Forging Paths: Mr Bakary Jammeh’s Inspiring Tale of Gambian Excellence

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Mr. Bakary Jammeh

By: Awa Conteh 

In this week’s episode of Meet The Gambian Trailblazers, we embark on a journey with Mr. Bakary Jammeh, a visionary leader whose story epitomizes the transformative power of resilience and determination. From humble beginnings to the pinnacle of success, Mr. Jammeh’s unwavering commitment to excellence has reshaped industries and inspired generations. 

Join us as we unravel the remarkable tale of a Gambian luminary who defied the odds, shattered barriers, and continues to pave the way for a brighter future. Get ready to be captivated by Mr. Bakary Jammeh’s extraordinary journey and indelible mark on The Gambia and among Gambians.

Mr. Bakary Jammeh hailed from a lineage deeply entrenched in public service. His father, Hon Kebba Tamba Jammeh, held esteemed positions, from Chief of Upper Badibou District to Member of Parliament for Illiassa Constituency. He even served as Deputy Speaker and Parliamentary Secretary in the 1st Republic of The Gambia. Such legacy didn’t spring from a vacuum; it was rooted in his grandfather’s heritage—Chief Mama Tamba Jammeh, a distinguished figure in colonial-era governance who held titles such as Head Chief of Badibou and a member of the Legislative and Executive Councils.

This heritage of service instilled a deep reverence for education within the family. Thus, after completing high school, Mr. Bakary Jammeh pursued a career in accountancy. His thirst for knowledge led him to obtain a Master’s Degree in Business Administration focusing on finance from the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside in the UK in 1988.

But his journey didn’t end there. Over the years, Mr. Bakary Jammeh seized various opportunities for professional development. He delved into finance management, marketing, sports management, and petroleum upstream and downstream management. Each step he took echoed the legacy of service and the pursuit of excellence that defined his family’s ethos. 

After obtaining his Accountancy qualifications, Mr. Bakary Jammeh served as the Head of Accounts at the Medical Research Council Laboratories of the UK Government in The Gambia for eight years, from 1987 to 1994. However, desiring to expand beyond his role as an accountant and to become a leader in finance, he found that the MRC, being a medical research institution, could have been a better place for career growth and couldn’t support further training in his field. Consequently, he resigned in April 1994 to join the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC).

At SSHFC, he was offered a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in the UK. Upon his return, he was entrusted with establishing the new Investment Unit within the Department of Finance and Administration.

“Professional Education gives you a methodological approach to your professional and life. I spent my formative professional years working for the British Government Medical Research Council Laboratories in The Gambia but had many opportunities for cross-postings/missions in the UK”, Mr. Jammeh told The Alkamba Times.

Transitioning from roles as an accountant at the MRC to a portfolio manager at SSHFC, he eventually delved into business and corporate leadership. In 2001, he resigned from SSHFC to co-found Elton Oil Gambia Ltd, swiftly becoming a market leader in petroleum distribution.

Mr Jammeh’s expertise extended beyond the corporate world, as he served on numerous public and private boards. Notably, he was appointed by the Government of The Gambia to chair the Gambia Tourism Board during a pivotal period of transformation. Over two terms from 2012 to 2018, Mr. Jammeh led the board in aligning national objectives with practical strategies, focusing on enhancing the tourism value chain.

Under his leadership, the board prioritized strategic management encompassing marketing, product development, quality assurance, and visitor experience enhancement. Their efforts facilitated the transition of the Gambia Tourism Authority to the Gambia Tourism Board, resulting in a more dynamic and impactful tourism industry.

Through collaboration with industry stakeholders and advocating for performance-oriented approaches, Mr. Jammeh’s tenure witnessed significant progress in marketing, product development, quality control, and financial administration within the Gambian tourism sector. His leadership served as a catalyst for cohesion among various tourism entities and efforts to reduce inefficiencies.

Mr. Bakary Jammeh has faced numerous pivotal moments in his life, each presenting its own set of challenges and opportunities for growth. One significant turning point was when he decided to leave the Medical Research Council (MRC) for the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) despite taking a pay cut. This move enabled him to pursue further training and career advancement. He eventually established the Investment Department at SSHFC, broadening the corporation’s investment portfolio.

Another transformative decision was leaving SSHFC to venture into entrepreneurship and marketing by founding Elton Oil Gambia Ltd. This bold move allowed him to become a business leader and serve on boards and task forces, including the Gambia Tourism Board.

“It was an assignment I accepted and set myself to achieve the principle of the New Gambia by applying my core values of Hard Work, Integrity, and selfless service to our nation that had a new start after over 2 decades of dictatorship”, he explained.

Despite facing resistance and threats from certain quarters, Mr. Jammeh remained steadfast in his commitment to reforming the council. He sought to instill trust and efficiency in the council’s operations by implementing various policy and operational changes, particularly in financial management and waste collection.

