IT’S WORLD TELECOMMUNICATIONS, AND INFORMATION SOCIETY DAY

While digital transformation is require in any society that seeks to progress in the 21st century, Gambia does not even have a trajectory to build digital infrastructures, and there cannot be digital transformation without digital infrastructures. Also, consumers too need trusted products and services from telecommunications & internet providers alike, that is fair, affordable, and sustainable.

Looking at the Gambia, there’s little trust consumers have on their telecommunications companies due to their nature of services & products delivery. Despite there are four players in the telecom market, Gambian consumers do not enjoy fair, affordable, and sustainable digital products & services. It’s expensive, unreliable, and poor in services. Although, PURA (Public Utility and Regulatory Authority) have introduced per second billing last year, March 2020. These charges are effected based each consumer’s consumption in each call within the borders of The Gambia. International calls, which are now mostly conducted via WhatsApp, Emails, and other social media platforms as the preferred medium for communications, has taken a digital shape. Notwithstanding, internet tariffs in The Gambia remain unchanged despite it evolving nature in the 21st century.

While digital transformation is require in any society that seeks to progress in the 21st century, Gambia does not even have a trajectory to build digital infrastructures, and there cannot be digital transformation without digital infrastructures. Also, consumers too need trusted products and services from telecommunications & internet providers alike, that is fair, affordable, and sustainable. More so, the Gambian consumers need a well regulated & accountable telecommunication industry that do not only exploit the gains in digitalization but help consumers to better benefit from their digital initiatives. In this light, PURA must fastened up it’s regulations on telecommunications, and let Gambian consumers be well informed on emerging technologies from their service providers for them to make sustainable choices in opting for a service or product. By this, transparency & accountability from the telecommunications industry cannot be overstated. It’s a must-have!

Information in this age is gold, and one most prominent medium of information is the internet. Advance in technology/digitalization has swift the way we do things; (even though online shopping is not common in The Gambia) majority of us now days buy from online (Amazon, eBay, Ali Express, etc.) And most communications are mostly online (Emails, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, etc.) Throughout this pandemic, these aforementioned digital platforms have been quite instrumental as the Pandemic shifted our life to online and in the cloud.

Notwithstanding, digital divide in the Gambia remain somewhat wide as internet is largely unaffordable for many middle income earners in this country. Most of us rather use the money we have to purchase food, shelter, and clothing than buy mega bite to surf the web, and this gap isn’t shielding anytime soon. However, there’s enormous competition between internet providers, the telecom companies offering post & prepaid services, and the tech companies providing wireless broadband internet services recently, (which is a good development), because the more the players, the better the competition – as it offer opportunity for consumers to have varied choices. Nonetheless, Gambian consumers must be willing to acquire digital literacy to further understand how digital tools & services work – as it appears we’re heading to that world.

Who Protects Gambian Consumers like Passengers?

Drivers like businesses capitalize on the increase in demand for transport and adjust fares for consumer passengers unjustifiably. Most businesses in The Gambia are run by foreign merchants, however, commercial transport is predominantly Gambian drivers and Gambian car owners, yet fares are indiscriminately increased just because the demand rises. This is injustice and fall short to safeguard consumer protection rights as stated in Gambia Consumer Protection Act 2014, section (b) subsection (6), (11) (k) making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for; the existence of, or amounts of price reduction; or (i)engaging in any other conduct which similarly creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding for consumers. This is the reality on the ground and Gambian consumers continue to be at the mercy of the drivers and businesses alike.

It has become a norm, a tradition, and a culture in this country. Annually, at the eleventh hour of the feast for both Koriteh and Tobaski – prices are hiked. Ranging from basic goods that are highly on demand during these moments to fares of public transportation as consumers prepare for feasts. The magnitude of exploitation they undergo each year is indescribable. Drivers like businesses capitalize on the increase in demand for transport and adjust fares for consumer passengers unjustifiably. Most businesses in The Gambia are run by foreign merchants, however, commercial transport is predominantly Gambian drivers and Gambian car owners, yet fares are indiscriminately increased just because the demand rises.

This is injustice and fall short to safeguard consumer protection rights as stated in Gambia Consumer Protection Act 2014, section (b) subsection (6), (11) (k) making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for; the existence of, or amounts of price reduction; or (i)engaging in any other conduct which similarly creates a likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding for consumers. This is the reality on the ground and Gambian consumers continue to be at the mercy of the drivers and businesses alike. There are government-approved tariffs for commercial transportation but somehow, drivers in the Gambia are not subjected to these tariffs each year at this time of the season. They reinvent their own tariffs with rigidity, arrogance, and sheer contempt. The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) is mandated to administer this act, however, issues such as these are considered trivial even by the government because ‘they are not affected, so why care!’ So if not the government, not GCCPC, who protects Gambian consumers like passengers from misleading trade in commercial transport?

