Friday, January 28, 2011

GAWFA heralds new beginning for Gambian Women

The new finance company launched by the Gambia Women’s Finance Association (GAWFA) to provide trade finance for women could be the start of better days to come for the country’s hardworking women.  Lamin Jahateh reports.

CEO of GAWFA, Olie Njie Mbye, delivering her statement

Gambia Women’s Finance Company has launched its own finance institution – GAWFA Finance Company – to meet the business and trade finance needs of Gambian women in line with women economic empowerment.

The launching of GAWFA Finance Company, with celebration of joy, pride and victory, is a clear testimony that GAWFA is on the verge of achieving its vision of building a sustainable financial institution that will meet the aspirations of women in the vanguard of an evolving financial system, and regain market leadership by 2020 with a share of at least 50% of the market represented by local Gambian women.

“This is a timely and a very important move by GAWFA towards the economic and social empowerment of women and the development of the country at large,” said Aja Ida Faye Hydara, Executive Director of Women’s Bureau, while launching the GAWFA Finance Company on behalf of the Vice-President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, H.E. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, on Wednesday at the GAWFA headquarters in Kanifing.  

“Launching GAWFA Finance Company today is a welcome move as the company is here to contribute to the empowerment of Gambian women,” she said, adding that though GAWFA has contributed and continues to contribute to the development of a lot of women in the country, “there is still a long way to go”.

GAWFA’s Chief Executive Officer Oley Njie Mbye, in her remarks, said: “At GAWFA we promote self-sufficiency, empowerment and capacity building which are integral not only for economic empowerment but also to human services and development in general. Having the resources for strategies alone is not enough but effective outcomes and sustainability are also fundamental for the advancement of women.” 

The launching of GAWFA Finance Company is seen by many as a step in the right direction as it will provide banking services to that segment of the society who are hitherto “left out by the commercial banks” thus unable to access loan. Majority of these unbanked population are women many of whom are poor.

Gambian women are faced with the challenge of what is considered the “poverty trap”. The poor women are striving to escape from poverty but are limited to do so by using the meagre resources they own. The challenges of obtaining loans from financial institutions can be attributed to many factors of the “poverty trap”, but without loans or advances to augment their businesses and realise returns that can transform their economic conditions they would continue to wallow in the vicious cycle of poverty.  

The GAWFA CEO, who has been a bank executive with over 16 years of diverse leadership experience, said: “Women are the most impoverished and underprivileged in the world. But we save bigger long term goals and are more committed to make positive changes in our lives progressively. We have effective leadership skills in managing scarce resources and can start something small and grow it big for better economic conditions.

She added: “It is therefore a moral obligation as global citizens not to lean back and ask what our governments are doing or can do; we need to get up and stand firm on our feet, roll our sleeves up and do our own part. We have our own part to play and ask ourselves what we can do for our country and the world in general to contribute directly or indirectly in many ways to socio-economic development.”

Mrs Njie-Mbye highlighted the unprogressive notion that women are generally expected to take secondary, passive role in obtaining credit, but major role in the household. “We are usually considered less suitable than men for higher responsibility on loan acquisition. It is paramount we solidify our own institution through microfinance, and have the ability to influence, or make decisions that affect our lives and be independent.”

The launching of GAWFA also witnessed the presentation of an award by staff of GAWFA to their CEO Njie Mbye, for being a wonderful and a competent leader who always lead by example.

According to Hannah Davies, chairperson of GAWFA board, GAWFA is the leading and first microfinance institution established since 1987 in The Gambia with over 48,948 members and over 13,682 active borrowers.  “We also have several branch offices spread in the rural areas in The Gambia,” she said.
Aja Adulette Sey, a senior member of GAWFA, said GAWFA is here to uplift the status of women to eradicate poverty, as women are at the bottom of the poverty pyramid.

GAWFA delivers a bouquet of corporate services to its clients including capacity building through its partners and interrelated organizations.


MD urges managers to keep up the momentum
The Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation is in good stead in terms of performance, in terms of how government thinks about the institution and in terms of corporate governance, Mr Tumbul Danso, Managing Director of the institution, reveals.
“In terms of performance, you will recall that during the 2010 budget speech the performance of the Corporation has been one of the best among the parastatals.  Two years ago, we made a surplus of over D97 million at the end of the year,” the managing director told the media practitioners on Thursday during a day-long sensitization organized by his institution for journalists from both the print and electronic media and held at their head office in Banjul.
He said the ‘wonderful performance’ of the Corporation has been recognized by the government in the sense that about two years ago “we were paid a national bonus payment of three months because we have this bonus agreement that we have entered into with the government”.  At the end of every year the Corporation is assessed and bonus is paid base on performance, which is a demonstration of the wonderful performance of the institution.  
The 2010 budget statement has indicated that the consolidated gross income of the Corporation increased from D268.7 million in 2007 to D502.05million in 2008 while recurrent expenditure increased from D98.7 million to D255.33 million. Thus, the corporation recorded a consolidated Net Surplus of D97.1 million. Total Net Assets grew from D3.09 billion in 2007 to D3.5 billion in 2008.

