Since the publication in The Standard of the article ‘Gambian Goods Coming From Dakar Port, Bonus to Our Economy,’ the Honourable Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Seedy Keïta, has taken a lot of flak. Minister Keïta had given his honest analysis of the congestion and attendant high tariff at Banjul port and the ramifications of importers opting for the more efficient port of Dakar to bring in goods.
He said although the situation is not ideal, it is in fact “a bonus to our economy and poses no revenue losses”. He said were it not for importers bringing goods to The Gambia through the port of Dakar, the current high prices of goods which everyone is complaining about, would in fact have been much higher. It is within this context that he made the statement. But critics have come down on him like a tonne of bricks. They accused him of ineptitude, of lacking vision and all not.
The fact remains that the country’s primary ports of entry are Banjul International Airport and the port of Banjul. Banjul port is central to the country’s economy, accounting for about 90% of the country’s trade in both volume and weight. Therefore, the port plays a vital role in the trade and distribution of cargo to neighbouring countries including Mali, Guinea Bissau, southern Senegal, and Guinea Conakry. Some trade statistics even indicate that the Gambian re-exports constitute over 80 percent of the country’s total exports!
Officials say that is why government, in partnership with the European Investment Bank and African Development Bank, is exploring new “state-of-the-art port projects, including the expansion of the current jetty, digitalisation of port operations, and the construction of new container terminals”. Experts say the upgrades would lengthen the docks and enlarge the canal to accommodate even longer container ships, presenting opportunities for construction, port operation, and shipping firms.
Our port as it is, is definitely not fit for purpose. We are not efficient and not competitive. Like the case of Gamtel and Sonatel, the port of Banjul has lost almost all of its competitive edges to the port of Dakar and the construction of a new US$1.1 billion “super port” near the town of Ndayane, 50km southeast of Dakar is certainly not good news for the port of Banjul. We are not doing enough and we are not doing it fast enough. Government should wake up do whatever it takes to fix the port of Banjul!