To put it bluntly, The ‘Gambian’ can be a very mean compatriot. This country lacks patriots, nationalists, and genuine citizens that are compassionate and empathic towards their fellows. So long there is no authority looking over them, each can do the most dubious thing to their colleague while vulnerable. Hence, it has become barely doable to put this country into its right shape. Many a time, we cast blames on the authorities, and the government, while it is ourselves that are inflicting certain unearned sufferings on us. And often, we’re not oblivious of these facts, because it has not been denounced but accepted, and normalized by ourselves – the exploited. Others would argue that most Gambians are not informed of their consumer rights or where to seek redress when these rights are abused, which is true to some extent but also the nonchalant attitudes of many of us made it easy for businesses, and service providers to take us for granted. We have the purchasing power, and there’s no business that can thrive without consumers, until and unless we are conscious of this, we would remain at their mercy.

Consumers can choose to buy or boycott a service or product if such products and services fall short to protect their rights and safeguard their welfare. In essence, consumers can hold businesses and service providers to meaningful accountability without relevant authorities- by simply wielding our purchasing power. This suggests that Gambian consumers ought to acquaint themselves with consumer protection rights as enshrined in the CPA 2014. The power lies within us, ‘We The People’, but so long we are unable to wield this power, our rights would mean nothing, more so, we would remain at the mercy of service providers and businesses.

Editor’s pick: A Tribute in Honor of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter Advocacy.

With the onslaughts of widespread uprisings across the globe recently all precipitated by the brutal killing of a brother in humanity by some miscreant derelicts that represent a repressive system, here I put a knee down and raise my hand high in the air to not only celebrate the victory but urge everyone to be a rejecter of bad conduct.

As we’ve reached to a more or less escalation in the fight against racism, injustices and police brutality on the people of colour in everywhere around the world, there’s unprecedented hope for bigger changes anytime soon. With the onslaughts of widespread uprisings across the globe recently all precipitated by the brutal killing of a brother in humanity by some miscreant derelicts that represent a repressive system, here I put a knee down and raise my hand high in the air to not only celebrate the victory but urge everyone to be a rejecter of bad conduct. What the future holds remains promising and part of this assures one that this bad depriving system against the black race and other minorities is peering towards its doomsday.

We, as man- and woman-kind, continue to mourn George Floyd. His demise is deeply painful but it is one that marks the beginning of an end to centuries of racism and injustices meted out on minorities profound of whom are blacks. The trio savages pinned him down and eventually took his life but he is not dead. His flesh and born are covered in deep yonder the earth but his spirit is right here amongst our midst (the people of conscience, reason, and empathy) of which the sensation can be felt in the hearts of those with one. Well, everybody has a body but not every body has a heart. His name shall forever be remembered in world history henceforth. My 21-gun salute fired in honour of King George!!!

Fast forward, King George Floyd cried and begged for only one thing ‘I COULDN’T BREATHE’ until his life was taken. One thing that is as small as a second yet he was deprived of it until he is no more. What an utter wickedness shown here! It can’t get off my mind and since then, my being is grossly affected. It makes me scared of not the police but the system all around the world. This ain’t only about George Floyd, the three ex-police officers, racism against blacks or the United States anymore. It goes beyond that limit. This bizarre scene is found in everywhere on the globe. It is a global phenomenon. One more lethal than Covid-19, HIV, and other diseases that kill people in more than twos and threes. All the time, governments and their respective institutions subtly propagate and administer such wickedness on the people. This is all they do: killing innocent harmless people.

Cinemagraphically, the killer ex-police officer represents the bad governments we have, the other two police officers, the allies of oppressive regimes in this case, are the internal institutions like the Justice Department, Mr Floyd, the victim, is the poor people, and the bystanders who prefer taking videos and avoid being convicted of assault over saving a goddamn dying harmless man are the International Institutions like WB, AU,ICC, IMF, Ecowas, etc.

This was done on Mr Floyd. Nevertheless, thinking that we are likewise not pinned down on the ground and being suffocated is a mortal sin. Yes, we are all in the same shoe as Mr Floyd. In the same victimised shoe of oppression, marginalization, corruption, crookedness, and servitude. He is just part of a bigger group that can’t breathe to a system that keeps suffocating them. The struggle and fight for BLM, black consciousness, and racial discriminations lives on and on within us until changes do not only occur on the workplace, the streets of USA, or in the law books but also in everywhere else in the world and in every aspect in society .

