Monday, May 30, 2011

GAWFA CEO Counsels Africa Microfinance Technocrats

The Chief Executive Officer of the Gambia Women’s Finance Association (GAWFA) has told managers of microfinance institutions from all over Africa that they should be “go-getters” and always lead by example.
CEO Oley Njie-Mbye advised managers of microfinance institutions that, where necessary, they should allow their subordinates to take the lead at times to motivate and provide them with the opportunity to be on the drivers’ seats in huddles and meetings. “That way they can experience what it is like to be a leader so that they can see your world though their own lens”.
The GAWFA CEO was speaking on Monday at the beginning of a six-day management development course and training of trainers, for mid-level managers of microfinance institutions in Africa, organized by Africa Microfinance Network (AFMIN) in collaboration with the Centre for Microfinance Leadership at the Women’s World Banking and hosted by GAWFA, the largest microfinance institution in The Gambia.
The programme, financed by Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, was aimed at addressing the key concepts of managing for results and also to develop transformational skills for microfinance institutions managers.  
GAWFA CEO said managers of microfinance institutions “must” be flexible and adapt well to changes and the many paradigm shifts that often face microfinance institutions. “You should therefore be able to wear different hats everyday and embrace both leadership and management skills with trust, integrity, diversity, and respect for all,” she remarked.
She continued:  “Please do not assume that you can only develop your leadership skills from your immediate bosses but be diverse in your search and seek knowledge, wisdom and leadership from all sorts of life and all sorts of fields; be it from your family, community, government, and different fields, blue or while collar roles; and different industries from janitorial, engineering, medicine, banking, to microfinance and the list goes on and on.”
For his part, Mr Davy Serge Azakpame, CEO of Africa Microfinance Network (AFMIN), said good leadership and governance are important in the management of microfinance institutions.  He said good leadership is one of key success factors in management.
Ebrima Jawara, project coordinator of the rural finance project, said to date, the project has spent millions of dollars supporting microfinance institutions in The Gambia and “we will continue to strengthen them in a holistic manner”.
The training course was designed to help managers in microfinance institutions to clarify their roles and responsibilities and to improve their strategic thinking through practical exercises base on technical knowledge in microfinance.

Teachers resort to loan acquisition for housing construction

Many teachers are now going in for loans to acquire housing, as their salaries can hardly sustain them and with their families in the face of rapid rise in prices of basic human needs.
The latest report of the Gambia Teachers Cooperative Credit Union (GTUCCU) states that out of a total of 3942 teachers who applied for loan at the credit union, more than 1200, representing 39%, do so for building purpose.  
This indicates that many teachers cannot afford the cost of building from their own savings or from their meagre salaries.
A qualified HTC teacher, after spending three years at the college, earns not more than D3,500 a month when a mere Grade 12 graduate, employed as a cashier at a bank, could be earning  an initial salary of up to D4,500 or D5,000 with some fringe benefits.
The GTUCCU has disbursed almost D25 million as loan, in two years, to almost two thousand five hundred teachers for building purpose. 
The Loans Review Committee of the union urges all the teachers to “honourably” repay loans and interests attached to them for subsequent disbursement to other applicants due for loans. 
However, the committee is worried at the rate of teachers failing to repay their loans.  It says:  “The rate at which bad loans or unpaid debts are showing their ugly faces is rather appalling.  We must repay all loans and interest accordingly.  That way, we shall maintain our GTUCCU flag flying above expectation.”
Baboucarr O. Joof, general manager of GTUCCU, said the union would take “genuine and practical” steps to recover bad debts “at all cost in the foot of pro-action” in loan recovery.
The management of the union has set itself realistic targets in these areas and in pursuing them, he said.
However, to find out whether loan could be the only option through which teachers can afford housing, this reporter caught up with some teachers to gauge their opinions on the issue.
Ebrima Bah, a qualified HTC teacher, said taking loans “is the only way now” most teachers can afford to build houses, because they cannot depend on their salaries for anything else save for feeding their families.
If it were not for loans, 90 per cent of teachers in this country would not be able to build and own houses out of their salaries, he said, adding that before the advent of the GTUCCU, many teachers had spent all their productive lives in teaching and weren’t able to build a house for themselves. 
“They are still renting, even after retirement they are in their family compounds; this condition discourages many young people from the teaching profession,” he said. “This is why in The Gambia, teaching is associated with poverty.”
Mr Bah said that in the past many teachers taught for years without being able to open a bank account for themselves.
Isatou Sowe, daughter to a retired headmaster, said her father had been teaching even before she was born “but up to now we are still living in a teachers’ quarter as my father does not have a compound of his own”.
Isatou’s father, who started teaching in 1973, retired in 2010 and is in his retirement, is still living in teachers’ quarter.  She said her father had pleaded with the education authorities to allow him to stay in the quarters till his elder sons find another residence for the family.
“I don’t want anybody in my family to be a teacher again.  Enough of it,” she remarked.

