HIS EXCELLENCY ADAMA BARROW, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE GAMBIA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE LAYING OF THE FOUNDATION STONE OF THE BASSE - FATOTO - KOINA ROAD AND BRIDGES PROJECT
DATE: 15TH DECEMBER 2018
Your Excellency, Vice President and Minister of Women's Affairs
My Lord, the Chief Justice,
Hon. Speaker of the National Assembly,
Honourable Ministers, Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service,
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
Honourable National Assembly Members,
Senior Government Officials,
District Chiefs, Alkalolu, Elders of Communities here present
Media Representatives, Security and the Protocol
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure and honour to be here today to lay the foundation stone for a long-awaited and long-overdue project, namely, the construction of a road from Basse, through Fatoto, to Koina, and the building of bridges in Basse, Fatoto, Chamoi and Suduwol. Without doubt, this project marks a significant milestone in the development of the Upper River Region (URR) and the entire country.
Growing up in the URR and living here for the most part, I am a living witness to the many hours of waiting one has to encounter routinely to secure transportation from one end of the region to another, simply because of the bad roads condition.
Always, it is a matter of luck to secure transportation on time, which becomes too unbearable particularly during extreme emergency instances.
We also know, that the lack of good and adequate roads infrastructure in the rural areas lies at the heart of the disparities between rural and urban areas that keeps worsening. What we are therefore witnessing today is evidence of the desire of my Government to minimize rural-urban drift.
It is also a demonstration of my Government's commitment to inclusiveness in The Gambia. With improved road networking, the search for better educational as well as health services and facilities, and the creation of a booming business environment to improve the economic status of rural residents becomes far easier to achieve or realize.
During the Presidential Campaign, I had the singular opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country, in particular, the northern part of the URR, and I made this promise with much justification, that should I win the Elections, my government's first infrastructure development project would be for the Upper River Region. I am happy that today this promise has come to fruition.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 2017, happily, The Gambia re-established ties with the People's Republic of China with the view to strengthen diplomatic as well as trade and economic ties between our two countries. It was during my visit to the People's Republic of China last December that I signed series of agreements, including importantly the agreement to implement this first major infrastructure project in the URR. Indeed, this has become "a dream come true!"
Many towns and villages in this region and the Central River Region have been isolated for ages due to poor infrastructure. Inability to access farmlands, markets, schools and health centres, not to mention the lack of inter community connectivity have equally been a worrisome concern to my administration and a discomfort I have always cared about.
There is no doubt, therefore, that with this road and the bridges, residents of this part of the country and everyone else in the country at large, stand to derive numerous social and economic benefits from the project.
When completed, the project will provide vital access to and connectivity for the communities of Tumana, Basse, Jimara, Kantora and Wulli, as well as communities in Senegal and beyond.
We all know that the River Gambia divides our country distinctively into the north and south banks, and separates many communities such as the URR causing access by people to each other and to the limited services significantly difficult. A journey from Basse to Koina, for example, can take hours.
Today I am happy to announce that all this would soon become a thing of the past. With the completion of this project, it would be feasible for one to travel the entire distance in URR in about forty minutes, without fatigue or being covered in dust.
Connecting the two banks through good roads and bridges in Basse and Fatoto will also facilitate the movement of people, goods and services across the river. Livestock and agricultural goods would also flow freely to enable more market opportunities for farmers and those in need of such commodities. In short, the project would generate a momentum that will surely promote greater social cohesion.
All these benefits are bound to trigger economic growth and prosperity within the area and elsewhere. Hopefully also, these developments will contribute considerably to poverty reduction.
This road and bridges project we are gathered here to inaugurate will also complement two other key projects namely, the Laminkoto - Passamas road that is under construction and planned to be completed by 2019, and the Trans-Gambia Bridge scheduled to be opened in January, 2019. These major infrastructural projects will certainly improve national as well as regional connectivity and facilitate movement of people, goods and services within the ECOWAS region.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I now take this opportunity to register profound appreciation and gratitude to the People's Republic of China for funding the project through a Grants Facility, the biggest investment by the People's Republic of China since my government took up office. It is also the biggest project ever implemented in the URR.
I am indebted most profoundly to the President of China, His Excellency Mr. Li Jinping, his government and the Peoples Republic of China for the trust they have in my administration and the support to The Gambia. President Jinping hosted me twice within a year, which is a happy demonstration of the strong bond that exists between our two peoples and countries.
I also wish to commend the former Chinese Ambassador to the Gambia, for the formidable role he played in rebuilding strong ties between our two countries. He was amongst the first diplomats to congratulate me over my victory as President in 2016 and through his efforts, a lot has been achieved in consolidating the ties of friendship and brotherhood between China and The Gambia.
Recently I received the new Chinese Ambassador, who is here with us today to continue where his colleague has left. His Excellency has demonstrated all the qualities as well as tact to building the special ties of cooperation with his country. I am hopeful that under his watch, there will be significant advancement with China in the areas of trade, investment, capacity building and people-to-people exchanges.
I recognize the presence of the consultant, China Communications and Construction Company Limited (CCCC), and the contractor, Longjian Road and Bridge Co. Ltd. As I wish both teams successful execution of their duties, I have no hesitation that they will deliver quality durable roads and bridges in accordance with the plans.
The ultimate success of the project depends on the form of the relationships and the level of collaboration involving all the partners; the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, the National Roads Authority, the contractor, the consultant, the work force and, to even, the host communities. Accordingly, I wish to implore on the communities along the road corridor, from Basse through Kundam, Suduwol, Fatoto and Koina, and the rest to become ambassadors who will see to the successful implementation of the project. I urge them all to take full ownership of the project and regard it as an opportunity to enjoy unending benefits stream including openings for gainful employment, skills development, progress and prosperity.
Finally, I want to thank everybody that had contributed to the effective planning of this project, including the feasibility studies undertaken as well as the designing of the project.
May Allah bless our efforts.