GCCI CEO: Covid19 Painfully Bites All Sectors of the Gambian Economy
In an exclusive interview with the Chief Executive Officer of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Alieu Secka told GunjurOnline the effects of the coronavirus can be felt across all sectors of the Gambian economy.
He revealed an impact assessment his Office gathered through a third party indicated the principal actors of Gambian economy are the small and micro businesses which employ between one to five people.
He noted despite a large presence of bigger companies, the microbusinesses play a crucial role in terms of contribution to the country’s GDP as well as job creation for Gambians. Mr.Secka further added albeit 98 percent of all businesses are small and medium enterprises in the Gambia, the bigger companies pay a lot higher taxes and employ larger number of people in certain respects.
Mr. Secka underscored the impact assessment highlighted that the coronavirus has impacted everyone across the board. “It doesn’t matter whether you talking about tourism, agriculture, education, businesses and even individual households.” CEO Secka stated.
He added among the direct impacts of the global pandemic are total or partial job losses, partial or total income losses as well as scaling down of operations. “Most importantly”, he went on, “most businesses face immediate liquidity crisis within three months as Gambians are well into that stage now”.
The survey also indicated that, the youth population between 25 and 35 represented about 35% of these micro business enterprises. Additionally, the overall data shows that between 25 and 45% represent the entrepreneurs of the Gambian business sector. “It is these small businesses that keep our economy going, as they produce or sell on a daily basis and that is how they survive too.” he added.
According to him, ninety percent (90%) of the physical trading aspect of the Gambian business sector has been affected since physical interactions were severely restricted by the safety measures countrywide. The impact assessment also reveals that over 35% of employers will lay off their staff due to the liquidity crisis they faced as a result of the coronavirus and its subsequent lockdown measures, adding their chances of survival is minimal since some of them borrowed capitals to commence their businesses.
He explained that, overall over 60% of the businesses have been impacted and faced this liquidity crisis in the Gambia. “To be specific, everyone said they will be affected within twelve months, so you cannot overemphasize the negative impact of this coronavirus.” he stated.
However, CEO Secka noted that, his Office has made numerous interventions against the deadly bug by doing most of their work online, discussing with the National Business Council to device methods to cushion the effects of the virus, which show the total rehabilitation of the sanatorium, collaborated with Mustapha Njie of Taf to renovate the Ndemban Clinic at the tune of over two million Dalasi as well as worked with the UNDP in which a minivan was purchased for the prison services to ease transportation in this period. He noted that, the private sector also renovated some of the prisons to allow hygiene in this pandemic period within the prison entity. “We actually raised 14 million dalasi to help government fight against the highly contagious deadly bug” CEO Secka pointed out.
The trade expert continued that, at the moment his office in partnership with the private sector, rehabilitation works are underway to renovate the clinics at the prisons, acquired 200 bump beds for the youth remand wing of the prisons, saying congestion is a key challenge and they are pleased in working with the UNDP in these interventions. “The prisons are in desperate need of support as they are in dire situation.” he added.
He believes that, with the potential threats of covid19, if it breaks loose in the prisons, the whole of the Gambia is at risk because if prison officers and prisoners are released to the communities it could be disastrous but said that there is a humanitarian aspect to these interventions too which often is neglected.
Meanwhile, on the education sector, Mr. Secka charged that, the private sector stepped in to provide thermometers to schools through the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education which would be use by students to curb the spread of the coronavirus in schools. “We have also conducted various sensitizations on radio and TVs as well as provided facemask or face shields.” CEO Secka stated.
He revealed that, the pandemic has sharply bitten tourism like no other sector and this has immense consequences on the country’s economy since it contributes over 25% to the GDP and employs one in every seven Gambians, adding that investors in the industry face massive losses considering their huge capital investments by erecting expensive tourism structures but at the end face redundant tourism. “How will they pay their creditors, overhead bills and most importantly their workers?” Secka queried.
Mr. Secka noted that, over 20% of the Gambian economy also comes from the Gambian diaspora community through remittances and explained that most of these Gambians are also affected by the covid19 pandemic and it has serious ramifications in Gambian homes and the national economy as well.
The CEO of the GCCI confirmed that, his Office is in consultation with the government of the Gambia to implement certain measures that could revive the ailing economy such as deferment of loans by Commercial Banks, tax payments to GRA, income tax, relaxation of certain requirements of the Commercial Banks by the Central Bank because it is a regulatory body so as to help each of the actors fulfill or continue their operations in this trying moments.
The trade guru urges Gambians to stick to the covid19 safety regulations advanced by health experts at all times in public, saying the life you safe might be your own.