Friday, May 27, 2011

GIABA organizes open house forum

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The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) has organized a day-long open house forum on “The Role of Youth in Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (ML/TF) in West Africa” on Thursday, 10th March 2011.
Pic: Dr. Abdullahi Shehu, Director General of GIABA
Held in Accra, Ghana, the event which was the fourth edition in the series of GIABA Open House Forum, serves as a platform to educate stakeholders from ECOWAS member States on the deleterious effects and debilitating impact of money laundering and financing of terrorism on peace, security and sustainable development in West Africa.
The Open House is one of the awareness and advocacy strategy adopted by GIABA to sensitise stakeholders particularly the youths on the threats of money laundering and financing of terrorism and to enable them to advocate for strong AML/CFT measures in the region.
GIABA is a specialized ECOWAS institution as well as FATF- Style Regional Body established in the year 2000 by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS with the mandate to protect the national economies and the financial systems of member States from the laundering of proceeds of crimes in particular money laundering and terrorist financing.
As part of its sustained efforts to raise awareness against the twin scourges of ML/TF in the region, GIABA in its 2011-2014 Strategic Plan considered the promotion of strategic partnerships with the civil society and development partners of utmost importance especially in the dawn of regional integration with its attendance challenges including curbing transnational organized crimes.
About 100 participants comprises students of tertiary institutions, civil society organizations and the media including top government officials and regulatory agencies involved in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing are attended the event.
The event was declared open by the Honourable Minster of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Ghana, while the Director General of GIABA, Dr Abdullahi Shehu and GIABA National Correspondent of Ghana, Mr Samuel T. Essel delivered a keynote address and welcoming remark respectively.
Highlight at the occasion were road show procession and presentation of lectures by GIABA faculty and regional expert on anti-money laundering and combating of terrorism financing (AML/CFT) regime.

NAWEC tariff increment: Three sides to the story

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The National Water and Electricity Company Limited (NAWEC) has finally succeeded in lobbying for an increment in its electricity tariff despite rejection to such a move by 98 per cent of the people who attended the recent public hearing convergence organised by PURA to gauge comments on the tariff increment.
Pics: From L to R, Messrs. Jallow and Jagne, MD of NAWEC and Chairman of PURA, respectively .
The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has approved, with modification, the proposed tariffs increment that they received from NAWEC on 27 December 2010.
With effect from 1 April this year, the tariff on electricity will increase across the board, for all shades of consumers. Tariff for domestic electricity consumption will be increased from D6.18 to D7.20 per kilowatt, representing 16.50 per cent increment; commercial usage of electricity will also be increased from D7.20 to D8.60 per kilowatt, representing 19.44 per cent increment. Hotel, club and industrial uses of electricity will also hike from D7.65 to D8.95 per kilowatt, representing 16.99 per cent increment.
Electricity uses for agriculture, the backbone of the Gambia economy, will also be increased from D7.20 to D8.00 per kilowatt, representing 11.11 per cent increment. The usage of electricity by area councils and central government will also be accelerated to D8.70 per kilowatt from D7.20, representing 20.83 per cent increment.
Pic: Mr. Alagi Gaye, Director General of PURA

The new development of tariff increment on electricity has sparked fear and worries for consumers in the country. Many people, ranging from private individuals to proprietors, entrepreneurs and potential investors across the length and breadth of the greater Banjul area who have spoken to our reporters following the latest increment on electricity tariff for various categories of consumers, have expressed deep concern over the looming situation of hiked electricity tariff. A pain in their neck, they say, is fast becoming the order of day, regarding electricity bill.

Tombong Saidy of AMRA Consulting says the current tariff for electricity in the country “is already high” to be increased.

The average people in the country are struggling to pay as it is now, so increasing the tariff will logically deny those people electricity, which is a basic need, argues Mr Saidy.

“Any increment on tariffs of electricity, water and sewerage will affect the poor people whose income is very low. They will not be able to solve their family problems much more the cost of electricity, water or sewerage,” he said.

Considering the huge debt the Gambia government and area councils owe NAWEC - D302 million and D118 million respectively, Momodou Jallow of GRTS TV said NAWEC should have thought again before increasing tariffs. “What you need to do is to pursue these people to pay their debts,” he said. “If NAWEC raises the tariffs now and people cannot pay, what will happen,” he asks rhetorically.

