Gambia’s President Adama Barrow is asking for international partners that have shied away from the West African nation and those withholding funds to come to its aid to help address urgent needs of the country.
Barrow, whose administration has come up with a serious reform agenda says the government needs budgeting support to address deficiencies in the judiciary, health care, agriculture and light manufacturing industries.
He made the request during a meeting with EU, AU, UN and ECOWAS delegates at his office last week, according to sources close to the presidency.
Gambia is faced with serious crisis after decades of isolation under the former autocratic ruler, Yahya Jammeh. Deteriorating human rights conditions under Jammeh with his anti-West agenda has broken Gambia’s friendship with key donors.
Gambia had managed to avoid cases of the regional Ebola crisis, which had affected the arrival of tourist. The impact on the economy nearly rendered the impoverished nation insolvent.
The IMF had intervened giving at least US$10 million to Jammeh’s government to avoid a collapse of the economy.
With Jammeh exiled, Gambians are hoping for a quick turnover of the economy, which is also largely dependent on agriculture. But with the coming of global warming, rainfall in the Gambia has dropped and farmers are mostly trying to feed their families.
Many have migrated from rural Gambia turning to the service sector for jobs, and in the case of the country’s vibrant youth population, many have used the back way, a perilous route to across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to reach Europe for jobs.
Gambian authorities have signaled the probing of Jammeh’s finances. He is accused of swindling billions during his 22-year rule of mainland Africa’s smallest nation, instead of investing in citizens, who are in need of improved medical services.
Over 66% of the total health funding in the Gambia comes from international health development partners, raising issues of sustainability and predictability of funding to the sector.
The cost of providing health care continues to rise owing to increasing demand, changes in diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, inflation and currency fluctuations.
But even at hospitals, deaths have been reported because of power failure. The Gambia is struggling to generate the needed 150 watts to power the small the nation. So far, its only power company, which is state-owned produces 40 watts.
The government agrees that without reliable, affordable and accessible energy, The Gambia cannot develop as a nation. Gambia just had its first democratic change of government after a brief standoff.
While some expect immediate change, experts say it may not come in the three years that Barrow is expected to serve. But the new government is using the turn to democratic rule to woo its estranged friends to be more generous than ever.
The EU, which was withholding some $37 million in budgetary and development aid have released the funds to help jumpstart the economy and The Gambia is starting to make repair its “damaged image” within the international community.