President Adama Barrow recently highlighted the role Gambian Diaspora played in returning democracy to the country in his address to world leaders. However, now that we have changed the country’s Chief Executive Officer is there other ways in which the Gambia government can collaborate with the diaspora? Yes, in my opinion.
According to the macroeconomists, there is a direct correlation between human capital skill and economic growth. Almost every sector in the Gambia is affected by some form of skills or facilities deficiency. For example our recent power outage, education system, agriculture productivity, health etc. The government can work with the diaspora through the approaches discussed below:
1. Create contact database of Gambian Diaspora
It is said that what is not measured, cannot be managed.
With the creation of a diaspora function within the ministry of foreign affairs, it important for the government to start building a database of the Gambians living abroad. The data should collect information about contacts, expertise, experience as well as their interest.
Registration can be done via a dedicated website and mobile apps. Furthermore, some Gambians in diaspora are well-known due to the nature of their work. For example, Abdoulie Touray recently posted few names on Facebook. These experts hold critical positions across the globe. The government does not have wait for them to register, but a formal invitation could be extended to them.
2. Analysis and map the experts to sectors.
A database of Gambian experts will serve two primary purposes. One is to use it as a platform to update the Diasporas about the government activities and policies for feedback and opinion.
Second and the most important is to map the specific skills to the country’s priority sectors. For example, Mr. Batchi Baldeh, the former Managing Director of NAWEC is known for power business across Africa. Batchi now works as the Director of Power at the Africa Development Bank. If the country face power problems, Batchi and many other energy experts could be approached for consultation. They could propose financial and technical solutions. Sometimes, the solutions may not come from them but they could connect the ministries, sector leader to other institutions.
There are hundreds of Gambians with specialized skills and experience in energy, transport, finance, project development, education, health, technology, etc.
3. Advertise the consultancy jobs to the Gambian Diaspora
The government or parastatals may have consultancies or vacant jobs that would require specific expertise. The diaspora could be given the opportunity to bid for such jobs. The approach may influence some of these people to return home or set up companies in the country. The idea can be implemented if Gambia Public Procurement Authority and Personnel Management Office requested all government consultancy jobs beyond a certain threshold to be advertised in both newspapers and government dedicated websites.
4. Opportunity to issue diaspora bonds
With the contact list of Gambians in the diaspora, it is also an opportunity for the government to obtain funding through diaspora bond issuance. However, this opportunity can only be enjoyed if government show direction through a strategic plan. It also requires providing information to the diaspora about the performance of the state in all key sectors. At the moment, almost all the government departments are not providing timely information about their performance to the citizen. Have a look at their websites.
Without information, governance can be difficult and without good governance, access to capital is difficult.
Through the diaspora bond, Nigeria government raised $300 million in June 2017. The bond is the first bond issued by an African sovereign registered with both the U.S. SEC and the United Kingdom Listing Authority (UKLA) and targeted at retail investors.
In 2016, Gambian migrants remitted $181 million, which is 22% of GDP, according to reports.
5. Social infrastructure projects
In addition to the physical infrastructure, the diaspora could work with the government in the area of social infrastructures such as health and education.
The $27 million clinic project by Professor James Ndow and Horizons Clinic is an example of a Social enterprise by a Gambian in the diaspora.
Our country needs similar projects in sectors like education, agriculture, finance, etc. If some experience and connected Gambian in the diaspora could offer a similar philanthropic gesture in the area of education, it will impact our human capital.
6. Create knowledge sharing platform
According to The Foroyaa Newspaper, a team of UK MPs and officials are to offer training to Gambian lawmakers. The training will provide an insight into the processes and procedures of the role of parliamentarians. This is a good initiative and it must be commended. How about we create similar development in other sectors through our own people? The government can initiative platform where the experience private sector and diaspora Gambians could offer training to the government workers and state companies. The University of the Gambia, Gambia College and GTTI, PURA, state departments could all benefit from such platform. Professor Kah, Professor Tumani Corrah, and many others, can we ask them to offer at least 10 days knowledge sharing in the country each year? It could be a form of seminar and conference for the public. This platform could help manage and monitor the nation’s training budget.
How about we create similar development in other sectors through our own people? The government can initiate a platform where the experience private sector and diaspora Gambians could offer training to Gambians. The University of the Gambia, Gambia College and GTTI, PURA, state departments could all benefit from such platform. Professor Kah, Prof. Tumani Corrah, Prof. Gibril Faal and many others, can we ask them to offer at least 10 days knowledge sharing in the country each year? It could be a form of seminar and conference at a very reasonable fee. The platform could help manage and monitor the nation’s training budget.
In case you have missed it, there is a positive correlation between a country’s skill and economic growth.
The new government could work with the Gambian diaspora through various initiatives. However, it requires good governance which includes, accountability, transparency, and strategic direction.