PURA, the national regulatory body for utilities, including electricity, water and sewerage, received an application on 27 December 2010 from NAWEC for an increase of current electricity, water and sewerage tariffs by 37%, 25% and 26% respectively.

According to PURA, the application was reviewed in accordance with Section 13 (1) b of the PURA Act 2001 and specifically Section 18 of the Electricity Act 2005 which states: “the Authority may in accordance with the provisions of the Regulatory Act determine, review, approve, modify or refuse the tariff and the terms and conditions of service provided by licensees.”

Before approving the impending increment of electricity tariff, PURA says it took into consideration the need to balance the interest of all stakeholders whilst at the same time ensuring that the procedures set out and due consultation with all stakeholders were adhered to.

It says it relies upon the principle that NAWEC has little or no control over the cost of utilities, such as fuel and energy payments to the Independent Power Producer (IPP), which are fully absorbed in the tariff in accordance with international best practice.

PURA’s modification of NAWEC’s proposed increase of 37% in electricity tariff was “based on the fact that it would not reflect optimal operational efficiency and would pass excessive electricity network losses and water leakages to consumers”.  It however says it will ensure modified tariffs reflect their true cost.

NAWEC’s proposed tariffs increment for water and sewerage services by 25% and 26% respectively were, however, not approved by PURA, for “social reasons”.

One of the reasons put forth by NAWEC to justify the tariff increment is that the company will hardly raise the financial resources needed to provide the required utilities if tariffs remain unchanged.

“The current revenue base of NAWEC is not enough to sustain the company’s operational obligations, which has resulted in the company going in for short term borrowing from commercial banks at exorbitant cost,” NAWEC Finance Director Alhagie Jallow said.

He says the company is currently undergoing extreme financial difficulties due to its ever-increasing cost of light and heavy fuel and lubricants, cost of energy purchased from the Independent Power Producer (IPP), and high cost of running the corporation.

However, during the public hearing a businessman called Lamin Sanneh of Serrekunda said:  “As far as I am concerned, NAWEC has no tangible justification for increasing the tariffs of electricity, water and sewerage. What they have highlighted are the problems they are facing; let them find other ways to solve them.”

However, the NAWEC finance director said if anyone thinks the tariff for electricity is expensive, “just buy a generator and be using it for one month, then come and tell us how much money you spend. It will be more than that of NAWEC’s bill. All are trying to do is to call on the public to reason with us and give us the necessary support and we will also give them what they want.”

Mr Jallow said NAWEC plans to replace all post-paid meters with pre-paid ones. “In that way we will reduce our arrears and then get our money upfront to be able to sustain our operations,” he said.
The increased tariff for electricity has crossed the affordability level for average Gambians, many people who spoke to MarketPlace said. The resulting effect of the increment will be difficult to fathom as its consequences will affect cost of production and inflate prices of essential commodities and services, which lead to a high cost of living for the country’s populace. The fundamental necessities of life such as food, household activities and education will be difficult to afford as the effects of the electricity bill hikes continue to hit hard.
When the increase is effected, businesses will have to push their prices up. This applies to prices of commodities in general, since electricity is a prerequisite in the manufacturing of goods.
Industrial activities in the country are likely to be skew thanks to the electricity tariff increment. The hike will also negatively impact on employment opportunities, affecting both employers and employees.
Businesses have already been hit hard by the world recession and fuel hikes and the new tariff will lead to inflation if not hyperinflation.
NAWEC needs to invest more into research to find alternative energy sources that are cost efficient and affordable, a concerned citizen says. “This implies that various avenues need to be explored to make use of other energy sources that are non-conventional,” he said.
For instance, the cost of electricity generation through hydropower is only 10 per cent compared to that of thermal power that NAWEC uses. Oil based thermal power, the most expensive of the current options, should be minimised, the people say.

