The projected $75 million infrastructure grant the Chinese government extended to The Gambia on the president’s just-concluded trip will fundamentally change the living standards and economics of URR.
It will constitute an important foundation for what I hope would be a long-term effort to revitalize the entire rural economy as part of a total rethink of how best to reposition our nation as a business and investment hub for the subregion.
When completed, the earmarked grant will construct two vital bridges in Fatato/Passamance and Basse/Wulli with interconnected modern roads linking large but isolated communities in Wulli, Sandu, Kantora and Jimara, all terminating in the regional node of Basse town itself.
This would greatly compliment the lamin Koto/Passamance modern highway currently under construction, completing the main trunk of the north bank Trans-Gambia highway that starts at Barra and terminates in Passamance.
With the south bank trunk beginning in Brikama going through Foni, Kiang, Jarra, CRR south and terminating in URR, the two critical arteries on both banks of our majestic river would have been completed and greatly facilitate the movement of people and goods as well as stimulate commerce.
The completion of the Bamba-Tenda/Yelli-Tenda bridge will also result in a great increase in traffic and business flow in the Soma corridor.
These improvements in the transportation infrastructure provide an opportunity for the government to think big and develop a package of strategies and policies to leverage the advantages of locations and good roads.
To this end, I would suggest the government consider setting up a blue ribbon commission to study the possibility creating special economic zones in soma and Basse with an eye towards making them large commercial hubs for subregional markets by building warehouse districts, incentivizing importers and light manufacturers, and skills training.
Good roads and associated infrastructure like bridges, gas stations, among others can be transformative if we think big, study and plan carefully and hire capable people to conceive and execute.