OBSERVER's JULY 22nd BUS ENDS TOUR OF WESTERN REGION
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Apart from the availability of basic necessities which have come to change the style of living Gambians had become accustomed to prior to the July 22nd Revolution, the rapidity in transformation of certain settlements especially in the Western Region and the Kanifing municipality largely serves as an even sturdier indication of how far this country has gone, and, to some extent, it can as well serve as some form of a pointer as to what lies ahead if we continue on this trend.
Settlements like Farato, just on the outskirts of Brikama, Busumbala and Yundum are shimmering examples of these. A decade or so ago, precisely before the advent of the July 22nd Revolution, these places were mere rural settings that investors would wrongfully rule out as unsuitable for any form of investment; even natives would hardly want to stay here. Presently though, the differences can be found both in the outlook of these settlements and in terms of the standard of living of the people here. There is no doubt that the construction of the Westfield-Mandinaba Road has played quite a great role in the speedy transformation of these places, but also government's stance on decentralisation has been an incontrovertible catalyst in convincing the people that it does not matter where one stays, and that what matters is what one does.
If the roads are good, as they actually are, accessibility to where one works, or what one wants, becomes easy. This is actually the case today for the people of this area. Almost every settlement along this road - from Brikama right down to Farato, Busumbala Yundum - suggest newly built modern towns. Already, the people of Farato and Busumbala as well as Yundum, have access to both electricity and pipe-borne water supply. It is just a matter of time before these facilities penetrate into the heart of these villages. And Mindaw Senior Secondary School is arguably a product of the bond that ties the Republic of The Gambia and the Republic of China (Taiwan).
New Yundum Lower Basic School has received massive upgrading in the form of construction of structures, bringing it up to date; all part of efforts to meet the growing demand of the swelling population in this part of the country. Streetlights have become a part of today's Gambia. Apart from the air of beauty created on the streets of The Gambia these days, there is the assured security in terms of the illumination of our streets and the comfortability it accords. If you have left The Gambia 15 years ago, you can hardly make out, for instance, the junction that separates the way to the airport from the way to the Senegambia areas.
The streetlights on the Brikama-Banjul Highway run from New Yundum up to Banjul, and they have given a unique look to this area. And the AU Highway, which is part of the Kombo Coastal Road Project, runs through to Old Yundum, transforming this settlement into a hub of business activities. The Kombo Coastal Road Project, in as much as it has created room for easy access in terms of transport communication, it effects extends to facilitating the establishment of business environments. Old Yundum, for instance, has now been extended to the edge of the coastal road where the Taboko-Old Yundum Highway meets the Senegambia AU Highway. And for the first time, this settlement has both lower and upper basic schools, catering for the growing population in this part of urban Gambia. Electricity and an almost completed water supply project have kind of added momentum to the rate at which the settlement is developing. An affable understanding between government and the people also has demonstrable benefits for the population. For example, the Old Yundum Market and Health Centre have been built as a result of community initiative with help from government.
Mamut Faye is the chairman of the Old Yundum Village Development Committee, and he is of the strongest conviction that if everybody tows this line, quite a lot will be achieved. He confirmed that the Old Yundum Market, the Old Yundum Police Station as well as the almost completed Old Yundum Health Centre all came as a result of self-help projects by the community "with technical assistance from the government." For Ousman Gaye, former chairman of Brikama Area Council, President Jammeh deserves commendation, more so support for his invaluable support to Gambians as well as his untiring efforts in alleviating poverty in the country.
As part of its continued effort to reasonably cut down on the distance Gambians go in search of health services, this government continues to erect more facilities in settlements across the country. But in major settlements where there had been these facilities, the focus has been to upgrade them to make them meet the current level of demand. Banjulinding Health Center falls under this category.
Thanks to a collaborative effort being spearheaded by government, the hospital has benefited from a number facilities you can hardly find in hospitals of its kind. Kawsu K Bojang is a state registered nurse (midwife). He is the officer-in-charge of the Banjulinding Health Center. Kawsu is especially appreciative of the attention given to the health of the women by The Gambia Government. "This is the only country where one can pay D5 (five dalasi) for medical consultation," he told the Observer crew.
