Panafrican News Agency

Gambian leader says economic independence must be linked to political independence

Banjul, Gambia (PANA)- Gambian President Adama Barrow, says economic independence must be linked to political independence within a social context, saying “this would allow us to apply democratic principles in harmony with our economic frameworks and social settings.”

Speaking at Gambia's 57th independence anniversary celebration in Banjul on Friday, Barrow stated that relating democracy to the Gambian situation, should be a democracy that guarantees freedom, respects community values, accommodates African view-points, and recognises sub-groups as part of one diverse nation.

The Gambia attained independence from British rule on February 18, 1965, and the theme for Friday's celebration is "political independence, democracy and national unity, economic independence.”

Barrow emphasized that this is the concept of democracy that reflects the will of the people and their hopes and desires, stressing “no amount of external support or policies can entrench peace and stability in our communities, if we choose not to be civil enough.”

“As we celebrate our Independence anniversary, we can also rejoice at the realisation that there is no longer any African nation under colonial rule. This makes political independence no longer the issue it was decades ago, and it gives a broader significance to the country’s independence and justifies our celebration,” he said.

He added: “In this era, the dilemma of African countries largely remains the attainment of economic independence in an inter-dependent world. Like many other nations around the world, this is one of The Gambia’s major challenges.”

He also said absolute economic independence is impracticable; but said "it is certain that Gambia can reduce her heavy dependence on the outside world."

Barrow asked, “how can Gambians do this meaningfully?,” but he was quick to say the solution depends hugely on how practical Gambians are and how far they choose to go in raising West African productivity and production capabilities and outputs, while minimising imports and maximising exports.

Barrow emphasized that the imbalance between imports and exports for the country is enormous, and this needs to be corrected, noting generally, there is a great need to transform the population into a more productive resource.

“To free ourselves from economic dependence, among other strategies, we must invest more freely in the productive sectors, produce as much of what we consume as we need, and eat more home-made products.

"By the same token, we need to expand and patronise local businesses, while developing, encouraging and tapping local talent,” he pointed out.

According to him, a lot of potential to increase national income generation lies in organising communities to set up joint businesses, engage in more productive ventures, and make the most of West African nation natural resources.

“Old and ineffective approaches have to give way to greater application of technology and modern techniques of production.

"Industrialisation is surely one of the key areas to promote and develop. We should work towards ably mechanising and diversifying agriculture, preserving and processing our produce, and changing our life styles to depend less on imported goods, especially imported food commodities,” he said.

He added: “In discussing economic independence, my vision for The Gambia is a nation with top-class infrastructure, sufficient energy for national coverage and a technology-supported society that matches the digital world, all of which propel growth, economic development and social cohesion through an adequately equipped human resource base.”

The Gambian leader noted to advance economically, there is an urgent need to inject value and derive value from whatever we do.

“We should insist on designing value-driven projects and programmes that add value to the lives and livelihoods of the people, and ensure that our interventions yield tangible results that are not short lived.

"The next five years provide opportunities to pursue such noble goals with more passion and vigour. We now have the chance to be proactive and be better organised to utilise our resources more efficiently and usefully. The world is moving fast, and we must keep moving equally fast,” he told Gambians.

He also challenged the relevant ministries and institutions to transform such ideals into workable strategies and infuse them into the next development plan and national policies.

-0- PANA MSS/VAO 18Feb2022