GRA registers D3.8 billion revenue

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The Gambia Revenue Authority GRA, the body tasked with the responsibility to enhance efficiency in tax administration so as to harmonize and optimize revenue collection, has registered about D3.8 billion revenue in 2009.
Pic: Gambia Revenue Authority Building
The 2009 activity report of the Authority, which was recently presented to the National Assembly Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committees, has it that the 2009 revenue exceeds the Ministry of Finance’s target for the Authority by 3%.
“GRA registered an absolute revenue increase of D422.5 million representing a 13% revenue growth. This indicates a remarkable increase in collection capacity relative to the previous year,” says Bakary Sanyang, Acting Commissioner General of GRA, while presenting the Authority’s report at the National Assembly.
The improvement in the revenues for the current year was significantly influenced by collections on oil products made by the Customs and Excise Department.
Mr Sanyang said: “The oil revenues accounted for more than 30% of the overall revenues for CED [Customs and Excise Department] in 2009. CED contributed about 60% of the GRA revenues for 2009 whilst Domestic Taxes Department accounted for the remaining 40%. The above revenue contribution ratio indicates the important role that international trade taxes continue to play towards our domestic revenue mobilization efforts.”
The Ecowas Trade Liberalization Scheme and the Economic Partnership Agreements, which will give duty-free access to imports originating from the ECOWAS region and Europe when fully implemented, is believed to have the potential of significantly eroding the national revenue base.
The revenue growth for 2009 was underpinned by low oil prices for the most part of the year due to the global economic crisis and an effective enforcement of the revenue laws, Mr Sanyang says: “CED registered a revenue growth of about 35% between 2008 and 2009 which was significantly influenced by the improved collection from the oil products. The global economic recession affected the performance of businesses that are dependent on tourism. The recession was also associated with a drop in the inflow of remittances.”
He added that external shocks have led to a shortfall of 17% registered by the Domestic Taxes Department against its annual target.
Domestic revenue mobilization faces a falling re-export trade and an expanding informal sector with a low level of tax compliance. “To strengthen tax administration in the informal sector,” the GRA acting DG said, “the 2007 Informal Sector Regulation was promulgated, which provides for specific amounts that informal sector businesses are required to pay. This is an important step in expanding the tax base.”
According to Mr Sanyang, revenue collecting system continues to receive the attention of the Board and Management of GRA to ensure that revenue collection is maximised through the efficient and effective administration of taxes.
“The Authority continues to register a positive revenue growth since its inception in 2007 with revenues growing by 17.5%, 13%, and 12.6% for 2007, 2008, and 2009,” he stated, adding: “GRA has registered an average annual revenue growth of about 10.5% in the first three years of its operation making it among the best performing revenue authorities in Africa.”
The Gambia      government, with support from its development partners, continues to evolve sound revenue policies aimed at strengthening the capacity of GRA to enforce the revenue laws.
According to Mr Sanyang the restructuring and modernization of the Authority, since levels and revenue collecting agencies were merged, has resulted into higher compliance levels and revenue yields. The current revenue-to-GDP ratio of 19% is among the highest for taxing the final output of goods and services produced in the economy.
“Achieving such a high revenue ratio in a country like The Gambia where the agricultural sector which makes a sizeable contribution to GDP and employment makes a negligible contribution to tax revenues is a mark of success for GRA,” he says.
As the main revenue collecting agency for the government, the GRA’s collection for 2009 accounted for about 83% of the revenues estimates and 71% of the estimates for expenditure and net lending in the government’s budget for the year.
The Authority is committed to ensuring that it plays its rightful role in mobilizing the required financial resources for the realization of financial independence, sovereignty and the Vision 2020. Its Board and Management would continue to put emphasis on meeting both the domestic and international obligations of the Authority, report presented by Mr Sanyang states, adding that the security objectives of the Authority continue to be pursued with vigour to control the entry of prohibited and restricted imports.
He explained further: “GRA has now put in place the requisite institutional mechanisms for the proper administration of taxes in the country. This process has ushered in a sound modernization programme aided by our 2008-2010 Corporate Plan leading to the strengthening of the tax administration system. Operational documents and procedure manuals continue to guide the administration of taxes.”
The Authority’s reforms are focusing on the preparation of a new customs and excise legislation, the adoption of the WTO Valuation Agreement, Migration from ASYCUDA 2.7 to ASYCUDA++, implementation of GAMTAXNET and VAT.
The Authority has also endeavoured to continue with the strengthening of its internal environment by deepening its revenue administration reforms to positively influence the institutional and human factors that affect its performance.
Said Mr Sanyang: “The evolving economic policies of the country and the stable political environment provide hopes for the expansion of the revenue base. Therefore, tax administration efficiency; sound economic, political, and trade policies; the removal of border obstacles by neighboring Senegal; and the continuous support of development partners will determine the revenue collection horizon of the Authority .
“The foregoing highlights the extricable link between the performance of GRA and its internal and external environments.”
In pursuit of the creation of the right atmosphere for increased revenue mobilization, the Authority continues to constructively engage its stakeholders within and outside the country.
The Sub-regional and multilateral organizations, mainly ECOWAS, IMF, WCO, WTO and World Bank, are rendering assistance to GRA on the strengthening of its tax administration system.
President Jammeh sacks high profile cabinet ministers PDF Print E-mail

