Monthly Media Conference of the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure of The Gambia, Demba A. Jawo
MOICI Conference Room
29 November, 2017
Good morning everyone. Once again, welcome to our monthly media briefing.
As the Director of Information has said, I will first make a statement touching on recent developments in some of our sectors, after which I will be happy to take questions.
I cannot start this press conference without commiserating with the families of hundreds of Gambian youths who have decided to travel to Europe the “back way.” I can only imagine their anguish and pain as images of African youths being tortured, maimed and sold, circulate on the internet.
I want to reassure their families and members of the Gambian public who have actively expressed indignation on social media, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Ousianou Darboe, who is currently attending the Africa-EU Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, has included the issue of African migrants, and particularly Gambian migrants, as a priority agenda item for engagement with African and European ministers in Abidjan. The objective is to find immediate measures to address the problem.
The Gambian Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, on 21 November, expressed dismay, and condemned the ongoing horrific reports of the sale of African migrants as slaves in Libya.
The Ministry has called on the Libyan authorities, the African Union, the United Nations and the international community to undertake immediate investigations into the matter, in order to put an end to these gruesome atrocities.
As a government, we have continually discussed the issue of youth involvement in national development initiatives. We intend to fast-track and put in place mechanisms to encourage Gambian youth to stay in the country and partake in the rebuilding processes. Where young people absolutely see a need to migrate, it must be done in a manner that does not put their lives in danger.
On 7 November, the Government of France, through its Ambassador to Senegal, His Excellency Christophe Bigot, announced the re-opening of France’s diplomatic mission in Banjul in a meeting with the Gambian Foreign Affairs Minister.
Cabinet, on 21 November, also discussed the Presidency of the ECOWAS Commission as the term of the current ECOWAS Commission President; Marcel de Souza from Bénin expires in February 2018. The position is rotational, and for the first time, The Gambia is seeking the leadership of the ECOWAS Commission by putting forth a candidate for its Presidency.
The Governor of the Central Bank of The Gambia, Bakary Jammeh announced last week that a total redesign of the current currency notes will be effective by the end of 2018.
ENERGY AND PETROLEUM
Following last week’s official unveiling of the national electricity roadmap, which outlines actions to stabilise transmission and distribution, the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy are still aggressively pursuing various initiatives to ensure that they meet deadlines given by Cabinet to resolve the severe energy crisis in The Greater Banjul Area.
Some of these initiatives include: the US$ 22.5million Indian line of credit electrification project for the rehabilitation and expansion of the existing transmission and distribution network within the Greater Banjul Area. There is also the extension of transmission lines from Kalagi to the Kiangs.
It is noteworthy that following the partnership between SENELEC and NAWEC, other regions in The Gambia, including the North Bank Region and the Lower River Region, are enjoying regular electricity supply. This administration intends to ensure regular electricity supply within the Greater Banjul Area, as poor electricity supply greatly hampers education, the business sector, and is a deterrent to potential investors.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy recently sought to reach a broad spectrum of international oil companies with a promotion event in London on 10 November, 2017. This was part of its effort to unveil the roadmap to transparently licensing The Gambia’s open petroleum exploration blocks, and showcase the country’s potential in the petroleum sector.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy gave technical presentations on regulatory frameworks, institutional arrangements and fiscal regimes for upstream petroleum to several major international oil companies that attended the event. Ministry officials also outlined the processes and the timeline towards licensing the open blocks.
The Gambian Government delegation included Minister of Petroleum and Energy Fafa Sanyang, Secretary General Dawda D. Fadera, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubacarr Tambadou, and senior officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and its line agencies.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou, held a press conference this week in response to the Supreme Court Decision on the Public Order Act.
The Minister emphasised that the new dispensation allows for the independence of the judiciary. As such, he explained that Government could not have intervened in decisions of the Justice system. He did, however, announce that his ministry is looking at the decision with a view to taking a position.
Let me also inform you that on numerous occasions, including during our last Cabinet meeting, where Minister Tambadou tabled a bill on the establishment of the Constitutional Review Commission, members discussing the new constitutional revisions, have engaged the Justice Minister to ensure that terms of reference of the Commission reflect the government’s will to put in a place a Constitution that reflects international standards, the aspirations of all Gambians, and one that enshrines the basic fundamental rights of all Gambians, in all domains.
During our 21 November Cabinet meeting, Cabinet approved bills for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission and the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission for presentation to the National Assembly for enactment. There is no doubt that the role, scope and work of the National Human Rights Commission will further strengthen human rights ideals and practice in The Gambia, and will offer aggrieved Gambians a platform to address issues of concern.
MoHERST Local Scholarship Awards
In response to questions raised on local scholarships, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST), in its bid to develop and strengthen tertiary and higher education in The Gambia, and, to further respond to the development needs of the country, has continued to provide scholarships to students in post-secondary institutions. It has done so by prioritising scholarships in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Agriculture, and Health programmes.
University of the Gambia
At least 1,200 Bachelors and Masters level students were sponsored in all programmes of the University of The Gambia studies as of the 2016/2017 academic year. Over eighty percent of these awards are on STEM, Agriculture, and Health programmes.
