Monday, June 17, 2024

Guest Author: Debunking Claims of Corruption & Monopolistic Practices in the Gambian Cement Industry

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By: Ahmad Jobe (aka The Pen Messiah)

The dispatch accusing Jah Oil Company and the Gambian government of engaging in massive corruption, kickbacks, bribery, and monopolistic practices in the cement industry requires careful examination. Many of the claims made are either misleading or factually incorrect, and it’s important to address these inaccuracies to provide a clearer picture of the situation. The assertion that the Gambian government’s import duty hike on cement blocks all African imports by road in favor of Eurasian imports is misleading. The policy changes are designed to balance the market and encourage local economic activities, not to favor distant imports. Jah Oil Company, for instance, imports cement and re-bags it locally, which supports local employment and infrastructure development.

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The claim that Jah Oil’s market presence and success are due to connections with high-ranking government officials such as Trade Minister Baboucarr Joof, Finance Minister Seedy Keita, and others is unsubstantiated. Jah Oil’s consistent recognition for tax compliance, effective delivery outcome, quality, standards, and contributions to national development highlights our commitment to ethical business practices. The company has been awarded for being the most compliant Oil Marketing Taxpayer for five consecutive years, emphasizing our transparency and dedication to legal obligations. Jah Oil Company has always supported the principles of the ECOWAS free market, allowing outside investors, including those from Senegal, to invest in the cement business. However, it’s baffling that these investors can enter our country without paying the regular border taxes and distort our economy. Despite these challenges, Jah Oil has consistently won the Oil Marketing Taxpayer of the Year award for the past five years, including 2023.

Fellow Gambians, it is important to resist foreign dominance. Some Senegalese interests are advocating against Gambian interests, and we must be vigilant. For example, cement products like SALAM were rejected entry into Senegal because Senegalese businesses dominate that sector. Gambians must learn from this and protect our local industries. The statement that Jah Oil employs only family members from Mali and not Gambians is false. In reality, 95% of Jah Oil’s workforce is Gambian, and the company’s significant role in local employment and economic empowerment has always been based on merit and competence. The economic impact of Jah Oil includes paying over D65 million in taxes monthly, which supports national development projects and public services.

The criticism about Jah Oil’s pricing of Tiger brand cement being higher than Senegalese brands fails to consider market dynamics and the quality of products. Price differences can be attributed to various factors including production costs, import duties, and logistical expenses. The overpricing of cement in The Gambia can be attributed to various factors, one of which is the difference in quality among different varieties of cement. While some importers bring in cement primarily intended for plastering, which is of lower quality and unsuitable for construction purposes, Jah Oil Company prioritizes supplying cement specifically designed for construction. Evidence has consistently shown that the cement Jah Oil provides is of higher quality and meets stringent construction standards. This distinction is crucial because using inferior-quality cement can compromise the structural integrity of buildings and infrastructure. Furthermore, it’s important to note that while Senegal may indeed have high-quality cement, the varieties exported to The Gambia are often cheaper and not of the same standard as those sold within Senegal itself. Therefore, the pricing differences between Jah Oil’s cement and the Senegalese imports reflect these disparities in quality and suitability for construction purposes.

The accusation of monopolistic practices is not supported by evidence. Jah Oil operates in a competitive market alongside other companies like Gacem and Salam, which ensures that no single entity can dominate the market to the detriment of consumers. The existence of multiple players in the market promotes consumer choice and competition. And Jah Oil alone can supply the whole country as we are able to produce 110,000 bags daily. Jah Oil’s contributions extend beyond the cement market. The company is involved in various sectors including fuel, building materials, and basic food items. Their new warehouse complex at Bond Road in Banjul, capable of storing 160,000 metric tons of food items, is a significant investment aimed at enhancing food security in The Gambia amidst global supply chain disruptions.

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Finally, the commendations from the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) and other officials affirm our quality delivery, standards, commitment to transparency, and tax compliance. The company’s consistent tax payments and awards for compliance for the past five years reflect our dedication to supporting the national economy through legitimate means. The accusations against Jah Oil Company and claims of massive corruption and monopolistic practices are largely unfounded and fail to consider the full context of the company’s operations and contributions. Jah Oil has proven a strong commitment to quality, fair pricing, local employment, and tax compliance, making it a cornerstone of the Gambian economy. The company’s success is a result of its ethical business practices and dedication to national development, rather than any undue government influence or corrupt practices.

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