The struggle continues until and unless crooked and corrupt governments, leaders, bad institutions, and legacies of tyrants and tyranny are stopped, dismantled, discredited from wining and dining from our sweat, blood, and flesh. Until then, avenging the lives of George Floyd, Dr King, Elhaji Malik Al-Shabaab, Thomas Sankere, Bob Marley, and millions of others brutally and unjustifiably taken remain far from realization.

To be continued…

Author:

Alhagie Lowe alias Elijah is an Essayist and a Social Commentator. He holds a B.A in English language and Economics from the University of The Gambia (UTG). He’s also a contributing writer at The Liberal Post

Gambia: Youths must not allow to be Political Pawns

No wonder Bakary Badjie came at this eleventh hour as youth minister, once known to be an ardent youth empowerer, to galvanise youth support and votes for the presidency

Unequivocally, it is a given that young people of the country have been sidelined for far too long in both political participation and decision making in this country. For over five decades on, youths in Gambia have been only a tool for amplifying political entourages, supporting and rallying behind politicians and what they represent – in the fury of ambience and fanfare. Young people consistently render support to parties to gain victory. In return, all we get are assurances and verbose promises of empowerment – but seldom are those promises kept beyond deceptive campaign manifestos.

Reality Check: Our youths are left to languish in mile 2 for cannabis, arm robbery or burglary because man has to put food on the table or man has to fill the stomach when employment is scarce. Youths are working for businesses and companies (the Lebanese and the Indians) and they’re being exploited beyond measure, yet they’d to endure – as there isn’t much of a choice either. Youths gain them momentum & victory – like Jammeh had used them to advance his political career and garnered their support, their votes and their loyalty: The Green Boys, whom of most ended up in our security.

Barrow came and introduced a similar trend; Barrow Youth Movement and Barrow Fans Club. After a while, realizing that young people of this country, especially those eligible to vote are gaining political consciousness by day, hence large chunk of Gambian youths aren’t the least impressed by his presidency. He has indicated determination to explore myriad ways of canvassing youths support. His government is not a government of, for or by the youths.

Gambia is predominantly a youthful population, yet young people of this nation are the most disadvantaged; face with a deeply rotten education system that produce few assets and many liabilities, limited employment opportunities, centralised job market coupled with poor wages.

The common adage that “there are no permanent friends in politics, only permanent interests”, it’s alive and kicking. Hadrammeh, the predecessor of Bakary Badjie wasn’t a youth and not as if Barrow cares until he does. Informed that most Gmbaian youths have confident and trust in Bakary, he seized the opportunity to use him entice youths’ support for him, come 2021 election. Clearly, he’s determine, no matter the cost, to stay president for the next term and beyond. And that should be youths utmost responsibility to dispel, and stand against such an act by our minister.

Truth of the matter: Apparently, he’s using the youth’s minister to get to the youths because, Barrow is desperate, power agitated and willing to device any means, just stay in power come 2021. No wonder Bakary Badjie came at this eleventh hour as youth minister, once known to be an ardent youth empowerer, to galvanise youth support and votes for the presidency. To this effect, we are utterly disappointed in Bakary Badjie of all people – in going so low in propagandizing for President Barrow, instead of focusing on youth development and empowerment as a youth minister which Gambian youths direly desired.

We need a non-partisan and development driven youth to protect youth’s interest at national level (highest echelons of decision making). Bakary Badjie is not the kind Gambian youths can trust to promote and protect their interests without being compromised. So youths must not allow to be political pawns.

On a final note: Gambian youths must not get into politics in a bid to secure an opportunity, job or status. There’s no job as sacred as that of a public office job, yet it is the most difficult and unlucrative business for anyone haunting treasures. Thus, be it Bakary Badjie or any youth into politics who’s sole aim is to grab opportunities, political and economic upliftment – you’re not fit into our public office, for you’re not genuine.

Gambia is predominantly a youthful population, yet young people of this nation are the most disadvantaged; face with a deeply rotten education system that produce few assets and many liabilities, limited employment opportunities, centralised job market coupled with poor wages. And we bear the brunt of this sufferance, Gambian youths.

Human Rights Day Commemoration- A Reflection on The Gambia from an Environment and Natural Resource Perspective.

By: Omar Malmo Jnr

The government of The Gambia (past and present) and big businesses are the biggest violators of Human Rights and Freedom in the Gambia. The Gambia as a country has signed and ratified many UN conventions, domesticated the language of these conventions in her laws but cannot be felt in the day-to-day dealings of society.

