文I 本刊记者 周洋 实习记者 依翁·桑杜 翻译I 王晓波
Deepen Relations and Explore Cooperation
——Interview H.E. Mr. Ousainou Darboe，the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, the Republic of The Gambia
Zhou Yang, Yvonnie Sundu, China Investment；Photo by Yang Haixia
In March.2016, Gambia formally resumeddiplomatic relations with China. From July.31 to August.6, H.E. Mr. OusainouDarboe,the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and GambiansAbroad, the Republic of The Gambia,paid an official visit to China. During his visit,inthe meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Mr. Darboe expressed clearlythat Gambia would firmly follow the ‘One China’ policy, through the One Beltand One Road Initiativeas well as, China and Gambia would strengtheingpragmatic cooperation in many fields in future. Journalists from ChinaInvestment interviewed the minister on the reestablishment of diplomaticrelations,the investment environment in Gambia among other issues.
China Investment: As the new administrationunder president Adama Barrow moves in with its policy agenda, how does the Beltand Road Initiative fit in the socio-economic programs of The Gambia?
Ousainou Darboe: The Belt and Road programby President Xi Jinping is really aimed at providing global infrastructuredevelopment as well as international cooperation between China and the rest ofthe world. In fact, the program augurs well with the social economicdevelopment agenda of The Gambia. We are looking forward to achieving thedevelopment of our infrastructure, inland road networks especially in the ruralareas, to have them linked up with the main roads so that accessibility iseasy. We are also looking in the area of constructing bridges as you knowGambia is divided by a river. It runs through the southern and northern partsand interconnection is done by use of ferries. Instead we want bridges built invery strategic locations. Again, part of the infrastructure development we arelooking into as part of propping up the socio economic advancement of thecountry is the provision of reliable and affordable electricity supply. Allthese we believe ranks well with the concept of OBOR by the Chinese government.
China Investment: The mandate of the WestAfrican troops known as ECOMIG was in June extended for an additional twelvemonths. With the next elections in The Gambia due in 2020, what are the mainthreats to political stability, if any?
Ousainou Darboe: Security matters you don’ttake anything for granted. You have to be on alert and of course the Gambiangovernment had to ask for the extension of the mandate of the ECOMIG for afurther 12 months. It is not only the extension but also additional troops tomake it 1000. This basically was to allow time to sanitize the present securitysituation. It is polluted, it is politicized and it has to take time in orderto clean it up. Meanwhile, we are making sure that we are building a nationalsecurity force and we believe that with the extension of the ECOMIG mandate aswell as addition of troops, this will really help us to really build up anational army and not a people’s militia or an ethnic army. With that done, itwill lay a solid foundation for peaceful elections. We had peaceful electionsduring the last presidential and general assembly polls and that was due tolargely, to the peaceful nature of Gambians. With a national army and peaceful Gambians, that will further bedemonstrated in the upcoming elections in 2018 for the local government. We canassure you that we will go through it peacefully and we will ensure that thestability of The Gambia is not in any way compromised or in danger.
China Investment: Since independence in1965, The Gambia has experienced a rugged path to the ties with some countriesincluding China. In the next decades, how is The Gambia prepared to deepen relations with China?
Ousainou Darboe: We have had some uneaserelations with countries and that of China, probably the most prominent. In1965, when The Gambia became independent, at the United Nations the countrythrew its support for Taiwan but that was for a short time and by the time webecame a republic, Gambia rethought its foreign policy and established relationshipwith China. In 1994 again, the government of Gambia under the military rule,decided to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan. In 1996, my party, inopposition then, took the stand that Gambia’s policy should be that of OneChina and that is the policy we have adopted, consistently. We have learnt alot from our raptured relationship with China in the past and those lessonswill be kept in mind and because that we envisage that the Gambia – Chinarelationship will really be further strengthened and that our cooperation, willbe further concretized through various interactions between officials of thetwo countries. We do not foresee any situation where The Gambia will refrainfrom its position of support for China, or a situation that will make the twocountries at loggerheads on global issues. We share a common destiny as well ashistoric background including being suppressed at one time. The commonality ofour past characteristics unifies us and indeed the position adopted by China inrelation to The Gambia in the past few months, can only attest to the fact thatour relationship will grow from strength to strength. Last year, we resumeddiplomatic relationship with China and my visit is to attest to the cordialrelationship between the two countries hope to nurture for the future andforever. We do not envisage any more uneasiness in our relations, we believethat we have started a smooth journey of mutual cooperation and that the Gambiahas, in the few months that it has reestablished diplomatic ties with China,benefited a lot. China has provided us aid to construct an internationalconference centre, medical assistance by way of medical personnel who areexperts in various fields and are currently in The Gambia. Last month, it hasprovided a huge consignment of rice to assist in meeting The Gambia’s foodsecurity agenda. We have been working very closely and do not envisage anythingthat can mar the diplomatic relations.
China Investment: What kind of role isChina expected to play in future as an investor and trading partner of TheGambia?
Ousainou Darboe: We expect that within itsforeign policy towards Africa, China will not only be an aid provider to theGambia but it will also create an environment for its citizen to invest in ourcountry. In that way, we can be independent and lessen our dependency on aid. Ihave during my discussion with officials here, pointed out the need for Chineseinvestment. I have had meetings with many Chinese companies and we hope that wewill have Chinese businesses investing in the tourism industry, agriculture andin-services. We have very attractive incentives for investors and there a freetrade agreement signed between the two countries which will allow 97% ofGambian goods to be exported to China. We hope this will open up huge avenuesof trade between the countries.
China Investment: Are there any morepolicies that can benefit these investors?
Ousainou Darboe: It depends on the kind ofinvestment. If it is Capital Intensive Investment, you certainly enjoy dutywaivers and tax holidays for at least a period of three years. This is so as toallow the business to recoup some of the investment that it has injected in thecountry. We are of course encouraging investment that will create moreemployment. We are looking forward to seeing may be some of the Chinesemanufacturers allocating some of their factories to The Gambia and they willenjoy these benefits.
China Investment: Chinese companies may bekeen on investment in the areas of production and shipment of flowers andtropical fruit, cotton and rice. Is there a possibility of cooperation in theseareas?
Ousainou Darboe: Cooperation in these areasis possible. In fact, we are encouraging investment in cotton because of lackof improved varieties of cotton seeds. We already have a ginnery which can beused for value addition and exported as a finished product. The middle belt ofthe country called the Central River region, has the greatest potential forirrigated rice production. And with the Chinese expertise in rice productionand processing, they can be very valuable. In addition, in the same area,aquaculture which is done on a small scale can really be commercialized. Thisvisit is meant to explore a lot of things including construction of ports as weare on an expansion drive. We are hoping on that in the next few years, theseprojects will materialise.