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has fired two high profile cabinet members in the persons of Hon. Abdou Colley, Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment and Hon. Yusupha Kah, Minister of Work, Construction and Infrastructure.
Pics: Left, Abdou Colley; Right, Yusupha Kah
According to a statement aired on State TV, GRTS, on March 19, 2011, the two were sacked from their posts with immediate effect. The statement said the ministers were dismissed in accordance with the powers vested upon the President by the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia.
As usual, no reasons were advance by the Office of the President for the sacking of the two cabinet ministers and up to the time of going to press, no replacement was made.
Abdou Colley was appointed by President Jammeh in 2007 as Minister of Trade, Industry and Employment and has worked for the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) as an economist earlier. He was sacked in 2009 and reappointed in 2010 as Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.
Yusupha Kah, the long-serving Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment, was appointed as Minister in 2009, following the change of name the “Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment”. Kah has also served as Minister of Economic Planning and Development.

National Students Insurance Club launched

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The Insurance Association of The Gambia on Tuesday officially inaugurated the National Students Insurance Club (NaSIC) at a ‘historic’ ceremony held at St. Joseph’s Senior Secondary School in Banjul.
Established in January 2009 by a group of students from St. Augustine’s and St. Joseph’s Senior Secondary Schools, NaSIC was formed to inculcate into students, the positive role that insurance plays in the development of a country, as well as to encourage students to take up insurance as a career.
Marie Dalliah, Lady Councilor of Banjul, while officially launching NaSIC on behalf of Mayor Samba Faal Lord, commended the students for coming up with such “a brilliant initiative” of forming a national students club.
She said:  “It is brilliant in a sense that it will enhance and enable students to make a career at a very tender age.  This is a step in the right direction and at the right time and it comes at a time when his Excellency, President Jammeh, is doing everything to make sure that you students become responsible citizens and active leaders of tomorrow.”
The secretary general of IAG, Henry Jawo noted that the idea of having insurance club at the schools will go a long way in making people appreciate the services of insurance “because in many areas when you talk about insurance what comes to the minds of many people is motor insurance. Insurance is wider than that.”
Insurance is a defensive measure used against future conditional losses to hedge the possible risks of the future. It is a legal contract that protects a person from contingent risk of losses through financial means and provides a means for individuals and societies to handle some of the risks faced in daily life. Insurance plays an important role in sharing the risks of people in an affordable form. It helps the people to quickly recover from damages and losses.
Mr Jawo said:  “We do hope that by the launching of this club we will one day witness a day where all the schools in the country would have insurance club in the curriculum in order to encourage students to appreciate the services of insurance and even to take it up as a profession.
Dawda Sarge, President of the IAG, explained that the IAG has been embarking on a series of programme for the last five years to map out certain strategy that will enhance the image of the industry.
“We are not only stopping at that, but also try to lay a solid foundation for the future because we are cognizant of the fact that you can only leave a legacy when there is a successor and there is no other way to do that than to go back to the roots. That is to go to the schools to sensitize students about the important of insurance in an economy.”
Speaking earlier, President of National Students Insurance Club, Rosaline Mendy said the formation of National Students Insurance Club demonstrates their commitment and understanding to the positive role insurance plays in an economy.
She noted that insurance is one of the economic ventures that play a vital role in the economy of a country.
Joseph Gomez, vice principal of St Joseph secondary said the launching of insurance club is a remarkable event where young people are going to be introduce to the motives and ideas of insurance.
Sukai Bahoum, a student of St. Joseph and executive member of NaSIC delivered the vote of thanks.  She thanked the IAG for financing the launching programme.
IAG takes medical insurance a notch higher PDF Print E-mail

