Do you really care? Well, if you do why are you seated tied lips when everyone is moaning about the exorbitant cost to call from and to the Gambia? Mr President, this one definitely doesn’t require counting steps. VPN could not survive the heat after the disgraceful departure of Goloh but the international gateway call termination fees is still milking Gambians to financial malnutrition. Did you know about it? Let me guess…Oh yes, I knew it. You are calculating what steps to take in order to send it packing like its cousin, VPN. Why am I so emotional? Let us take a quick look at call cost between Gambia and Nigeria from the UK for instance. With 3 network, a call to any Nigerian number is 9 pence per minute whereas a call to Gambia cost a whooping £2. Tesco international charges 48 pence per minute to call Gambia and guess how much it costs to place a similar call to Nigeria? 8 pence to a landline and 6 pence to a mobile. Perhaps now, you understand why I am emotional, Mr President. To cut cost on calls, we resorted to free calling apps such as viber, WhatsApp, IMO etc yet the network is as bad as the cost of normal calls. Why is Gambia the most expensive destination to call in the work? The Wolof answered it best when they accentuate “Rong ngone nyi badola moye sim cherre burr”. In other words, it is the tears of the poor that steam the couscous of the king. This truism is difficult to rubbish, Mr President, as everyday you see instances that validate it under your leadership?

The Gambia is one of the few countries in the world which enjoys an uninterrupted and exceptional religious tolerance. Consequently, Imam Fatty must not be encouraged to propagate seed of religious discord amongst us. Religious intolerance is one of the deadliest malaise with far-reaching and profoundly costly ripple effect than tribalism more especially in a fragile nation recovering from 22 years of repressive dictatorship. Imam Fatty lost his moral and religious mandate to police religious correctness when he sold his iman for a pine of pleasure to Goloh many moons ago. He wined and dined with the devil knowing fully that Goloh is a murderer, adulterer and a thief, Mr President. So to listen to such a religious hypocrite is blasphemous. Besides, what harm has the Ahmadis inflicted on Gambians? Instead, they are continually contributing to the health and education of our nation.

I guess by now you would be wondering why I am breathing down your neck. And testing isn’t there anything else I can chant apart from your diminish prospects? Actually, all I want is for you to succeed and be a living lesson for modern leadership and democracies. This reminds me of what Momodou Sabally wrote to you, ” Dear President Barrow, I know you are undergoing a lot of pressure; I have been there in the corridors of power and I know it can be overwhelming. But do not succumb to the vested interests that are sure to pummel you towards their selfish corners. Forget about GENEALOGY and CAMERADERIE; Be bold and persistent in running a MERITOCRACY and you will have our support even in the trenches”.

Talking about support, I will cull excerpts from Seyi Atere-Roberts’ “How Gambia can be the next Rwanda”. He accentuated, “The new government should look into creating a technology driven business environment and an atmosphere of innovation, they should prioritise technology which will exponentially grow the economy with no strings attached or dependence on any commodity. The Gambian government will have to start by creating and supporting innovation hubs offering subsidised broadband Internet connection and other incentives. Next will be to modernise the business climate, reduce time for business registration process, tax breaks for young entrepreneurs and startups. The government could hold programming events and competitions targeting kids as well as young adults. Partnering with Rwanda, Senegal and other regional tech driven states will also be a smart move. For instance, the government could partner with BudgIT a West African startup promoting open governance and accountability. One of the effective ways of combating the plague called corruption is through transparency and monitoring of government expenses, literally following the money.

There is really no limit to tech and innovation. The time is now, actually the time was a while back but it is not too late to hop on the innovation-driven economy train. The government has to have the political will and the youths have the drive, the grit and most importantly the ambition. The private sector also have a role to play in financing these ideas, the middle class and high-net worth citizens should not leave their funds idle in banks abroad. They should Sowe the seeds in the future of Gambia because it is no secret that we live in a tech-powered world”. I hope you will give these lofty ideas a chance to see daylight.

Sulayman Jeng

Birmingham, UK