Agency of projects for the improvement of drinking water distribution in Greater Banjul and irrigated areas for rice cultivation in the Upper River Region.
France’s support is also designed towards the revival of military cooperation, particularly with the Gambian Navy and the resumption of French naval ship calls; support to the reform of the security sector through the disposal at the national security office of an officer of the French gendarmerie; and the establishment of a long-term cooperation with the Gambian police which started last month through the first PIU training by French policemen, and the support for transitional justice.
Following the accession of The Gambia to the International Organisation of the Francophonie, at the Yerevan summit, the French Ambassador Christophe Bigot and the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, Mrs. Claudia Cole proceeded together last month, at the launch of a major project to upgrade the linguistic and educational level of 120 French-language teachers in the Gambian education system.
This overview would not be complete without the mention of our actions via multilateral cooperation for the benefit of The Gambia: the one led by the European Union on behalf of its Member States, of which France is the second contributor and programs implemented by the United Nations agencies.
This return of France to The Gambia after so many years of absence would not have occurred without the resolute commitment of diplomats who work to promote Franco-Gambian relations. Allow me to take this opportunity, Mr Minister to pay tribute to your personal commitment in the revival of our bilateral relations and to associate to this tribute the ambassador of France to Senegal and The Gambia, Christophe Bigot, who will soon complete his mission with both countries, for your tireless actions in the service of relations between our two countries.
In the same spirit, the members of the France Team in The Gambia, alongside the Chargé d’affaires and head of the diplomatic mission, the honorary consul, the director of the Alliance Française, the director of the French School, the adviser to the National Security Adviser, the head of the support program for the teaching of French, devote themselves with dedication and determination to the promotion of the bilateral relationship.
The regrouping, from the next school year of the new French school on the same site as the Alliance Française, in a space dedicated to education and culture, will mark a new stage in our relationship and would be inaugurated by a delegation of the France-Gambia friendship group of the French national assembly, formed a few months ago. This friendship group will further develop a parliamentary cooperation with the France-Gambia friendship group of the Gambian National Assembly.
Last but not least, is the French presence French companies in The Gambia. A dozen of them, two of which have recently established themselves in this country, contribute to its development by sharing excellent know-how and by disseminating good commercial practices.
In order to amplify this renewed interest of our companies for The Gambia, the French representation encourages this promising trend of prospection of potential French investors, particularly in the tourism sector, a few months after the welcomed decision taken by the Gambian authorities to grant French nationals the benefit of a visa free entry into the Gambian territory.
A week ago, about forty French companies already established in Senegal but not yet in The Gambia, met in Dakar through the intermediary of the French Embassy, with a high level Gambian delegation.
This delegation was led by the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Hon Mambury Njie and was composed of representatives of the public and private sectors who presented the opportunities of the Gambian market.
This France-Gambia Business Forum which was a success demonstrated that French investors hold all the cards to build successful partnerships with Gambian companies. I would like to assure our companies that they will always find the French representation to accompany them and to relay their possible concerns.
France will continue to advocate to the authorities of this country so that The Gambia remains open to French investors and so that they can benefit from a transparent business environment and a stable and equal taxation for all.
In conclusion, I will like to thank the four French companies who co-sponsored this evening, namely EIFFAGE, BOLLORE, BANJUL BREWERIES, subsidiary of the CASTEL group and BUREAU VERITAS.
Finally and as is customary when we celebrate the 14th of July, I extend my gratitude to my compatriots, whose numbers have increased in 2019, for their contribution to the prosperity of this country and I also extend my gratitude to the Gambians for the continues hospitality being kindly offer. Thank you for your attention!