By Alagie Manneh
A number of Gambian importers of food and other basic essentials and their Mauritanian business operators have called on the Gambia government to sanitise the current confusion that has crippled the distribution of goods across the country for weeks now.
Speaking to The Standard, a Gambian businessman who preferred anonymity said currently most imported goods including rice remain in the stores because Mauritanian businessmen who distribute them to their shops across the country have had their vehicles stopped from carrying the goods.
“The Mauritanian business operators buy from us and distribute the commodities across the country to reach the entire population. Some of them have 18 shops, others 15 from Kombo to Koina, Farafenni, Basse, Soma and many places. They have their own vehicles that transport the goods but now those vehicles have been prevented from carrying goods by people calling themselves the transport union,” another businessman, a Mr Drammeh complained.
He said the move is crippling the economy as most essential goods remained locked up in stores since the Mauritanians are not keen to use transports other than their own.
A third business man, Mr Cham said the matter has led to a marked escalation in the exchange rates.
“The CFA5000 was exchanged for D360 a few weeks ago but now it is exchanged for close to D400,” Mr Cham complained.
Sheikh Dada, a Mauritanian business operator said they decided to use their own vehicles since hiring commercial trucks have led to lots of problems and huge delays and losses.
“That is one of the reasons why we the distributors decided to get our own vehicles,” he said.
He added that there is a need for government to come up with clear policies since the Gambia is a “free market meaning people must be free to go about their businesses.
“Imagine you have your own company, your own shop, your own vehicle and yet you are not allowed to use the vehicle but instead forced to hire someone else’s vehicle,” Mr Dada said.
“Recently, people calling themselves union came and said everyone who has a car must come to the garage and join a queue which takes ages for the goods to be distributed,” he lamented.
Alhage Mohamed Abdellawy, another Mauritanian distributor, alleged that his lorry, which is already loaded, has been prevented from moving for several days now.
Both Mauritanian and Gambian businessmen called on the government to intervene immediately to avoid an imminent shortage of essential goods.