The Insurance Association of The Gambia (IAG) on Wednesday organized a forum that provided the stakeholders involved in medical insurance to discuss, in a forthright and very professional manner, some of the challenges inhibiting the successful operation of Private Medical Insurance (PMI) schemes in The Gambia.
Held at Laico Atlantic Hotel, the forum, on the theme; ‘The evolution of medical insurance in The Gambia: Prospects and Constraints’,  brought together all the three major stakeholders of medical insurance scheme, which is the insurance companies, the medical practitioners, and the insured, also known as the sponsoring institutions.
The forum was geared towards building a solid foundation for meaningful partnerships and cooperation of both parties involve in the scheme.  The stakeholders discussed issues of mutual concern for better management of medical insurance scheme, which is one of the two most popular insurance policies in The Gambia.
Dawda Sarge, president of IAG and the managing director of Prime Insurance Company explained that forum provides a common platform for insurance operators and other stakeholders to discuss issues of common concern and to generate excellent ideas for the socio-economic advancement of the  people in general and the development of the Gambian economy in particular.
He said:  “This year’s theme: “The evolution of medical insurance in The Gambia: prospects and constraints” is yet another demonstration by the IAG to create an environment for fruitful dialogue among all stakeholders in the various Private Medical Insurance (PMIs) schemes within the insurance industry.”
The IAG president noted that the cardinal objective of all PMIs in The Gambia is to support national health development objectives through the use of best and useful practices that maximizes the efficient and effective use of inter-dependence hence the need for all PMI stakeholders to complement one another rather than compete; deliver services as expected rather than duplicate them; and finally show more equity, transparency and accountability in their transactions with one another.
He said:  “All development oriented partnerships should (and I dare say) must operate on the premise and principle of shared responsibility.  We cannot have successful PMI schemes when insurers fail to provide good value medical expenses insurance covers (by making the necessary reimbursements to the doctors or sponsoring organization on time); or doctors and clinics charging exorbitant medical bills or encouraging practices that are inimical to the insurance delivery process; or the sponsoring organizations abdicating their responsibilities towards the scheme.”
Mr Sarge quoted the Chairman of Munich Re Management Board, Dr Nich Von Bomhard as saying: “Insurance companies should always avoid a situation where-in the insuring institution pays the loss upfront as a premium and gets the money back as a claim” I believe this statement resonates well with the PMI provider institutions.
Mr. Kunle Adegboye, managing director of Capital Express Assurance (G) Limited said medical insurance throughout the world is always a controversial issue.
“Of course in this part of the world it is still relatively not well understandable how the scheme is run because it is a tripartite sort of agreement.  The insurers on one side, the insured on the other side, and the medical practitioners on another side.  So it is a three legged agreement which if there is not synergy there will be a situation that it will invariably not work. And there lies the controversy, there lies the constraint.”
The forum witnessed presentation of papers from both parties involved in medical insurance scheme. Both parties presented on different perspective on ‘The evolution of medical insurance in The Gambia; prospects and constraints’.  Mr Momodou Joof, managing director of Takaful Gambia Limited presented on the perspective of the insurers.  Dr Adama Sallah of Lamtoro Medical Clinic presented on the perspective of medical practitioners, and Mr Mohammed Jeng of Gambia Revenue Authority presented on the perspective of the insures.

Insurance practitioners to set-up credit union

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Following popular demand from its members, the Insurance Association of The Gambia on Thursday, converged at Laico Atlantic Hotel in Banjul, as part of its Annual General Meeting, to discuss on the formation of a cooperative credit union for insurance practitioners who are members of the association.
Pic: Mr. Henry Jawo, Secretary General, IAG
The secretary general of the IAG, Mr Henry Jawo, said most of the members of the IAG were asking if the association could set-up a cooperative credit union.  “Since it is a demand from the membership, we thought we could spare sometime of our AGM to invite an official from the National Association of Cooperative Credit Unions of The Gambia (NACCUG), the apex body for credit unions in the country, to come and guide us; to tell us what are the requirements to start a credit union for our members.”
Credit union is a financial co-operative owned and controlled by its members, for its members. Credit unions exist to serve the financial needs of their members, on a not-for-profit basis, and to retain members’ savings in their community for the benefit of all the members.
In his PowerPoint presentation, Mr Hamey B. Jawara, Programme Manager of NACCUG, explained that credit union helps its members to achieve financial independence through regular savings, and fair and affordable access to loans.

He said credit union membership fee varies from credit union to credit union depending on choice and affordability of its members.

Advantages of being a credit union member, Mr Jawara said include members own the organization that takes care of your money, it also gives members financial security, and also fair and affordable access to loans.

NACCUG programme manager said:  “Each member holds minimum of two shares in a credit union. The share value varies from credit union to credit union with a minimum value of D25.00 (twenty-five dalasis) per share. Each shareholder is eligible for a dividend at the end of the financial year from the credit union’s accumulated surplus.

