Today marks fifty-seven (57) years since The Gambia attained independence from British rule in 1965.
As we celebrate our Independence anniversary, we can also rejoice at the realisation that there is no longer any African nation under colonial rule. This makes political independence no longer the issue it was decades ago, and it gives a broader significance to the country’s independence and justifies our celebration.
In this era, the dilemma of African countries largely remains the attainment of economic independence in an inter-dependent world. Like many other nations around the world, this is one of The Gambia’s major challenges.
As a result, linking it with political independence, democracy and national unity, economic independence is the key focus of my address today.
Although it is my view that absolute economic independence is impractical, it is certain that we can reduce our heavy dependence on the outside world. The question is: How can we do this meaningfully?
The solution depends hugely on how practical we are and how far we choose to go in raising our productivity and production capabilities and outputs, while minimising imports and maximising exports.
The imbalance between imports and exports for the country is enormous, and this needs to be offset. Generally, there is a great need to transform the population into a more productive resource.
To free ourselves from economic dependence, among other strategies, we must invest more freely in the productive sectors, produce as much of what we consume as we need, and eat more home-made products. By the same token, we need to expand and patronise local businesses, while developing, encouraging and tapping local talent.
A lot of potential to increase national income generation lies in organising our communities to set up joint businesses, engage in more productive ventures, and make the most of our natural resources. Old and ineffective approaches have to give way to greater application of technology and modern techniques of production.
Industrialisation is surely one of the key areas to promote and develop. We should work towards ably mechanising and diversifying agriculture, preserving and processing our produce, and changing our life styles to depend less on imported goods, especially imported food commodities.
In discussing economic independence, my vision for The Gambia is a nation with top-class infrastructure, sufficient energy for national coverage and a technology-supported society that matches the digital world, all of which propel growth, economic development and social cohesion through an adequately equipped human resource base.
To advance economically, there is an urgent need to inject value and derive value from whatever we do. We should insist on designing value-driven projects and programmes that add value to the lives and livelihoods of the people, and ensure that our interventions yield tangible results that are not short lived.
The next five years provide opportunities to pursue such noble goals with more passion and vigour. We now have the chance to be proactive and be better organised to utilise our resources more efficiently and usefully. The world is moving fast, and we must keep moving equally fast.
I challenge the relevant Ministries and institutions to transform such ideals into workable strategies and infuse them into our next development plan and national policies.
Fellow Gambians, Distinguished Guests, Boys and Girls,
With support from a number of other political parties and Presidential candidates, I contended under the banner of the National People’s Party; nonetheless, I will maintain an open-door policy to listen and accommodate views, suggestions and persons who honestly want to work with us.
Democracy will continue to be our political system, but this does not mean democracy merely characterised by elections. I believe in democracy as a political system for advancement, development, self-determination, and social cohesion.
For me, democracy offers us a system to organise the people for peace, stability, freedom, self-reliance, and respect for rights and the rule of law.
In relating democracy to the Gambian situation, ours should be a democracy that guarantees freedom, respects community values, accommodates African view-points, and recognises sub-groups as parts of one diverse nation. This is the concept of democracy that reflects the will of the people and their hopes and desires.
From this point of view, economic independence must be linked to political independence within a social context. This would allow us to apply democratic principles in harmony with our economic frameworks and social settings
I will continue to stress that the underlying factors for economic independence, development and progress are peace, security, and stability. The responsibility of preserving these values does not entirely rest upon the Security Services, in spite of the related duties and assignments they execute.
It is a common responsibility on all of us, based on how we co-exist, respect the law, discharge our duties, and guard against doing wrong.
No amount of external support or policies can entrench peace and stability in our communities, if we choose not to be civil enough.
I congratulate the entire nation on this auspicious day, and thank all those who continue to help us pursue the dream of transforming The Gambia into the desirable democratic and prosperous nation we want it to be.
In particular, boys and girls, I thank you and your parents and guardians for your smart appearance and performance this morning.
Similarly, I thank the education sector personnel, their stakeholders and our partners for their praiseworthy contribution to our development process.
The education sector shall remain my government’s priority, as human capital development and advancement rest on an educated population.
As such, through renewed partnerships with development partners, my government will work towards consolidating the gains made over the years for the attainment of quality education at every level of the education cycle.