Monday, March 25, 2013

QCell’s QPower service ‘no more available’

QPower, the latest service of QCell, is no more available barely less than three weeks after it was launched, the Gambia News Online can reveal.  

The QPower service allows QCellsubscribers to use their mobile phones to recharge their electricity cash-power. 

Muhammed Jah, CEO of QCell
QCell, the latest GSM company to enter The Gambia’s telecoms industry, said in a text message to its subscribers that it has double regrets over the setback. The company said it regrets that the service is no more available, as well as regrets any inconvenience the unavailability of the service may have caused.

The service was launched on 5 March this year by QCell in collaboration with national electricity provider Nawec.

By the time of going to press, no official reason was given for this impromptu stoppage of the service by the company.  So it is not clear what might have really gone amiss or been responsible for the sudden stoppage or indefinite unavailability of the service. This, according to QCell, will have an immediate and visible impact on the daily lives of people.

It is not also clear when the service will resume but a customer care agent of the company told this paper that customers will be notified whenever the service is available again.

Gambia launches tourism institute to tackle skills deficit in tourism

The Gambia government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, on Friday launched Gambia Tourism and Hospitability Institute, which is a transformation of the former Gambia Hotel School.

The launching of the tourism institute is in response to shortage of qualified personnel in the country’s tourism industry, which is now the fastest-growing sector of the economy and accounts for some 16 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), according to government figures.

 Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie
Tourism Minister of The Gambia
Speaking on the occasion, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie, said the transformation of the former Hotel School into what is now the Gambia Tourism and Hospitability Institute is in response to the skills challenge in the tourism sector and in keeping abreast of ever-changing training needs of the industry.

She said apart from offering professional training to new people entering the tourism and hospitality sector, the new institute will also be offering professional upgrading for existing employees to help them progress in their career.

The aim of the institute is to produce graduates that will be more effective and efficient in their various vocations to which they will be called.

The tourism minister calls on all and sundry to put hands on deck in reaching out in order to make the new institute the Centre of Excellence in tourism and hospitality not only for The Gambia but also for the sub-region.

“The Ministry of Tourism and Culture cannot do it all by itself,” the tourism minister said, adding that everyone has a share of the responsibility to make the new institute second to none.

According to her, the transformation of the institute provides a congenial environment to kick-start new programmes in line with the country’s forward march to offer high levels of qualifications so crucial to quality service delivery in the tourism and hospitality sector.

In doing so, she said, the country will be able to attract more tourists and tourism businesses will flourish, thereby the country’s economy will achieve the growth that it deserves.

However, she noted, the complexity of tourism is such that this expectation and aspiration is the same as for most other countries, developed and developing.

“This leads us back to the peak of competitiveness,” she said.  “Our competition cannot be easily assessed, it is not as straightforward as it might be in other sectors and can be volatile as well.

“This is why we need to be on our toes, to ensure that the services we offer are of genuine high quality and as competitive as any other destination that is considered good.”

Africa contributes almost nothing in global tourism

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

TB leading cause of death of HIV patients

Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) worldwide. It kills up to half of all HIV patients.

Without proper treatment, approximately 90% of those living with HIV die within months of contracting TB.  TB considerably shortens the life and survival of people with HIV.

The country officer of the UNAIDS in The Gambia, Nuha Ceesay, on Saturday said globally, an estimated 13% of TB cases are co-infected with HIV and at least one third of the nearly 33 million people living with HIV are infected with the bacterium that causes TB.  

“The dual epidemic is particularly pervasive in Africa, where 80% of the total global burden of dual HIV/TB cases is found,” he said while speaking at the commencement of a two-day training on HIV-Tuberculosis (TB) co-infection organised by the Association of Health Journalists (AoHJ) for its members, with the financial support of the UNAIDS.

“It is apparent that without urgent and long-term action, the epidemic will continue to take an unacceptable toll of death and suffering in countries and communities throughout,” he added.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Boat operators ‘unreasonably’ increase fare by 40%

 Boat passengers are usually parked in the boat like firewood,
with little or no spacing in between
Operators of boats plying Banjul-Barra crossing points have irrationally increased the fare by 40 per cent, from D15 to D25, as many people have resorted to crossing by boat due to frequent failing and deteriorating ferry-services.

In the same vein, the people who carry passengers in and out of the boats have also increased the cost of carrying each passenger from D5 to D10.

Now the entire cost of crossing by boat, which used to be D25 (D15 for boat fare and D10 to both porters for the in-and-out trip), is now D45 (that is, D25 and D20 respectively).

Passengers who use the boats often complain of the frequent increase in the cost of crossing but have no viable alternative other than using the service.

People have to bear the brunt of this situation whilst the ferry continues to spend hours in the river and sometimes experiences problems and breakdowns in the river for hours without reaching the other bank of the river.

“Fare increment is one; the other thing is that since operators know that people must cross by boat to run they businesses normally, the boat owners or operators do not even care about the welfare and comfort of passengers – not even good words to passengers,” Ousman Dampha told MarketPlace shortly after crossing to Banjul from Barra. 

