I beg your pardon, before you think I am insane take a few minutes to read this article. It is too easy to cast the first stone at me by just flashing through the subject of this article without reading its content. But yes I know exactly what you are thinking. You’re saying, “what the hell is this man insinuating?”, “Is he alleging that The Gambia, a small developing nation is able to aid two giant developed nations- the United States and the United Kingdom?”
I dare to say that in fact I am not insinuating or alleging anything, the subject of this article is simply stating a literal truth and I am sure to vindicate myself by the time you finish reading this write-up. Do you have a parent, sibling or friend who has either successfully or unsuccessfully applied for a US/UK visa? I’m sure many of my readers will respond in the affirmative because The Gambia is full of people who have travelled the world extensively. Now if that is the case, have you ever asked how much it costs your Gambian sisters and brothers to apply for these visas. You might say, “Hay man, my sister or brother spent only US$160 as his/her US visa application fee and that’s not a big deal you know.” Well not a big deal to you because you have a very narrow view of the whole matter. Think of the thousands of Gambians that apply for these visas in just one of them paying a nonrefundable fee of US$160. You end up having an unbelievable sum of money!
Again, I said in the beginning that I am not making things up and I certainly do not have a reason to. A report published by the US Department of State on Non-Immigrant visas issued by the US in 2015 and another report published by the UK Home Office in the same year will give you a clear picture of what I am talking about. For example, these reports reveal that in the year 2015 alone, 3,452 Gambians applied for US Non-Immigrant visas and out of that figure of applicants, 2,611 Gambians were rejected which also implies that some US$417,821 was wasted by our sisters and brothers as US unsuccessful (b-visas type) applications alone. It also means that only 841 Gambians were successfully issued visas and if you add their application fees to that of the unsuccessful candidates, the total sum of money spent by Gambians on this type of US visa is some mouthwatering amount of US$552,380 in 2015 alone. In 2015, the rejection rate for Gambian US (b-visa type) applicants was 75.64%. Can you believe it?
Unfortunately that’s not all. The UK Home Office disclosed that in the same year (2015), 3791 Gambians applied for UK entry clearance visas but out of that number, only 1,683 applicants succeeded and the other 2,098 applicants were denied visas. This also means that Gambians wasted 356,660 UK pounds as unsuccessful visa application fees. That money is equivalent to US$471,241. The 2015 rejection rate for Gambian UK visa applicants was 55.34%.
However, you might notice that these monies spent by Gambians on visa applications only focus on specific visa types, therefore we are not talking about all Gambian visa applicants here. So let’s do the math, if Gambians in 2015 alone wasted US$417,821 on US (b-visa type) application and another US$471,241 on UK visa application, it simply means that the country lost a whopping US$889,062 to the United States of America and the United Kingdom in 2015 alone. Now going by the Central Bank of the Gambia (CBG) exchange rate of D42.35 to 1 dollar as on Thursday 25th 2016, it implies that Gambia lost a total of 37,651,775.7 million dalasi in 2015 alone.
That is heartbreaking, isn’t it? Now you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you multiply the US$889,062 by five years, Gambian US/UK visa applicants would have wasted US$4,445,310. That’s almost US4.5m and exactly 188,258,878.5 million dalasi in just a period of five years. And to be realistic if all other visa type of the US, UK and EU countries are included, you will realize that this small nation is squandering massive wealth to the West without even realizing it. Yet, how much do the United States and the United Kingdom give to The Gambia government in the form of so-called aid in one year? Is it up to US$889,02? Even the layman on the streets of Serrekunda would tell you that the US and UK governments will not give that kind of money to The Gambia in a period of just 12 months. Hence if we establish that they don’t give us that kind of money then, tell me my friend, who is aiding who? You see the US and UK governments take about US$4.5m from The Gambian people in just a period of five years, yet the two developed nations cannot even give a US$100,000 to the Gambia to help with its electoral processes during Presidential elections for example. Meanwhile they talk a lot about free and fair elections but not ever wanting to admit the fact that effective elections cost real money.
History also teaches us that within the 400 years of European presence in The Gambia, they never spent US$889,062 worth to develop The Gambia and while they were busy stealing mineral resources to build what is today the United States and the United Kingdom for example, they still ask us to pay extra dollars just for entry to their countries. We also know that even the little money they give to African governments in the name of aid come with a lot of strings attached. It’s like, “I’m going to give you money for free but I have to dictate how you spend that money.” Therefore those who think that slavery and exploitation are now things of the past are merely dreaming and they need to wake up to the reality underground. Yes I mean The Gambia and Africa at large continue to be exploited and we continue to make them (the west) richer while we remain poorer.
So what’s the solution out of such a mess? I suggest that as Gambians and as Africans we work harder on our unity and reject slavery and exploitation in all its forms by revealing the evils that are being perpetually committed against us by demanding the justice we deserve. Of course we may still apply for those visas and travel to countries of our choice but we have to do it the right way so that we don’t have to suffer more than we are already suffering. Think of the huge sums of money we keep wasting on visa applications; that money can go a long way in developing our country. Let’s be smart!
Long live The Gambia and long live all patriotic Gambians!!!!!
Political Scientist and Writer