Launch of long-awaited space at country's main airport means more – and more diverse – exports
On 19 February, the new Gambia International Airlines (GIA) cargo facility at Banjul International Airport was officially inaugurated
The long-awaited centre has been in the making for five years, and will help to facilitate the country's expanding export market in horticulture and fisheries.
"I am especially happy about inaugurating this complex as the objectives of its establishment are in line with the overall objective of the National Development Plans of my Government, particularly in our efforts to revitalize and transform the economy for the well-being of all Gambians," said Vice-President of The Gambia Fatoumata Tambajang at the launch.
The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa, and its economy – heavily reliant on tourism – was badly affected by the Ebola outbreak in the region. This new facility, with storage space for both perishable and non-perishable goods, is a move to solidify the country's trade outlook and shore up its economic prospects.
The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) has been supporting The Gambia's trade development since 2006, with projects ranging from the implementation of a national trade strategy to targeted support for fisheries, agriculture, telecommunications and tourism. The new cargo center is part of EIF efforts together with partners to strengthen the country's participation in regional and global markets.
EIF Deputy Executive Director Annette Ssemuwemba, who attended the launch, said, "I am pleased that the new facility is now operational. This will provide Gambia with the opportunity to expand their volume of exports and a brighter trade outlook. The EIF looks forward to continuing to work with the government as it expands into new markets."
The EIF has implemented four projects with The Gambia, including institutional capacity work with USD 1,500,000 in support and sector-focused efforts in the female-dominated sesame and cashew industries.
Former EIF Board Member and Policy Director for Trade Negotiations with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Benedicte Fleischer said at the launch, "I note in the greater field of trade policy that The Gambia has presented its notification to the World Trade Organization of how it is planning to fulfil all the trade facilitation obligations, of which this is a practical picture of what is to come. And that is showing that The Gambia is moving forward. And this leads me to... how important it is to have an open economy and to make use of the trade opportunities to develop the economy, in your case for the benefit of all Gambians."
The facility in Banjul is expected to reduce handling times by as much as 50 percent through the combination of improved infrastructure, packaging standards, better trained airport staff and increased services to small- and medium-sized enterprises. A new scanner will allow large pallets to be easily prepped in accordance with International Air Transport Association safety standards, and which will speed up the export process.
"Through this cargo complex, trade facilitation in the Gambia will not only be enhanced by increasing capacity at the GIA and Banjul International Airport but will directly enable small- and medium-sized exporters to access services of GIA at competitive rates," said Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment Ministry Permanent Secretary Naffie Barry.
All these boosts will help facilitate the country's trade and it is hoped will lure increased private sector investment.
"I believe that if all actors come together and work accordingly with full commitment, this complex could play a contributing role in supporting private sector development, particularly small-scale investors, women and aspiring young entrepreneurs to improve their livelihoods, contribute to GDP and employment creation and benefit from greater access to bigger regional and international markets," Tambajang said in her speech at the launch.
"I believe that if all actors come together and work accordingly with full commitment, this complex could play a contributing role in supporting private sector development."
Vice-President Aja Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajang
Speeches at the inauguration event were followed by a musical performance by the renowned musician and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Jaliba Kuyateh, known internationally as the “King of Kora.”
Watch the inauguration event here:
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