There is absolutely no doubt that every Gambian is hoping and praying that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit scheduled for 2022 succeeds, because apart from helping put the Gambia on the world map, at least for the duration of the summit, ordinary Gambians also expect to benefit from some infrastructural development. Among those highly welcome developments would no doubt be the “20 New Roads” to be constructed within the Greater Banjul Area, which, if ever they materialize, would go a very long way to ease the terrible traffic congestions that we experience on a daily basis.
However, most people are beginning to doubt whether the summit could be held as scheduled, because in spite all the noise about it, with just about 8 months to go before 2022, there is hardly anything on the ground that the local OIC Secretariat can show for it. While we have still not been told the proposed date of the summit, but it is very unlikely that all those major infrastructural projects could be completed before December 2022, the earliest.
For instance, one of the projects is the construction of a five-star hotel, for which a concession agreement has recently been signed with a Senegalese entrepreneur at a tune of $100 million. We have been told during the signing ceremony that the construction of the hotel would last between 18 to 24 months. Therefore, assuming that construction would begin in May, it means that the earliest time it could be ready would be December 2022, when whatever the case, the summit would have been over, if indeed it will be held as scheduled in 2022. It appears that the OIC Secretariat is not giving us the correct story of what is going on.
According to reliable sources, even the very plot of land where the hotel is supposed to be constructed is in dispute and we do not expect construction to begin until the matter is settled. Therefore, it is not likely that construction can commence any time soon. What is therefore likely to happen is another postponement or at worst, cancellation of the summit.
Another aspect of the hotel project that needs clarification is what the concession agreement with the Senegalese entrepreneur entails. For some people, it is a stark reminder of a similar concession agreement that was signed between the Adama Barrow government and another Senegalese entrepreneur in 2017 for the construction of a forensic lab at the tune of $48 million, and just like the hotel project, it was also supposed to have been fully funded by the entrepreneur. However, it later turned out to be a very bad deal that eventually flopped after the government had already promised to provide a plot of land and other facilities for the project. It was later realized that the entrepreneur was not as credible as he had been projected. Let us therefore hope that this project is also not going to go the same way.
While many people are quite skeptical and have begun to question whether the summit can actually take place as scheduled in 2022, but everyone is praying that the proposed projects, particularly the “20 New Roads” should materialize. “If we can get those projects completed, whether the summit is postponed or even cancelled, we would still be happy,” said one of the skeptics.
D. A. Jawo