President Barrow’s statement during URR roads and bridges inauguration in full

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On behalf of the Government and People of The Gambia, I extend a very special and cordial welcome to our distinguished guests from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). They have come to join us inaugurate and celebrate the completion of our Ring-Road Project. They are among true friends, whose warmth is second to none on the African continent.

On 18th December 2018, I presided over the foundation-stone laying ceremony for the commencement of the Upper River Region (URR) Roads and Bridges Project.

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Today, I feel greatly honoured and elated to inaugurate the new URR roads and bridges. The occasion highlights the historic realisation of a people’s dream, and the Project marks a huge national infrastructure development and a major milestone in the implementation process of the 2018-2021 National Development Plan.

With the completion of the Basse-Koina Road, the main trunk roads of our National Highway are now successfully developed to standard. This main highway stretches from the West Coast to the Eastern Region, and runs along the entire North and South Banks of the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our road network is the backbone of the country’s transportation system. There is no doubt that this achievement will promote and facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services, not only within the country, but also in the sub-region.

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To say the least, the completion of the URR Project implies improvement of living standards. It also signifies increased economic activities and wider access to social services, such as health and education.

In celebrating this enormous achievement, we must acknowledge the contributions that made the project a success.

Notably, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) provided the People’s Republic of China and The Gambia a vital platform for partnership and collaboration to deepen and strengthen understanding, friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Significantly, our bilateral relations are based on the principles of sincerity, mutual gain and good faith. Our trade links underline these relations. In 2020, the bilateral trade volume between our two countries reached Five Hundred and Seventy Million US Dollars (US$570 Million).

Of this, The Gambia imported goods worth Five Hundred and Forty Million US Dollars (US$540 Million) and exported goods worth Thirty Million US Dollars (US$30 Million). In all, exports to the PRC increased from 5.7% in 2019 to 11.6% in 2020.

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Besides trade expansion, during my presidency, the relations and cooperation between our two nations facilitated key development projects for The Gambia.
The Gambia National Broadband Network Project and the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre, with a combined portfolio of Seventy-five Million US Dollars (US$75 Million), are sufficient examples. These Projects exclude the Technical Assistance we receive in the Agriculture and Health sectors.

Specific to the occasion, the Government of the People’s Republic of China financed this Eighty-Million-US-Dollar (US$80 Million) Project.
I must explain that this was a grant, and it covered four components, namely: The Basse-Fatoto-Koina Road, the Basse-Wuli Bridge and link road, the Fatoto Bridge and link road, the Chamoi Bridge, and the Suduwol Bridge.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am proud to observe that the new roads and bridges are of international Grade Two highway standard. To prevent road accidents, the design is based on a speed limit of sixty (60) kilometres per hour in rural settings, and forty (40) kilometres per hour in urban settings.

The project also took relevant structural and demographic factors into consideration. They include service lines for utilities and communication, houses, farmlands and the environment in general.

To the credit of the Project team, the implementation phase is one of the fastest in the history of project implementation in The Gambia. Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, the project was completed ahead of the scheduled timeline of thirty (30) months.

As a result, I am bound to use this opportunity to thank the People’s Republic of China, and to reassure them that my government is committed to strengthening our bilateral relations further.

In fact, we are exploring new frontiers that include cultural exchanges and expansion of trade and investments on a win-win basis, and we will continue to work together on global and regional issues.

In this regard, I re-affirm The Gambia’s support of the one-China policy, which recognises the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The URR Project symbolises a new era for the nation. It is a critical part of on-going national efforts to enhance our transportation network, and boost agriculture, trade and investment activities, especially in URR and the sub-region.

In view of all these, I express profound appreciation to the Chinese companies, the consultants, CCCC Highway Consultants Co Ltd., and the Contractor, Longjian Company Ltd., for the magnificent job done and for delivering on time.
We have noted that the Project engaged Gambians at various stages of the implementation cycle. I am certain that the expertise and skills transferred to them will prove useful to the local construction industry. The Government is thankful to all those who participated in the Project.

In particular, I commend the members of the Project Implementation Unit on the site and the Project Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure and H.E. the Ambassador of PRC.

The PRC Embassy staff, the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, the National Roads Authority, the Ministry of Local Government, the Governor – URR, NAWEC, GAMTEL and the residents of the Region played their roles very well. The result of their collaboration is the successful and timely delivery of the Project. Hearty congratulations to all of you!

Lastly, I thank everyone present for coming to celebrate the completion of this uniquely significant Project. Through His Excellency, Ambassador Ma Jianchun and our honoured guests, we convey sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Government and People of the People’s Republic of China.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is now my pleasure and honour to declare the new URR roads and bridges officially open.

Thank you for your attention.

 

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