While these reforms were met with resistance, Mr. Jammeh garnered support from many citizens for his dedication to improving local governance. Though he endured personal attacks and smear campaigns, his unwavering commitment to hard work, integrity, and selfless service remained resolute. 

Reflecting on his journey, Mr. Bakary Jammeh sees himself as playing a vital role in his country’s socio-economic development, following in the footsteps of his parents and forefathers. Educated through the public system, he believes giving back is essential despite the challenges encountered along the way.

In his business endeavors with Elton, Mr. Jammeh contributed significantly to employment and tax revenue in The Gambia. Elton’s innovative service delivery model and extensive network of service stations transformed the landscape, playing an active role in the country’s economic growth.

“As a Sports Administrator, my colleagues and I effectively took over the Management of Real de Banjul in 1988. At that moment, the oldest and most successful football club in the Gambia was near extinction as it was about to be relegated. Fast-forward to today, we are the biggest football club and the only club to build our headquarters, a Football Stadium employing more than 30 Gambians,” he said.

Mr. Jammeh attributes much of his personal and professional growth to his father, Hon Kebba Tamba Jammeh. A man of intellect, selflessness, honesty, and integrity, his father set high standards and encouraged Mr. Jammeh to surpass them. Inspired by his father’s legacy as a politician and farmer, Mr. Jammeh established BMT Farms, specializing in mango production and small ruminant farming, contributing to the growth and export market of The Gambia’s agricultural sector.

In Mr. Bakary Jammeh’s family, service to the country and people is a core value instilled from a young age. Hailing from a political background, they understand that not everyone will support or agree with them. Yet, they are taught to stay true to their mission despite opposition.

Setbacks and obstacles are viewed as opportunities for growth and learning. The Jammeh family believes in persevering to achieve their dreams and objectives. Retirement isn’t in their vocabulary; they continue to work and serve as long as possible. 

Mr. Bakary Jammeh’s career journey has had numerous rewarding moments, but a few stand out prominently. One such instance is his family’s pivotal role, particularly his wife, who serves as his principal advisor and critic, aiding in making sound decisions across various aspects of life.

Additionally, he finds fulfillment in pursuing his two passions: sports and farming. Real de Banjul’s transformation into a successful business model in sports administration and his instrumental role in qualifying The Gambia for the African Cup of Nations bring him immense satisfaction.

BMT Farms’ consistent production of high-quality mangoes in farming is a testament to his dedication and vision in agriculture.

Moreover, Mr. Jammeh’s efforts to elevate the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) to a modern municipal council are gratifying. This endeavor reflects his commitment to public service and the betterment of his community.

As a seasoned professional with over 35 years of experience, Mr. Bakary Jammeh offers valuable advice to young Gambians aspiring to pursue careers in finance, management, and sports administration:

“Growing up and finding our feet in society, we used to have role models and go through periods of apprenticeship in whatever field we chose. These two are very important. One needs to be mentored because I realized that we learn the most vital things outside the classroom.”

Mr. Bakary Jammeh’s legacy in contributing to the growth and development of The Gambia is vast and multifaceted. In terms of business, he has created employment opportunities, contributed significantly to tax revenue, and fostered entrepreneurship by creating SMEs. At the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), he established the Investments Department, diversifying the corporation’s portfolio and supporting various sectors of the Gambian economy.

Mr. Jammeh’s achievements between 2012 and 2018 are numerous and impactful in tourism. He oversaw the transformation of the Gambia Tourism Authority into the Gambia Tourism Board, aimed at making the tourism industry more robust and dynamic. Under his leadership, the destination Gambia became known to both traditional and new markets worldwide, attracting new airlines and tour operators. He played a key role in increasing tourism arrivals and facilitating a quick recovery after significant challenges such as the Ebola outbreak and political impasse. Additionally, he spearheaded various initiatives to improve infrastructure, security, and tourism products, contributing to the growth of the sector and the country’s GDP.

At the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Mr. Jammeh’s tenure as Vice Chairman of the Board saw significant improvements in the downstream sector’s profitability, service delivery, and network expansion. His focus on the corporation’s key mandates led to historical achievements, such as paying dividends to the government for the first time in history.

Overall, Mr. Jammeh’s legacy is one of dedication, innovation, and transformative leadership, impacting The Gambia’s economy, tourism sector, and national institutions. 

As we draw the curtains on this episode of “Meet The Gambian Trailblazers,” we are reminded of the power of determination, innovation, and collective effort in driving progress and shaping the future. Mr Bakary Jammeh’s story is a beacon of inspiration, urging us to embrace challenges, seize opportunities, and continue pushing boundaries. Let us carry forward the spirit of these trailblazers, striving to leave our mark on the tapestry of Gambian excellence. Until next time, stay inspired and keep blazing trails!

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