Gambia Technical Training Institute
More than 230 students are being sponsored in the technical fields of engineering, automotive, and architecture at the Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI).
Management Development Institute (MDI)
The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science & Technology funded 285 scholarships at certificate, diploma, and advanced diploma levels in various programmes: management and public administration, business studies, and gender studies at the Management Development Institute.
American International University / West Africa (AIU/WA)
The Ministry has also, over the years, sponsored 50 students at the American International University, West Africa on various programs in ICT and Business Studies at Bachelors level.
WOMEN’S AFFAIRS (Women’s Bureau Activities)
Social mobilisation against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)
In October 2017 over 200 stakeholders from The Gambia and Senegal participated in a cross-border social mobilisation initiative against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in Jimara District in the Upper River Region. The objective was to discuss and campaign on issues surrounding FGM/C and child marriage. Both countries have now agreed to implement a cross-border Joint Action Plan on FGM/C to curb the menace.
In September, the Bureau visited communities in the Upper River Region and organised a district dialogue, bringing together over 350 district representatives including men, women young people and religious leaders. They discussed FGM/C, the contents of the Amended Women’s and Children’s Acts 2015 and, other laws on domestic violence.
Socio-economic study on the Condition of Gambian Women
To update the National Gender Management Information System (GMIS), the African Development Bank, in collaboration with the Women’s Bureau, has hired a consultant to conduct a National study of the Socio Economic Condition of Gambian Women.
Training of National Assembly Members, Senior Government Officials on Gender Responsive Budgeting
Between September and October, the Women’s Bureau has trained20 National Assembly members and 35 senior government officers on Gender Responsive Budgeting. The aim is to enhance their skills on gender budgeting, mainstreaming and budgetary challenges.
In line with their intentions to conduct an institutional review of the existing national gender machinery, laws and policies, the Bureau has already started consultations to develop a new National Gender Policy.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL WELFARE
With support from the Department of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) is implementing a project known as the Building Resilience through Social Transfers for Nutrition Security in The Gambia (BReST) project. This is a project funded by the European Union and valued at three million Euro (€3,000,000.00). It is facilitated by UNIECF.
NaNA is the main implementing Agency of the project, which will build resilience and improve the nutrition status of lactating women and children under 24 months in North Bank Region, the Upper River Region, and the Central River Region (CRR). It will do so by providing an immediate cash transfer programme to support lactating mothers, as well as sensitise them on exclusive breast feeding and appropriate complementary feeding practices.
YOUTH AND SPORTS
The Gambia was recently elected to serve a four-year term in the 18-member Committee of the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sports (CIGEPS) during the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris recently.
Established by UNESCO in 1978 to promote the role and value of sports and its inclusion in public policy, the Committee also assists in promoting international cooperation in the sphere of physical education and sport. It strengthens peace, friendship, understanding and mutual respect between peoples, in particular by helping member states.
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE
I recently participated in the ministerial Session of the Second Ordinary Session of the African Union Specialised Technical Committee on Communication and Information Communication Technologies (STC-CICT-2) in Paris. This took place from 23 to 24 November. My colleagues and I made policy recommendations for consideration including the Declaration on Internet Governance, which emphasises the need for concerted and collaborative efforts to enable African States to regain their Country Code Top Level Domains. An example from right here at home is our dot gm. ICT ministers in Africa also re-echoed our commitment to pursue the digitalisation agenda.
I also participated in the 39th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris, and had side meetings with the Assistant Director General for Communication Information. We discussed issues related to UNESCO’s support to the Gambian media over the years, and ways of building on this invaluable partnership under the new dispensation. We outlined support to strengthen the Gambian government’s legal reform initiatives, to facilitate and guarantee media freedom and open adequate space for media participation in the implementation of the national policy framework.
We also agreed on support to private and community radio, rural community information centres, and on capacity building of journalists and other technical assistance to increase the literacy rate of women, especially in ICT.
On a final note, I would like to clarify that an Information Bill has not yet been tabled before Cabinet, as some publications have inadvertently indicated. Any bills and or laws related to sectors under my purview will be subject to a wide range of stakeholder consultations, input and recommendations before enactment.
The discussions that we recently had in cabinet pertained to the broadcasting industry and progress made so far on regulation, and the recommendations of our Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to issue a CSP licence to Core Broadcasting and Multimedia Company Ltd, which trades as QTV. This meant that the Justice Ministry had to be involved in analysing whether or not to proceed with the approval processes of the very first Gambian private television licence.
After consultations with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, yesterday (28 November) finalised a TV Licence for QTV, pursuant to the company’s application for a content service provider licence, pursuant to section 226 of the IC Act and the Digital Broadcasting Policy.
It is also important to note that QTV has signed an undertaking to operate in accordance with the IC Act 2009, PURA Act 2001, and other relevant laws and regulations existing, as well as others that may come into force in future.
My team is also working with the Ministry of Justice and Article 19 to organise a series of stakeholder sessions on Access to Information, commencing before the end of December 2017. Discussions are also underway on the repeal/amendment of some media laws.
Again, we shall consult with all stakeholders to enable us put in place laws that respect international standards. My intention is to ensure that we table a bill seeking to amend existing media laws by the second session of the National Assembly.
Thank you for your kind attention, and now, I will be happy to take your questions.