He told the insurance practitioners that dividends are appropriated from surplus after appropriation of all necessary reserves.  The rate of dividend can vary from credit union to credit union.
Credit union operating principles are founded in the philosophy of cooperation and its central values are equality, equity and mutual self-help.
Credit union members enjoy equal rights to vote (one member, one vote) and participate in decisions affecting the credit union, without regard to the amount of savings or deposits or the volume of business.
Credit union is autonomous, within the framework of law and regulation, recognizing the credit union as a cooperative enterprise serving and controlled by its members.
To encourage thrift through savings and thus to provide loans and other services, a fair rate of interest is paid on savings and deposits, within the capability of the credit union.
After Mr Jawara’s presentation, IAG secretary general, Mr Jawo said now the IAG is going to decide at their next executive committee meeting and decision will be taken there as to whether the association should formed one or not.  “But the interest that has generated after the presentation, I believe that definitely we will be forming one in not too distant future,” Mr Jawo explained.

GIABA equips West African judges on economic and financial crimes

The Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) on 30th March ends a 3 – day capacity building seminar on economic and financial crimes for judges from Anglophone West African countries.
Held in Accra, Ghana, the objective of the seminar was to sensitize the Judges on money laundering and terrorist financing trends and to keep them abreast with international initiatives and best practices in adjudicating economic and financial crimes.
A total of 30 Judges from Anglophone West African States attended the seminar with a view to promote a better understanding of the problem of money laundering and terrorist financing and to share experiences with their counterparts from other parts of West Africa.
The seminar was the fourth in the series of seminar GIABA organizes for judges from Anglophone ECOWAS countries aimed to enhance their capacity to effectively adjudicate on economic and financial crime in the region and to review legal frameworks and best practices.
The workshop was facilitated by technical experts with extensive experience and background on anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-financing of terrorism (CFT).
The judges were trained on the following broad areas: the role of GIABA in the fight against ML/TF in the region, overview of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) standards on money laundering and financing of terrorism, regional legal frameworks on AML/CFT regime in ECOWAS countries, overview of international conventions on ML/TF, including implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and Principles of restraint in confiscation proceedings amongst other tonic issues on economic and financial crimes.

The seminar was declared open by the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, Her Ladyship Justice Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, while the Director General of GIABA, Dr Abdullahi Shehu delivered the welcoming remarks.

‘President Jammeh’s women empowerment initiatives motivated me to come back home,’ Says GAWFA Boss

In an interview with, the Chief Executive Officer of the Gambia Women’s Finance Association (GAWFA), said President Jammeh’s women empowerment initiatives motivated her to come back home.

Oley Njie-Mbye, who has been in the US for more than a decade, observes that there have been “lots of women empowerment initiatives in The Gambia since 1994”.
Mrs Njie-Mbye gave a comparison of Gambia before and during the era of President Yahya Jammeh. She said: “When I was in The Gambia, before I went to the US, I did not see these much positive impact in development and empowerment of women but since the coming of the Jammeh administration there have been more positive contributions and development towards the advancement of women.”
Most of these developments are self-evident, she says, adding that the government has registered significant achievements by putting in place legislative policies and strategies that support the empowerment of women and the girl child in an environment of equity, fair play and justice.

Women have and continued to occupy key decision-making positions in the Jammeh administration over the past 16 years, and the GAWFA CEO believes the contribution of this trend to nation building is “immeasurable”.

“We cannot sit here and mention all, it’s evident. We have seen that there are more women in parliament now, more women are economically active now, and more women are empowered now than 16 years ago,” she said.

“These efforts really caught my attention with much enthusiasm and motivated me more to take the courage and make a decision to return home and contribute to the development of our beloved nation.”

The level of women empowerment in the country “is quite amazing, motivational, and inspiring” not only for her but also for many Gambians living abroad, Mrs Njie-Mbye says.

“This is why I decided to come back home to contribute in the little way I can towards the advancement and empowerment of Gambian women and together we can build the nation,” she explained. “When I was writing my Master’s degree I wrote about microfinance in The Gambia, though I had an option; I could have written about where I was (the US.) to make it easy for me to complete,  but because I have an intention to come back home, I decided to write about my own country. Similarly, my doctorate also, I decided to write about the NGOs and the economic empowerment of Gambian women.”

The finance and business guru said further: “So I am ready to give everything I could, I am ready to help and volunteer in many areas that I can to complement the government’s efforts towards the empowerment of women and national development.

“I was born and bred in an environment of social entrepreneurship where you can be an entrepreneur at the interest of the society. My mother was an entrepreneur. Even though I have worked in the corporate world, and I have a regular full time job, I can still contribute, mentor and help women in many capacities to contribute in their advancement.”

Profile of GAWFA CEO

Oley Njie Mbye is a bank executive with over 16 years of diverse leadership experiences. Before acquiring her higher education at universities in Africa, Europe and USA, Oley attained her GCE O’ level certificate at Muslim High School where she was the Head Girl and later pursued her Advance Level Certificate at St. Augustine’s High School.

