Gambia government holds first cabinet meeting of the year 2021

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA:- The government of The Gambia has on Thursday held its first cabinet meeting of the year 2021 to discuss, adopt and conclude on key policy decisions.

As expected, the cabinet have agreed and adopted key papers presented such as: Universal Access and Service Policy, National Broadband Policy 2020 – 2024, and Petroleum Commission Bill among other.

These are the conclusions of the 1st Cabinet Meeting held on 21st January 2021:

Cabinet discussed and adopted a paper presented by the Hon Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure on the Universal Access and Service Policy which seeks to make The Gambia a technology-enabled, services-oriented nation, integrated into the global economy where citizens access affordable telecoms services.

The objectives of the Universal Service and Access Policy are as follows:
– To increase digital literacy in schools to not less than 76% and not less than 65% digital literacy amongst the country’s workforce;
Support innovation programs for the youth to become more creative and productive;

– Support local content creation and application development;
Achieve the delivery of affordable, equitable, good quality and efficient access to at least Mbps broadband service to everyone, and;

– Achieve greater social and economic development through the use of Information and Communication technologies, applications and services.

The Policy establishes a public fund financed primarily through contributions by mobile network operators and other telecommunications service providers to underserved areas and populations.

Cabinet also discussed and adopted a paper presented by the Hon Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure on the National Broadband Policy 2020 – 2024. The vision of the Broadband Policy is to transform The Gambia into a knowledge – based economy that thrives on accessible, secure and high – speed connection within an open access regime and robust broadband ecosystem.

In achieving the targets through Critical Enabler 5 of the National Development Plan, the government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI) formulated the National Broadband Policy 2020 – 2024 and its accompanying Strategy to lay the foundation for the short, medium, and long term development of a robust Broadband Infrastructure and Services for the country that would support businesses, government and the citizenry.

The main objectives of the Policy therefore are:
– To facilitate Socio – Economic growth and development of the country by deploying appropriate ICT systems and solutions;

– Achieving good governance and transparent government through ICTs;

– To strengthen the country’s global competitiveness and the pro,option of private sector development.

The National Broadband Policy has put in place targets that by June 2021, all operators to be connected to the ECOWAN on an open access basis in the provision of last mile solutions;

– That By the end of 2021 The Gambia should have another connectivity as alternative to GSC-ACE Cable that is to serve as a reliable backup for the country;

– By 2022, at least 75% of homes should have affordable access to actual download and upload of at least 5 Mbps.

– By 2024, almost 85% of the population should have affordable and increase access to broadband coverage of 4G;

– Expand broadband services to all local government areas and districts and to have 75% digital literacy amongst the government workforce and 65% digital literacy of the total National workforce including by 2024.

The Hon of Minister Interior presented a paper on the procurement of equipment for the deployment of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) by The Gambia Police Force to any United Nations and other Peacekeeping Mission.

The need to have a credible and effective peacekeeping force requires the acquisition of critical peacekeeping enablers and other specialized equipment. Providing the necessary specialized training is also part of the requirements for the deployment of a quick reaction force. Cabinet was informed that The Gambia Police Force has already started the generation of forces and preparation of training modules in accordance with the UN Formed Police Unit training standards.

It is important to note that there are set of factors for The Gambia to support the UN, AU and ECOWAS missions with troops as part of the country’s global responsibility, regional dynamics and national interests.

After a thorough discussion, Cabinet approved the paper by the Hon Minister of Interior for the procurement of equipment for the deployment of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) by The Gambia Police Force to a United Nations and any other Peacekeeping Missions around the world.

The Hon Minister of Petrolum and Energy updated Cabinet on developments in the petroleum sector over the past months. Cabinet was informed that the COVID 19 pandemic has impacted greatly on the petroleum sector forcing both BP and FAR oil companies to defer their scheduled drilling of wells for the third and fourth quarters of 2020.

Cabinet was also updated on the Petroleum Commission Bill which has now undergone a second reading at the National Assembly and it is hoped that it will be passed this year. There are also ongoing efforts to align the different legislations regulating the Petroleum Sector.

Cabinet was also informed that the Ministry of Petroleum has developed a Terms of Reference for the petroleum downstream committee for key stakeholders, to streamline regulatory functions and processes for petroleum products activities. Regularization of license status of Petroleum Station Operators is still ongoing.

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