US plans to deepen ties with Gambia
The United States charge d'affaires to The Gambia has assured that his country will continue to seek ways to work together with the latter, extend cooperation and deepen ties, saying the two countries have been partners since pre-independence.
Speaking on the topic "the ongoing relationship between The Gambia and USA" during the third annual business dinner, organised in Brufut by the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) in The Gambia, Richard Yoneaka assured that they are open for business in the quest to promote economic development.
Yoneaka further assured that his government will continue to send Gambians to the US on international leadership exchange programmes including the prestigious African Women's Entrepreneur Programme.
He recalled that in June 2013 while in South Africa, President Obama announced that the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) would expand the programme to provide opportunities for 500 young African leaders to receive training in the US. He disclosed that 10 Gambians will be sent to this programme.
Further giving an historical background about the relations between the two countries, the US diplomat indicated that the US representation was established in The Gambia as far back as 1830 but was withdrawn in 1867. The US, he added, opened its embassy in The Gambia in 1965 but sent its first ambassador in 1980.
Yoneaka used the opportunity to also disclose that nearly 5, 000 visa interviews were conducted in the past year, saying they estimate that the consular section answered over 10, 000 public enquiries during the same period.
"Our consular team is growing in response to the demand for service; we added highly experienced support staff this year and we expect to add a vice consul next year," he informed.
He told the dinner that a qualified business traveler must have a residence in The Gambia and is expected to return.
"If your business is of a scale so small, it does not guarantee a good, steady income, qualifying can be a challenge," he explained. "On the other hand, you do not have to own a huge company to qualify for a visa. Travelling to develop small-scale businesses is encouraged."
Also speaking at the event, the president of American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), Abdoulie Baks Touray, opined that the only way poverty can be alleviated is to create wealth.
"We [put] great premium on entrepreneurship development [because] entrepreneurs create prosperity and prosperity can be shared. In Africa we place a lot of premium on sports, music and dance as opposed to intellectualism," he said.
The president of Information Technology Association of The Gambia (ICTAG), Poncelet Lleleji, observed that the country has a competitive environment and has done well in terms of infrastructure given the ACE project.
AmCham The Gambia was established in May 2010 with an objective of encouraging entrepreneurship, help businesses prosper and grow, increase trade opportunities and facilitate s trade between The Gambia and United States by promoting Gambia as an export hub under the African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA). It also seeks to establish partnerships with US state investors and Gambian entrepreneurs.