MD Danso explained that a couple of years back the Corporation was also promoted by the government from being category three institution to category one institution.

He said in terms of corporate governance, they continue to manage the affairs of the Corporation to the best of their abilities.
“All these has gone to demonstrate that the Corporation is in good stead in terms of performance, in terms of how government things about us,” the Managing director noted. “So I will definitely urge the managers of different section of the Corporation to ensure that they keep up the strength to make the Corporation reaches higher heights.”
He said: “We want to make sure that we keep ourselves involved in all the best practices just like it is done in other advance countries.  I believe if other countries can do it, we in Africa can also improve on our system. 
The Corporation is considered as one of the best in Africa and this had been demonstrated in terms of how many sister institutions has sent staffs on attachment to our institution, to come and study our system so that they can also replicate that in their institution.”
MD Danso told the media practitioners that Corporation has two main components that is the housing component and also social security component.  The corporation is mandated by the government through an Act of parliament to provide social security services to the general public through membership it is also mandated to implement housing projects on behalf of the government.   “Since 1982 we have been doing exactly that,” he said. 
He explained that each of these two components has sub-components.   Under the social security component there is the national provident fund, federated pension scheme, and the industrial injuries compensation fund.  The housing finance fund under the housing component is to implement housing projects on behalf of the government.
He described the relation between the Corporation and the press as “mutual”.  “It’s one of a symbiotic relationship for the mutual benefit of both parties.  The corporation needs the press to help in its education campaign because we are involves in a whole lot of educational campaign and we need the press in that regard.  The press also needs us to give them information to enable them to disseminate that information to the general public.” 
He told the journalists:  “We welcome any journalists anytime you want to visit us, our doors are open to you anytime you need our services. We are available at any point you needs us to give information on any aspect of our activities.” 
The training was meant to create awareness, enhances compliance, and informs the media practitioners on the regulations that govern various schemes of the Corporation.

Ministry of Economic Planning charges to department

As government reshuffled the cabinet

Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, which was created last year, is being reconstituted and brought under the Ministry of Finance as departments while the Ministry of Finance is re-named Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the government announced.
This development comes as the President of the country; Yahya AJJ Jammeh reshuffled the cabinet.  A news released from the office of the President stated that “His Excellency The President of the Republic of The Gambia Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J Jammeh, acting under the provision of section 71 (1) and 71 (3) respectively, of the Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia has effected a Cabinet Re-shuffle.”
Minister of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, Hon. Mambury Njie, has been re-assigned to the Ministry of Finance as Minister, while Minister of Finance, Hon. Abdou Kolley, re-assigned to the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment as Minister.
In the same vein Hon. Yusupha Kah, Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment has been re-assigned to the Ministry of Works, Construction and Infrastructure, which was under the president’s office, as Minister.

The release urges all Ministers are urged to live up to expectations of their portfolio so “as to ensure maximum delivery of the national development programs set in Government’s Vision 2020 Blueprint, as time is ticking fast.”

“Therefore, all are reminded that there will be no room for complacency.  Ministers are however assured of the executive’s maximum support to ensure that we collectively achieve our development aspirations,” the release stated.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lawyer rubbishes Gambia’s President Kingship campaign

Lawyer Assan Martin
Mr. Assan Martin, a human rights lawyer, has rubbished the ongoing campaign by chiefs in the Gambia to crown president Jammeh as king of the country.
Tribal chieftains in the country are touring the country to rally support for President Yahya Jammeh's coronation.
He said: “If this is to happen, it means we are taking Gambia’s Democracy forty five years back”.
The proponents of Gambia’s independence fought hard against monarchy under colonial rule and succeeded in establishing a nation built on the principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights and good governance.
“It is true that every person protected under the Constitution enjoys the right to free expression, but this does not mean that those in authority should propagate retrogressive ideas which members of the public do not expect from them,” the human rights lawyer said.
He added: “Those in authority should brainstorm on issues that would improve the lives of the people they represent. They are not paid to propagate bankrupt ideas.
 “People who do not have anything to do may imagine having a monarchy in an established democracy. People who have concerns for those that they represent will not even think of propagating this type of idea.”
The Human Rights lawyer explained that the idea of moving from a Republic to a Monarchy is barely heard of in modern times.
Lawyer Martin told Gambians to preserve the legacy of all those that struggled for the Independence of the country.
However the chief of western region of Foni Brefet has said the president Jammeh has brought development to the country and “for that he deserves to be crowned King of The Gambia".
"This is the only way the Gambian people can express our gratitude to a leader who has done a lot for his country,” he said.
 Like many rulers in this part of Africa, Jammeh, 45, came to power in the wake of a coup in 1994. He was elected president two years later, and is currently serving his third elected term in the tiny country surrounded on three sides by Senegal.
If he were crowned king, he could dispense with the formality of elections altogether.