A Pledge to Solve Food Security
In a significant collaborative effort, Gambian President Adama Barrow and African Development Bank Group head Dr. Akinwumi Adesina pledged to join forces on Monday to enhance rice production and invest in the country’s burgeoning youth and women entrepreneurs. President Barrow identified the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war as an opportunity to address the issue of food security, emphasizing that it is entirely feasible for Africans to feed themselves. He stressed the need to commercialize rice production to meet the domestic demand effectively.
Bridging the Rice Gap
Currently, local production meets less than 20% of the demand for rice, which is The Gambia’s staple food. To address this deficit, the African Development Bank Group is extending support to the country’s efforts to boost paddy rice production by an additional 200,000 tons by 2028, ultimately reducing the need for rice imports to zero.
Nurturing Entrepreneurship and Infrastructure
In addition to promoting entrepreneurship among women and youth, President Barrow emphasized the critical importance of infrastructure development, particularly road construction, as an area where The Gambia seeks support from the African Development Bank. He expressed gratitude for the bank’s ongoing support and collaboration.
Decades of Partnership
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina’s visit marked the first official visit by an African Development Bank Group president in over two decades. The President recognized The Gambia as an essential shareholder since its membership in 1974.
Over the years, the bank has provided substantial support to The Gambia, totaling approximately $540 million. Presently, the support encompasses various sectors, including energy, inequality reduction, agriculture, governance, water and sanitation, and initiatives targeting youth and women.
The Vital Senegambia Bridge
Adesina underscored the significance of the Senegambia Bridge in fostering cross-border trade. Funded by the African Development Bank at a cost of approximately $104 million and inaugurated in 2019, the bridge has greatly enhanced trade between Senegal, The Gambia, and the broader West African region, serving as a pivotal infrastructure landmark.
Mitigating Impacts and Powering the Nation
The African Development Bank Group is actively engaged in supporting The Gambia to mitigate the repercussions of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including rising food insecurity and commodity prices. It has allocated around $19 million to boost food production in the country, aiming for self-sufficiency in rice production.
Furthermore, the bank is committed to expanding access to electricity in The Gambia, benefiting approximately 1.3 million people through a new $21 million rural electrification project and other initiatives.
Empowering Youth and Women Entrepreneurs
Dr. Adesina expressed enthusiasm for President Barrow’s determination to support The Gambia’s youth. He proposed the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks, financial institutions designed to empower young Gambian entrepreneurs. The President warmly embraced this proposal, emphasizing the need for extensive support for women in the country.
The African Development Bank is also actively supporting its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative in The Gambia, which will provide funding for financial institutions to offer affordable loans to women entrepreneurs.
A Shared Commitment to Infrastructure
Acknowledging President Barrow’s dedication to infrastructure development, Dr. Adesina concurred that infrastructure is a fundamental cornerstone of development. The President affirmed that infrastructure remains his top priority, underlining its pivotal role in driving progress and growth.
A Preferred Development Partner
The African Development Bank Group’s unique position allows it to provide long-term concessional financing and advisory services to The Gambia, facilitating structural transformation and addressing fragility factors. This places the bank among The Gambia’s preferred development partners in its journey toward economic and social advancement.