|Bai Matarr Drammeh, outgoing GCCI president|
The outgoing president of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and industry (GCCI), Bai Matarr Drammeh, has noted that the greatest enemies of the Chamber are the members who keep on blaming the Chamber for not doing anything while they don’t bring any issue that needs solution from the Chamber.
Mr Drammeh’s comment was prompted by many questions, comments and concerns as to the efficiency of the GCCI raised by the members present at its annual general meeting held on 5th October, 2012 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi,
Pa Sulay Secka of Pass Trading Enterprise said the GCCI should be doing more to protect the indigenous businesses for them to be able to growth and create more employment opportunities.
Ousainou Dambell of DBC said it will be difficult for the indigenous businesses to compete with the powerful and well established businesses if they are left like that - without any protection. “The businesses should be protected first for them to stand on a strong footing to compete internationally,” he said. He claimed that many local businesses in the country are suffering from lack of protection.
Both Mr Secka and Dambell claimed that the GCCI is not doing much to protect and create conducive environment for local businesses to flourish.
For Papa Yusupha Njie of Unique Solutions businesses in the country are “facing very difficult times” and that the Chamber should be doing more to support its members.
Mr Njie said when the Senegalese chamber of commerce wants to meet the president of Senegal to table their constraints, they can see him within 24 hours because they are very proactive and working for their members “that is the type of chamber we want in The Gambia” – a chamber that is very active and working for the needs of its members. Papa Njie’s comment was applauded by the members.
In response to Papa Njie’s comment, Bai Matarr Drammeh said Senegalese chamber can meet the president of Senegal within a very short notice because the leader, (the president of the chamber), is appointed politically, like many other francophone countries within the sub-region.
He said: “I think the issue of Senegalese wanting to meet the president of their country and within a couple of hours they are able to that is because they have political appointment. The president of the chamber of commerce is appointed politically (by the government). In The Gambia, we are private sector totally without any funding by the government and therefore we will see government when they have time for us.”
He explained that members of the GCCI should understand that the leader of the Senegalese chamber is appointed by the government that is why they (the Senegalese) chamber can see the government anytime they need him. He said the GCCI members should not be using that as a weakening point for the Chamber.
“I have always said that the greatest enemies of the GCCI are the membership. They are always blaming their own chamber and often times they don’t bring any issue or concern to the Chamber for solution,” he said.
He continued: “The fact is that we depend on our membership fees and we give you in turn our voluntary service. We work for you in consideration of the membership fees and when that fees do not come in, we don’t blame you, we negotiate with you so that you can bring it in. The members most support the Chamber for the Chamber to support them.”
“Even when they are chatting they should say nice things about the Chamber – it’s their own Chamber,” he added.
Mr Drammeh pointed out that the Federation of West African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI), the sub-regional chamber of commerce of which he is the president, admires the GCCI very much. “They always said that it’s is the best Chamber of Commerce in West Africa.”
According to Mr Drammeh, the issue of the GCCI finding it difficult to meet the president of the country is not only peculiar to The Gambia, it’s an issue that non-government chamber of commerce have - they have to negotiate with government; they cannot get up today and say ‘Mr. President we want to see you tomorrow’ and he says ‘ok come and see me’; no we negotiate and negotiate until we get there.
“So this is our situation and it’s real,” he remarked.
On what the GCCI is doing or can do for members, Bai Matarr Drammeh told the AGM that Mr Alieu Secka of the Gambia Hotel Association, has once came to the Chamber lamenting that the cost of production – electricity, water and communications rates - are all going up.
The Chamber worked with the hotel association and was able to get the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), a multi-sector regulatory authority, to reconsider the tariffs and the rates were finally reduced, Mr Drammeh said.
He said: “This is one of the successful interventions of the Chambers.”
Adding: “If the members bring issues to us (the GCCI), we will take it up with the government or any relevant authority with a view to solve it. We have done that in the past and it was fruitful. But the problem is that if every member sits down and say ‘what are you doing for me’, but you don’t bring anything to the attention of the Chamber for solution or you have not even being paying your dues to the Chamber, then you are truly unfair. You have to bring an issue for me to do for you before you can say the Chamber is not doing anything for me. If you don’t ask don’t complain.”
On the called for protectionism, Mr Drammeh noted that The Gambia is free economy and that the GCCI cannot stop foreign investors from coming to the country. He said the local businesses have to rise to the standards and compete international.
He said: “Protectionism is not what is good for the economy; we can’t protect. You have to come together if an investor comes in, there should be a law that says he should have a Gambian partner rather than saying you are a foreigner you cannot invest in my country.
“If the local businesses think they are lacking the home support and patronage that could be because they have not come up with quality products. You have to produce something nationally that somebody abroad can import from The Gambia. So we have to bring up the standards to compete globally, our economy is too small for us to restrict it to mediocre businesses and things like that, we have to come up with quality so that people can buy from us.”
Radical changes on the GCCI board
A group of young entrepreneurs in the country, some of whom have being calling for protectionism and more membership benefits, have been elected as the new board of directors of the GCCI taking over from the more senior economic players.
Muhammed Jagana of J-Fin Money Transfer has been elected as the president; Papa Yusupha Njie of Unique Solutions, 1st vice president; Papa Leigh of Africell, 2nd vice president; and Fatou Njie of Total, treasurer. The other board members are: Salieu Taal a lawyer, Fady Hocheiny of the MFH Group, Dawda Sarge of Prime Insurance Company, Sulayman Joof of the Association of Clearing and Forwarding Agents, Ousainou Dambell of DBC, and Jorjo Ndong of Jorgo Organics.
They replaced the Bai Matarr Drammeh led executive namely: Aki Allen 1st vice president; Muhammed Jah, 2nd vice president; Mrs Fatou Sinyan Mergan, treasurer; Mr Muhammed Jagana, member; Mr Abdou A.B Njie, member; Mr Pierre L.M Sarr, member; Mrs Fatoumatta Jah member, Mrs Ma Awa Faal, member; Mr Ansumana Marenah, member; Mrs Fatou Mbenga Jallow, and Mr Buba Njie, as en ex-officio members.