The winding-up of the bilateral programme of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) does not mean the end of UK development support to The Gambia.
Bobby Stansfield, UK Department for International Development Press Officer for Africa, Aid Effectiveness, Health and Education, has said the closure of DFID Bilateral Programme “does not mark the end” of the UK’s development support to The Gambia.
The DFID press officer said the UK would continue to provide financial support to The Gambia through their “existing share of World Bank, African Development Bank, European Commission and other multilateral programming”.
Early this year, the UK announced that it plans to cut its DFID support to 16 countries, including The Gambia, and four UN agencies. "The plans to redraw the aid map will concentrate efforts on countries where U.K. aid will, pound for pound, achieve the best results in fighting poverty and building a safer world, and where Britain is in the best position to deliver results," British Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, said.
DFID, a programme through which UK provides development assistance to other countries on behalf of the British Government, spent £1,059,056,000 (one billion, fifty-nine million and fifty-six thousand British pounds) in The Gambia in the last five years.
Mr Mitchell said the UK will longer provide direct assistance to The Gambia; that is the UK will no longer support projects in The Gambia, as the current UK government did a multilateral and bilateral aid review which shows that the British aid to The Gambia “is not being properly spent” and that the British tax payer is not getting value for money. This means the desired results for which the British render assistance to The Gambia “are not being realised”.
The UK government said it is now focusing its assistance where it can have the greatest possible impact. Over the years, DFID has supported several projects in The Gambia. These include basic education support for poverty reduction, which is aimed at enhancing the capacity of the Ministry of Education to implement The Gambia’s poverty reduction strategy through the education sector. The amount budgeted for the latest six-year project (2005 - 2011) was £4,284,970.
Another DFID project is the Gambia Legal Capacity Building Programme, aimed at improving the impartiality, efficiency and accessibility of the Gambian legal system. The budgeted amount for this seven-year project that commenced in 2004 was £3,113,893.
DFID has also funded the Gambia Financial Governance Programme aimed at supporting the development and implementation of a coordinated public financial management reform programme, to deliver sustainable results. £2,025,475 was budgeted for this six-year project that started in 2004.
DFID also supports a project on empowering civil society organisations in The Gambia through capacity building and network linkages. This project is to provide funding to civil societies for their projects, and to improve the long-term organisational performance and financial sustainability of a range of partner organisations as well as to demonstrate the advantages of and promote collaboration among organisations. The amount budgeted for this project which started in 2006 was £1,238,794.
The Gambia support to Pro-Poor Advocacy Group (ProPAG), aimed at supporting the engagement of civil society groups and the Gambian government on the policies, plans and implementation of the poverty reduction strategy, is also funded by DFID. An amount of £443,620 was budgeted for this project that started in 2003.
Most of these projects are however still operational, DFID press officer Bobby Stansfield said, adding: “As part of the responsible exit strategy, the DFID bilateral programme has been gradually winding down to ensure sustainable outcomes for the projects where DFID has been engaged.”
DFID has been providing direct assistance to The Gambia since it was set up in 1997 and “it would be difficult to list every project DFID has supported” in The Gambia, Mr Stansfield said.
DFID’s main support goes to activities in the four main areas: Legal Capacity Building Programme - to improve the accessibility, impartiality and efficiency of the Gambian Judicial System; Education sector - to enhance the capacity of the Department of State for Education to implement The Gambia’s poverty reduction strategy in the education sector; Financial Management Programme - aimed at strengthening the public financial management in The Gambia; and Civil Society capacity building measures including monitoring of The Gambia’s poverty reduction strategy.
The UK remains the leading bilateral donor to The Gambia in terms of engagement in policy discussions – and one of the few with an office in the country.
The UK also provides a considerable amount of assistance to The Gambia through direct support for regional programmes and indirectly through its contributions to multilateral organisations, such as the EU, the World Bank and United Nations agencies.