Gambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ousainou Darboe met with Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in an effort to court investors from the Gulf State to the West African nation.
It is the first visit by a Gambian envoy to the Middle Eastern nation after relations between the Gambia and Qatar suffered a major setback during the last years of ousted dictator, Yahya Jammeh’s rule.
The Barrow administration is seeking to re-establish ties with Qatar and strengthen bilateral relations.
“Unfortunately, the previous regime closed the embassy of Gambia in Qatar and now we want to reopen the embassy and I have informed Qatar’s Foreign Minister about it. Qatar has welcomed the move,’ said Darboe.
Darboe said that Gambia was encouraging investments in Gambia from Qatari businessmen, selling the country as an investment-friendly nation.
The Gambia has announced new incentives for investors, including tax cuts and exemptions. A treaty to avoid double taxation between Banjul and Doha is still in place, a good first sign for investors.
Barrow is looking to have the Gambia’s agricultural sector commercialized. So far, tax cuts have been effected on flour production and a ban on importation of vegetables lifted.
“Apart from conventional crops, they can invest in horticulture,” says Darboe, adding that there was also great scope in the real estate sector as houses for low-income groups were badly needed in his country.
Businesses in the Gambia challenged the new government to make reliable power supply a priority. Business leaders from the Gambia Chamber of Commerce said frequent power cuts have made businesses to shy away from the Gambia, fueling unemployment.
Darboe says the energy sector has a lot of potentials for investors and hopes the opening of the Doha embassy will help fast track investment offers and leads.
The country only power company, NAWEC is owed billions of dalasis in delinquent bills and is looking for partners and businesses to invest in the company that is struggling to reinvent itself.