Mr. Presidential Adviser,
As a sovereign Gambian, I wish to write you in your capacity as Presidential Adviser on Diaspora Affairs to the President of the Republic of the Gambia on matters dealing with affairs of the Gambian Diaspora.
I firmly believe that you recognized the support of the Diaspora through remittances sent to families, friends, and much more, the enormous economic contributions diaspora Gambians contribute to our national development. At the Fifth Stake in the Nation Forum (SNF5) on 8th January 2022, the Central Bank confirmed that the verified figure for remittance inflows to The Gambia by December 2021 was $774.6 million. This represents 62.9% of the GDP.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs also pointed out the significant role remittances play in the Gambian economy as one of the country’s most important forms of development finance. I would also like to highlight other areas that you would agree Gambian Diaspora contributes immensely to the economic development, including knowledge transfer, foreign direct investment, and infrastructure development. These combined factors would further suggest that when utilized effectively, this population constituent plays a significant role in national development.
It is understood that there is a directorate or Desk officer for the Diaspora at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last year, you were also appointed as Presidential adviser on Diaspora affairs. As a Presidential adviser, who has a lot of experience living and being educated abroad, it will be not an exaggeration to suggest that you are well aware of the potential of Gambians abroad in terms of expertise, human capital, network, and financial capital that more efforts are needed for them to be included in the development agenda of the country. The first and foremost for that process of inclusion and engaging the Diaspora is to be allowed full participation in the democratic process to vote and be voted into office.
As per the servant in our Foreign and Diplomatic offices, one would have expected both the Desk officer at the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Presidential adviser on Diaspora matters to advise the President on the appointments of competent and knowledgeable people with innovative skills to work at our foreign offices as not only “photo shooting consular and attaches,” but to represent the interest of the Gambia fully, such appointees should be conversant with the norms of modern-day diplomacy to initiate an interactive collaboration with the International communities.
The foresight to establish a system within our Foreign and Diplomatic missions that would work on territorial profiling of Gambian diasporas, engaging and consulting the diverse, polarized Diaspora Association around the globe to map out effective ways of strategizing, mobilizing resources, knowledge sharing, and logistics would be very beneficial to the Gambia.
It is rather unfortunate that since 2017, the Gambia foreign mission has become a compensatory “dumping” spot for those who are aligned with the political agenda of the President, the recent appointment of those who publicly seek to contest against President Barrow in the 2021 election and later subdued to their aspirations, endorsed President Barrow are virtually today occupying our foreign mission in various capacities, that makes many to believe that the Barrow Government is mainly focusing their engagements with the Diaspora with those whom they share similar political views.
Mr. Presidential Adviser, it is paramount for a serious diaspora engagement to be mainstreamed in all spheres of development both within and outside the Gambia to strengthen the role of the Diaspora in the sustainable development of the country, our neighboring country Senegal has taken some giant steps in this regard. Therefore the Gambia can take some inspiration from them.
Therefore Mr. Presidential Adviser, I will recommend that the Barrow Administration come up with a Diaspora policy that will be all-inclusive and propose adequate opportunities for engagements; for such policy to be coherent, all segments of the Diaspora including the most vulnerable, should be embraced and be part of the initiation, designing, and implementation of such policy through inclusive engagements.
So far, the Barrow administration has not been consistent enough to engage the Gambian Diaspora realistically and courageously. The continuous disenfranchisement of the Diaspora will have a lasting negative impact on whatever policies or intentions the Government may have. The Diaspora has more than Remittances to offer our motherland. The Diaspora should be seen as cultural, social, and economical brand ambassadors with diverse vital skills that can benefit national development. Unfortunately, the Gambia Diaspora contingents are not being fully acknowledged by all indications to be given the required attention and respect they deserve from the Barrow Administration. The Diaspora is not “Tail of the Goat”; the net worth of the Diaspora is beyond Remittances.