Words like “if you cannot cope with what we are doing you are free to get out of the boat; we are not forcing anyone to come on the boat”, are common for the boat operators to say to passengers.

This reporter, who was at the boat crossing point on Sunday, also observed that people are usually parked in the boat like firewood, with little or no spacing in between.  

About 150 to 170 people are packed in a boat of about ten metres in length and three metres in width.
In such a situation most of the people do not even have life-jacket to protect themselves in case of accident, which is not uncommon at that point.  

Sometimes, only few passengers would have life-jackets, which are most times very old, leaving one in doubt of their soundness in keeping someone afloat in the river, in case of accident. 

A boat captain justified the fare increment saying operating a boat “is very expensive”, particularly now that the pump price of fuel has increased. 

A litre of fuel has, however, been increased by D1 recently.

Muhammed Ndure, a law student at the University of The Gambia, said: “I was very afraid when crossing due to the poor condition and the way the boat is managed. 

“To me, the boat is managed by some care-free crew with less concern about the welfare and safety of the passengers.” 

Ndure, who spoke to MarketPlace at the Banjul crossing point, said the boats are very old, expressing doubts whether they are given proper maintenance. 

‘Gambia Speelt Mee’ installs playground equipments at Nema Nursery School

A Dutch project meant to create more fun for schoolchildren in The Gambia recently installed two playground equipments at Nema Day Care Nursery School in Nemakunku.

The ‘Gambia Speelt Mee’, which means ‘Gambia plays along’, has given Nema Day Care two swings - a seat joined by three ropes to a metal bar on which a child can sit and move backward and forward.

Installing the equipment, a member of Gambia Speelt Mee, Fatou Ceesay, said the playground will help to bring comfort to the children. 

Fatou said she derives her joy by seeing children happy.  “When I see children, particularly schoolchildren, it makes me happy,” she said. “Making the children happy, bringing comfort to them, while in school is the ultimate aim of Gambia Speelt Mee.”

According to Ms Ceesay, the playground equipment encourage the students to go to school and also improve their participation in class because after playing on the equipment the children are active and ready to participate actively in class.

The initiator of the project, Mr Bert Min, a successful Dutch businessman, says the playground will help to increase the enrolment of the school.

“Like I told the Principal of the school (Name Day Care), the school will soon experience higher enrolment of students,” Mr Min said. 

“From my experience with other schools where I installed playground equipment, when I go there again I usually find out that the number of students going to that school has increased. 

L - R:  Mr Min of 'Gambia Speelt Mee' shaking hand
with the principal of Nema Day Care Nursery School
 Ebrima Dickson
“This is because the children in that neighborhood who were not in school before would tell their parents they want to go to school - not only because of education but also because the playground attracts them to the school.”
Nema Day Care is the 15th school that Gambia Speelt Mee project has given playground equipment to since 2010, when the project started. 

It has built and offered playground equipment - such as swings, climbing-frame, and seesaws - to 15 nursery and primary schools in The Gambia. 

With proper maintenance, the playground equipment have a lifespan of 10 years.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gambia Election Commission Calls for Synchronization of National Elections

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has called for the harmonization of the presidential, legislative and local government elections of The Gambia.

Alhaji Mustapha L. Carayol,  chairman of the IEC

Speaking to the state TV, the Gambia Radio and Television Services on Wednesday, Alhaji Mustapha L. Carayol, chairman of the IEC said it will be very cost effective if the three elections are synchronized – held on the same -instead of organizing three different election for each, the administration of which is very cost intensive.

The call by the IEC is very important particularly now that donors and many international agencies that used to help the country with logistics and finances to conduct national elections are reluctant to do it now.

The Gambia holds presidential and National Assembly elections every five years and Local Government elections every four years.

The cost of voter registration exercise for these three set of elections, according to the IEC, is D65, 297,506 (approximately US$2m). During this election cycle, the said cost has been entirely financed by the government as no donor agency came forward to fund despite appeals to do so.

Gambia Government to Enforce Stricter Punishments for Sexual, Domestic Violence

Vice president of The Gambia
The Gambia government has formulated two bills that will impose harsher penalties and severe punishments for domestic violence and sexual offences particularly rape.
The formulation of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences bills 2012 both of which are being discuss at the cabinet and the National Assembly is geared toward addressing violence against women and girls.

In her televised statement on Wednesday aired over the state television ahead of the International Women’s Day on 8 March, Gambia’s Vice President, Dr Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy said the main purposes of both bills is to combat domestic violence, provide protection for the victims of domestic violence and to amend related laws and procedures related to the trial of rape and other sexual offences. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Gambia: School teachers on strike for lack of salary

Seventeen teachers at Fatoto Upper Basic and Senior Secondary School embarked on a two-day industrial sit-down strike over lack of payment of their double-shift allowance.

The teachers of the school in Fatoto, Upper River Region, were in school but refused to get into their classrooms to teach on Thursday and Friday claiming they have not received their double-shift allowance since September 2012. 

About five hundred students are affected in the said strike.

