The chief executive officer of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce, Alieu Secka, has described as ‘catastrophe’ Gambia’s ranking on the recent report released by a US business magazine, Forbes.
Forbes ranked Gambia second on the list of top ten worst countries for doing business in Africa.
“The Forbes report was a catastrophe but having said that, it is a scorecard. So everyone must… know that it is a very poor score and we must all buckle up… I think here we all have a responsibility but government must live up to the expectation,” he said.
“It is very clear—whether it is the Forbes report, World Bank competitive report or doing business report, we are not doing well… We can do much better.”
Secka was speaking to Kerr Fatou at Kairaba Beach Hotel where the GCCI and Africa Governance Institute sponsored a two-day workshop for 150 young Gambians.
The aim of the training which is conducted by a former Senegalese minister and World Bank employee, Cheikh Ibrahim Diong, is to help young people break even in business.
The GCCI is private sector pressure group that defend the interest of businesses in the country. Secka said progress on the side of the government has been very slow and that concerns private businesses.
Secka said though the country has made progress in the time it takes to establish a business, lot more urgent issues need to be addressed.
“Our corruption index is still too high. If you look at our discipline at work and responsiveness of our dealing about issues that are at hand and require urgent attention, it takes forever. I am sad to say that a national business council was setup by government at the highest level and it was inaugurated in May but it is yet to meet. So you can imagine the frustration by the business community that nothing is moving fast enough,” he said.
“So really we must take this leadership seriously but we must also do things on the right time and on time. And unless we do this, our reports worldwide and competitively will continue to be failure and we do not want that.”
Training young people
The young people the GCCI gathered at Kairaba are a mixture of some already established businesspeople and startups.
Secka said the participants are drawn from all over the country.
Gambia, one of the leading African countries highly affected by irregular migration, grapples with youth unemployment rate at 38%.
Secka said that makes the young people an important target for such opportunities.
“The next phase is to come up with some youth entrepreneurship fund, for which we are already talking to many international and bilateral agencies to be able to support these youths to translate their ideas of business into reality. The biggest challenge we have is access to finance,” he said.
“Study have shown that one out of three businesses will fail in the first year or within three years mainly because of lack of adequate financing… So that is a fundamental challenge that businesses have.”
Among young successful businesspeople who attended the training were Aminatou Jallow, the owner of Chop Shop, and Malick M. Jarju, co-founder of the Africa Energy Solution.
Jarju said the training is important because lot of Gambians go into business without basic knowledge on entrepreneurship.
Jallow was among the panelist who discussed with the trainees on how to generate ideas and start their own business.