The Faraba Bantang natural resource conflict that left three dead and many injured, property destroyed and social cohesion disintegrated was born out of human rights violations, nepotism, favoritism and government negligence. The women garden was to become a mining site. The gardens where these poor rural women earn a living, feed, cloth, shelter and pay medical and school Bill’s for their children etc which is their fundamental human right to life and property. Their lands forcefully taken for a private mining business that resulted to the death of three. A violation of their rights. Environmental resource conflict is a threat to human rights and dignity.

In Gunjur, Golden Lead is exploiting our fisheries resources at an unsustainable way and backed by our government and the Ministry of Fisheries in particular. The poor rural women are subjected to less food availability for their families, poor state of socioeconomic activities and environmental pollution. All mankind have a right to decent living, if our source of livelihood is destroyed, that is indirect destruction of lives.

The last sand dune in Gunjur is under mining. The place is a women garden. These women use the garden to produce their crops and feed their families and their other basic needs. The women are now forced to result to other means of survival as their only means of survival is now destroyed by government and callous capitalists.

The youth got arrested and detained. The community has a pending case against golden lead where judges often fail to appear. All men have a right to law.

This and many others kept me asking, how far have we gone in defending the rights of our people and our so-called women empowerment initiatives?

The poor rural Gambian women continue to be victims of a system that should protect them.

Poor environmental management is significant of a human rights violation.

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TRI HITA KARANA.

Omar is an ardent environmentalist: He has his Master’s in Environmental Resource Management and Development. He is an Environmental  activist, Co-Founder and the Director of Research and Advocacy at Green-Up Gambia

2019 WORLD ANTI-CORRUPTION DAY – What is Gambia Doing About Corruption?

According to the World Economic Forum Report, globally the cost of corruption is at least $2.6 trillion, sum it up to say, 5% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is left to lose to corruption. And no country, state or nation is immune to the negative impacts of corruption. It is on this premise that corruption is to be perceived a public enemy number 01! thus it requires collective efforts to combat this phenomena. Corruption undermines every developmental agenda; ranging from the social development, economic development, political development democracy and human rights. In 2018, the African Union pledged and dedicated the year to combating corruption in Africa, but how far have we come?

The Gambia for one what are we doing to combat corruption? When the Anti-Corruption Bill has been dragging until recent it was passed to the parliament. Hence, this only indicates how low the political commitment of our government is in their resolve to combat corruption. Corruption is a cancer that takes its host through unethical behaviors, such as bribery siphoning of public funds and using positions or authority to influence and embezzle. Bribing police, the judge and public office holders in a bid to secure a favor or be exonerated of a crime, is the most common form of corruption widely practices, especially in Africa.

Corruption is like the tango, you need two for the show, the one doing the corrupt act and the one accepting the corrupt act or benefitting from the act. For instance, bribery is done when two parties are involved; the police man who accepts bribes from a criminal to escape prosecution, the police man who accepts bribes to let a driver walks, whose vehicle is either not road worthy or their license registration is invalid. Such deceit and unscrupulous acts are amongst the fueling factors of corruption. It is in Gambia public office holders such as presidents, ministers and other public authorities use their position to plunder or siphoned public funds of tax payer’s money, either build mansions or organize fanfare to deceive or entice masses for votes, what a deceit?

electorates who sanctify corrupt officials and celebrate ill gotten wealth are the part of the problems aiding corruption in our societies in Africa – such as in Gambia.

Corruption also takes place when authorities use their position to influence policies and public institutions that are suppose to hold them to account; for example when the executive arm of the government has influence over the legislative arm, or when the judiciary is compromise by the president. These misdemeanors going unpunished is the reason corruption becomes a norm in our public institutions. Moreover, electorates who sanctify corrupt officials and celebrate ill gotten wealth are part of the problems aiding corruption in our societies in Africa – such as in Gambia. So to extricate, dissect and get rid off this venom called corruption, we need gt out of our comfort zones and mobilize collective efforts. Let’s question every wealth accumulated by our public officers, let’s demand for information on the budgets and other relevant public finance management systems for transparency and accountability.

May I remind us that, without transparency and accountability, corruption cannot be contained. Most importantly, impunity has to be trashed if the goal of combating corruption is to be achieved. I ask this question, if there are no sanctions against corrupt officials, such as prosecution and dismissal or termination of service as a public servant and protection of whistleblowers, we would only continue to bark against corruption but shall never be able to bite it out.