A teacher on double shift in government school in the country earns 50 per cent more of his monthly salary for additional shift taken. 

A qualified teacher with Higher Teachers Certificate of the Gambia College at a government school earns about D3,000 per month as basic salary, and other allowances depend on the location – whether urban or rural – of the teacher.

“We are absolutely dissatisfied with the lack of payment of our double-shift salary since September 2012 and no official reason has been given for this,” an aggrieved teacher, who wished not be named, said.

However, the industrial action of the teachers yielded dividend as the school authorities swiftly intervened to resolve the matter. 

The teachers will now resume teaching today, Monday, as they have reached an agreement with the school authorities that the payment of their double-shift allowance will start end of this month, March 2013.

Initially, the teachers said they were ready to continue the sit-down strike until the authorities are ready to resolve their concerns.

Diesel shortage in Gambia getting worse

Movement of people and goods across the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) has been gravely forestalled by the apparent incessant shortage of diesel across the area since last week.

Crowds of people at various transportation routes in the GBA have been left stranded by the shortage of fuel in the country. Business transactions have also been seriously affected.

“Since last week I have been finding it very difficult to go to work because I am staying all the way in Tabokotu, and for me to get a vehicle to go to work takes hours, especially early in the morning because of the  scarcity of commercial vehicles,” said Alassana  Fatty, a civil servant working in Banjul.

Fish seller Ndey Awa Jobe, like many others, has also been constrained seriously by the fuel shortage and transportation impediment.

“For two days now it has been difficult for me to get to the Tanji fishing centre where I usually buy fish because there is no transport, and some of the drivers are using the opportunity to increase their fares,” said Ndey Awa Jobe, who sells fish at the Serekunda Market.

Commercial drivers, for their part, have decided to cut short their normal routes, giving rise to passengers paying twice the fare they used to pay for the same route and distance.

This situation has caused serious travelling and financial constraints for people in town.
Commercial drivers themselves are however crying down the situation, saying they find it very difficult to get diesel from filling stations across the GBA.

Gambia Press Union calls for ‘immediate and an unconditional’ release of detained journalist

The Gambia Press Union is calling for unconditional and immediate release of Alhagie Jobe, deputy editor of the pro-government Daily Observer newspaper, who has been detained since 7th February 2013.

Alagie Jobe
“We are calling on the authorities to release him with immediate effect since he has been detain for more than the legal limit of 72 hours stipulated in the constitution of The Gambia,” president of the Union, Emil Touray, said.

“The Union is going to write to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), who are detaining Mr Jobe, to call on them to release him unconditionally since they are yet to charge him formally,” he added.

A security source has it that Mr Jobe is accused of using his position as deputy editor of the pro-government Daily Observer to run a visa and asylum fraud scheme.

About 1.4 billion people still living in abject poverty globally

About 1.4 billion people still live in abject poverty despite the numerous national and global efforts during the past years on the first target of the Millennium Development Goals, which aims at reducing extreme poverty by one-half by the year 2015, country representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in The Gambia said

According to Dr Babagana Ahmadu as at 2011, the poorest 40 per cent of the world's population accounted for five per cent of total global income while the richest 20 per cent accounted for three-quarters of the world's income.

The FAO country rep was speaking on Thursday at the end of a three-day workshop marking the official launching of the International Fund for Agricultural Development-funded project - National Agricultural Land and Water Management Development.

Furthermore, he said, rural areas account for three in every four people living on less than US$1 a day and similar share of the world population suffering from malnutrition.  

He emphasised the need for efforts to be accelerated in the poverty reduction strides, pointing out that poverty remains a predominantly rural problem, as the majority of the world's poor are located in rural areas.
It is estimated that 76 per cent of the developing world's poor live in rural areas.

According to Dr Ahmadu, disparities between rural and urban areas are on the rise, particularly in many developing and transitional countries.

Globally, rural people and rural places tend to be disadvantaged relative to their urban counterparts, whilst poverty rates increase as rural areas become more remote.
People living in the rural areas tend to have less access to social services, exacerbating the effects of rural poverty.

Two West African countries register sound progress in fighting money laundering

Ghana and Nigeria are making tremendous progress and achievement in the fight against the twin crimes of money laundering and terrorism financing (ML/TF), a news release from the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in WestAfrica (GIABA) has said.

According to the release from the GIABA Information Centre in Nigeria on Friday, Ghana has made significant progress in improving its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime hence the Financial Action TaskForce (FAFT) has excluded the country from its list of countries with deficiencies in AML/CFT regime.

Initially, FAFT - global standard setting body for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism - blacklisted Ghana due to the country’s lack of progress in improving its AML/CFT regime and also called on member countries to consider the risks and be cautious in doing any transaction with Ghana.

Following this, the release said Ghana developed an Action Plan to address the strategic deficiencies identified in its AML/CFT regime, with the support of FATF and GIABA, an arm of ECOWAS mandated to clean the sub-region of the twin crimes of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing (ML/FT).

In October 2010, Ghana made a political commitment to implement the Action Plan within one year.