Banjulinding was among the first to benefit from upper basic schools in the early days of the Revolution. Banjulinding Upper Basic was built in 1995. Every indication is that it was also a project of necessity, given the demand in terms of the growing population in that area. The records of students' enrolment justify this claim.
Enhanced transportation is a key pre-requisite to development. And The Gambia Government's recognition of this is conspicuous in its endeavour to ensure availability of roads throughout the country. But one form of transportation that has also received immense attention is air transport. The Banjul International Airport is today among the infrastructures which have catapulted the image of this country internationally. Virtually everything about it today reminds one only of 'New Gambia' - the terminal, the runways, handling of passengers baggage, etc.
On arrival at the entrance of the airport you have an initial feel of the real Gambia. This is what President Jammeh has envisaged. "We are trying to develop it into a major hub for the sub region," Malick IM Cham, director general of The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, told the Observer July 22nd Bus crew. Cham is of the belief that with the current trend of development, the Banjul International Airport must be brought to international standards if we are to survive the increasingly competitive and lucrative market. Complacence is never a part of the vocabulary of this government. Therefore the target has not been just what is available at present.
The leadership of this country has quite a lot in stock for Banjul International Airport. With Virgin Nigeria and Arik airlines as the newest entrants into this country's aviation industry, The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority is at an advanced stage in bringing more airlines to operate at the Banjul International Airport. Among these are heavyweights like South African Airways, a member of the Star Alliance group, and Ethiopian Airline. Even Delta Airline in the US is on the list of airlines the authority at the Banjul International Airport look forward to start operations soon. Airlines like Sabina and Span are already establishing their operational prowess here.
As part of the overall effort of reaching this dream, the authorities at the airport have been embarking on massive upgrading projects that will see the airport takes its desired shape. Phase I of this project has already been completed, and it basically involved overlaying of the runway. Phase II, according to DG Cham, will see the installation of key facilities. It will involve construction of a fire station, a meteorological facility as well as upgrading the communication status of the airport in terms of equipment and effectiveness in communication. It will also involve expansion of aircraft parking space. As all these happen, the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority takes into consideration the establishment of an exclusive cargo operation.
"This is of paramount importance to us in light of the current trend in expansion of agricultural and horticultural activities in the country," stated the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority boss. Great strides have also been registered at the level of The Gambia International Airlines (GIA), successor of the defunct Gambia Airways. And if the words of Bakary Nyassi are anything to go by, the decision to do away with the former Gambia Airways was among the best that this government, under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh, has taken on behalf of Gambians.
100% Gambian owned, GIA's 12 years of existence have been enough to place it among the most recognised in terms of ground handling in the aviation industry. In 2007, the GIA was certified by the International Travelling Agency as AHM804. In aviation terms, this is a system of measurement of performance of service delivery. The secret behind this has been the focus laid on human resource development. This is largely inline with President Jammeh's call for priority to be given to Gambian citizens.
Lamin Village also lies on the Westfield-Mandinaba Road. In addition to the street lightening project which runs through it, a stable supply of electricity brought about by the efficiency in service delivery at the level of NAWEC has greatly enhanced life for the people of this increasingly popular settlement. Business, like in the other settlements that have received facelifts, has been booming in all respects from the establishment of branches of financial institutions to local industries that need reliable electricity supply.
Adjoining villages have taken the opportunity offered to them by the construction of one of the newest roads in this area; it cuts through Lamin, passing through Kombo Kerewan into Mandinaring. These villages all have access to portable water for the first time. Smaller villages further inside, such as Makumbaya and Galoya, all have access to water.
In Lamin Daranka, a suburb of Lamin Village, the residents have benefited from the construction of a lower basic school for the first time, while the people of Lamin Kerewan will no longer be bothered by the thought of having to struggle for places in upper basic schools in other communities for their children. Another very noticeable development in Lamin is the newly constructed market, which has not only rid the place of the discomfort of its former makeshift market, but it has also provided more space for the introduction of more products. In effect, the need to travel all the way to Serekunda in search of certain commodities has been reduced drastically.
This publication is directed by
Pa Malick Faye
Kemo AM Cham
Author: Daily Observer