“The largest share of national imports is on basic commodities such as rice, edible oil and petroleum products. There are other imports such as soaps, detergents and dairy products all of which are made by local industries. However, the scale and quality of products varies with those imported. It is shocking however, to notice that rice, edible imports account for about 18% and 20% of imports respectively, and this is extremely high and quite alarming. It is not surprising therefore, that President Yayha Jammeh made a clarion call to ban importation of rice by 2016. This radical shift is vital to serve as stimulus for the future realisation of national food sufficiency, sustainable socio-economic growth and development. Largely, the importation of rice has not been the norm and tradition of pre-colonial Gambia. It is our fervent hope that science, technology and innovation will play a vital role in the realisation of Agenda 2016.”
The vice president said this yesterday at the Paradise Suites Hotel while opening the second National Conference and Exhibition on Science, Technology and Innovation and review of the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (2013-2022).
She said President Jammeh was committed to science and technology stressing: “A clear testimony to his keen interest in science technology and innovation is his declaration of 2012 as ‘The Year of STI’, just to cite an example.”
Mrs Njie-Saidy added: “About a decade-and-a-half ago, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration and its associated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals expressed our global determination to make substantial improvements in the living standards of our people by 2015. We are almost there just about a year to the landmark date we set ourselves and I am happy to note that The Gambia has made significant strides towards meeting these goals.”
She told a meeting attended by cabinet ministers, Unesco and senior government officials that “over the past few years, The Gambia has registered significant levels of economic performance characterised by strong GDP growth rates of near 6 per cent per annum. In this context, the government has been devoting appreciable amounts of time planning for development via capital investments, macro-economic stability with a lot of focus on economic planning with the tendency to ignore a crucially important area of activity, namely embodying economic planning with science and technology planning and innovation.”
She said The Gambia has a high trade deficit which is due to high imports compared to exports and this was a serious concern to the government adding, “although total exports (a culmination of domestic and re-export trade) has registered moderate growth since 2008, total imports remain significantly higher and grows much faster than exports.
“The high import rate signifies a weak industrial base that is not able to meet the basic needs of a growing modern economy. The efforts of the industrial and STI policymakers are to focus, inter-alia, on developing policy instruments that enable the narrowing of the gap between domestic imports and exports through effective and efficient promotion of innovation, industrialisation, entrepreneurship, continuous and rigorous investment promotion and an aggressive export driven strategy.”]]>