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The Vice President and Minister of Women's Affairs of the Republic of The Gambia, Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang, Thursday 25 January presided over the opening ceremony of Belgian Trade and Investment Mission forum at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Kololi.

The forum which was initiated and facilitated by the Gambian Embassy in Brussels was attended by 48 Belgian companies plus public and private sector representatives in The Gambia.

Speaking at the occasion, the Vice President said the core mandate of the Government is to honour the social contract between the Government and the citizens of The Gambia. She said the contract was to transform and build a Government that is capable of functioning effectively and committed to resolving the challenges of the country, including sustainable economic development for the shared prosperity of people in both countries. This, she said was meant to reduce inequality, poverty and improve the well-being of all Gambians.

The Vice President said the Government is also committed to making this a reality and that prompted the Barrow administration to develop and validate a National Development Plan (NDP). She informed the gathering that the development framework covered 2018 to 2021 would be presented to development partners in Brussels later this year.  

She lauded the initiative of the Embassy of the Republic of The Gambia in Belgium, the Flanders Trade and Investment Agency and the Chamber of Commerce of Belgium and Luxembourg to collaborate with national institutions responsible for Trade and Investment in bringing the first ever Trade and Investment Mission from Belgium.

She told gathering of the Government's intention to increase and diversify investments and job creation opportunities across all the regions of the country.

Honourable James Gomez, Minister of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, who deputised for the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Ousainu Darboe, said the diplomatic service is committed to making Trade and Commercial diplomacy an integral element of its work and which has been manifested thanks to the hosting of the forum.

He said the National Development Plan of the Government outlined the engagement of the private sector for economic growth, transformation and job creation as one of its eight priorities for implementation.

Hon Gomez assured that The Gambia Government is aware of the transformative power of the private sector and stands ready for revitalised partnership and cooperation, geared towards reengineering an innovative and inclusive business agenda that has the potential to: Boost the developmental role of the state in the delivery of public services and; result to a positive and transformative impact on the lives of the citizens.

He said the new Government has taken impressive measures for macroeconomic, political and security reform with results registered in the past. Hon Gomez observed that these are indications of the unfalling resolve of the new Government to engineer a new pathway to achieving a peaceful society, sustained economic growth and development.

The Representative of the European Union office in The Gambia, Mr Josselin Amalfi, said despite economic challenges that the new Government has been facing, The Gambia has maintained a fairly open trade and investment regime.

He said the Gambian economy has started to recover following the sharp growth slowdown in 2016, and economic growth in 2017 is projected at 3 percent, with a strong rebound in tourism and trade, and renewed interest from foreign direct investors in energy, tourism, agriculture and transportation.

The EU Representative observed that these positive results are encouraging and could help The Gambia to become an attractive production platform and a key regional trading hub. 

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