Oley enjoys life’s challenges and vicissitudes and views them as opportunities for growth and development, even after earning a Diploma de Langue Practique from Dakar University, Senegal, and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with Marketing and Management concentration and a minor in French from Coker College, Hartsville, South Carolina, the US.

She completed her MSc degree in Social Development Policy and Management in Swansea University, Wales, the UK.

Oley is also a doctoral student in the field of Human Services and Public Service Leadership concentrating on Management and has attained her PhD Certificate of Advance Graduate Studies (CAGS) this year from the US.

The experience she has on the ground as a social entrepreneur in Africa and the US; the knowledge gained in public affairs from the US Federal Government, the Peace Corps and in Resolution Management with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO); and the special skills and competence that she brings in on gender equity and women empowerment are all plus to GAWFA and the women empowerment drive in the country.

Apart from being bi-lingual, her ability and understanding of the local languages in the country further prepares her for the kind of assignment for which she has been hired. Above all, she has an open door policy which encourages a free flow of information and communication in her workplace.

She enjoys volunteer work and has a strong passion in the advancement of women empowerment through micro-finance and institutional capacity building.

Oley has therefore joined GAWFA with a wealth of knowledge and experience acquired both at the local and the international levels. This, it is believed, will further enhance the growth and development and image of the new finance company under the auspices of GAWFA.

ECOWAS takes new approach to development, integration

The ECOWAS Commission has taken a new dimension to development and integration of the region by initiating the formulation of Community Development Programme (CDP), which puts greater emphasis to participatory and inclusive approach to development through active involvement of Non-State Actors (NSAs).
With the formulation of the CDP, ECOWAS is bent to transform the current ‘ECOWAS of States’ into an ‘ECOWAS of Peoples’ which is part of its Vision 2020 that was adopted by the Authority of Heads of States and Government in June 2007.
To successfully achieve the Vision, ECOWAS has launched a survey in all its Member States to collect data on NSAs.  The aim of the survey is to build a comprehensive database and assess NSAs contribution to sub-regional activities, build a comprehensive directory and to enable ECOWAS to have a better understanding of the needs and aspiration of NSAs towards ECOWAS programmes.
In this light, the ECOWAS Commission, with the financial support of European Union and other partners, on Wednesday, organized a-day long sensitization and launching of the regional survey on Non-State Actors in The Gambia at Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
The overall objectives of the workshop include promoting better understanding of NSAs by collecting data on their activity in order to efficiently assess their potential contribution to the development of the region. It also aims to develop a comprehensive database of NSAs in ECOWAS region.
In his opening statement, Serign Cham, permanent secretary two at the ministry of finance and economic affairs, noted that the NSAs have an important role to play in policy debates and development of the region, “given their political and social legitimacy as well as their greater flexibility”.
“I would like to reiterate the support from the authorities of our country whose leadership and commitment to the cause of African integration in general, and integration in West Africa, in particular, is known and appreciated by all,” he said.
Prof. Lambert N Bamba, commissioner of macroeconomic policy at the ECOWAS Commission, noted that if ECOWAS is to be successful in transforming from ‘ECOWAS of States’ to an ‘ECOWAS of Peoples’ then the Commission and Member States should take ownership of this new vision.  “This requires a good knowledge of Non State Actors and a better understanding of how they operate,” he said.
The basic issue in achieving this laudable objective is how to transform our respective countries to better meet current developmental challenges.  The forces of globalization and instability have made West African countries to be susceptible to adverse economic conditions.
“It has become quite obvious that ECOWAS Member States must adapt to these new realities in order to achieve sustainable development.  This change could better appreciate by analyzing the global environment and by finding new partners that could sustain a viable position,” Prof. Bamba said.
He noted that the NSAs may be the new partners, “given their flexibility and proximity to larger population, as well as their ability to develop new small-scale projects and to replicate their success stories at national and regional levels”.
John Charles Njie, executive director of Pro-Poor Advocacy Group, who spoke on behalf of the NSAs, said the world recognizes the role of NSAs in realizing West Africa’s economic potential.
“West Africa is indeed endowed with abundance of human and natural resources, a coastal location coupled with an impressive land mass and huge potential for strong growth , yet our society has realized very little of its potential,” he said.
He explained that the workshop was designed to develop an independent process to enhance the efficient organization and contribution of NSAs to the CDP process.
The workshop was focused on the study of the contribution of NSAs to the regional development process, the collation of information required to create the database of NSAs, and setting up of an institutional framework for monitoring the survey in The Gambia.