“I call them the guardian angels...they guide you, they advise you, they support you…”
- Hon. Mambury Njie, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Gambia; remarks made on the ALSF interventions in the Gambia, at the First High Level Meeting of the ALSF members held on 26 February 2020.
The African Legal Support Facility (‘the ALSF”) provides legal support to African countries and contributes to building technical and institutional capacity for sovereign commercial transactions and contract negotiation to enable sustainable investments and development. The ALSF’s interventions also facilitate dialogue and national consultations between, and within government institutions and the private sector for the development of coherent policies and legal frameworks for national development.
The ALSF commenced its operations in the Gambia in 2013 with the signing of a USD 400,000 grant agreement to provide legal assistance in the negotiation of independent power projects and transmission and distribution upgrades in the greater Banjul area. Since then, the ALSF has received more than 10 requests from the Gambia for the provision of advisory services in the extractives sector, and capacity building in the sovereign debt sector and the infrastructure sector (i.e. power projects and the Gambia Toll Bridge project).
During the first High Level Meeting (HLM) of the Members of the ALSF held on 26 February 2020, the Gambian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Hon. Mambury Njie observed that the ALSF’s intervention in the Gambia projects was timely, particularly in the extractives sector (Oil and Gas), in negotiating and reviewing of the terms of the petroleum exploration license. This project involved more than 15 institutions including the ministries of Petroleum and Energy; Finance and Economic Affairs; the Attorney General’s Office, and the Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. This collaboration fostered by the project facilitated knowledge sharing on petroleum sector issues across institutions and was a critical education resource that benefited all the relevant stakeholders. The involvement of the ALSF in this project enabled the Gambia to attract more than 16 internationally renowned oil companies to bid in the initial stages of the licensing round and exploration. Before the close of the project, the Gambia had developed internal capacity to develop and manage a competitive tender process, conduct negotiations, and efficiently handle similar transactions in the future.
The presence of the ALSF in the Gambia negotiations has made a remarkable difference.
- Hon. Mambury Njie, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Gambia
The ALSF’s intervention in the management of the Gambia’s sovereign debt led to a comprehensive restructuring plan derived from negotiations with creditors and the development of a media strategy that ensured transparency and conveyed a sound and positive narrative around the restructuring plan, as well as capacity building for public debt managers and selected members of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs. With the support provided by the ALSF, the Gambia restructured its creditors’ claims with new debt schedules and detailed loan by loan treatment of the Government’s debt. Additionally, staff were trained in the dynamics of debt restructuring and the Government made savings which were invested in the social and agriculture sectors.
In the infrastructure sector, the staff of the Gambia Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, in particular the Directorate of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) (a newly established division at the Ministry), benefited from enhanced capacity building and advisory services provided by the ALSF in preparing and negotiating PPP agreements and managing contracts in the context of the Port of Banjul project. Given that the Port facility is a major gateway to trade and the major revenue earner in the Gambia, the ALSF will continue to act as a transaction advisor to determine the most optimal arrangement for the port operations.
At the HLM, Hon. Mambury Njie appreciated the work done and the timely support provided by the ALSF to the Gambia declaring that the ALSF provided guidance in every aspect, was responsive in terms of delivery, and met project deadlines.
The provision of advisory services and capacity building support to the Gambia on such high-profile commercial agreements and transactions is a great testament to the positive impact of the ALSF’s projects in its member countries. Further, this attests to the fact that legal remedies can be employed to successfully address social and economic challenges in developing economies.