Gambian President Adama Barrow has praised the Chinese government for being very serious with his country’s relationship. He says this evidence is demonstrated by signing of cooperation in many areas of development.
In an exclusive interview with CCTN TV shortly before concluding a week-long China trip, President Barrow sees China as a very important partner capable of helping the Gambia transition from primitive to mechanised farming.
Transcribed by Ebrima Camara in Sweden
Reporter: We connect again. What does this visit mean to you, and do you think to the two countries, China and The Gambia?
President Barrow: This visit is a very important visit. As far as the China-Gambia relationship is concerned. China-Gambia relationship goes back way in the 70s and we have a very very good relationships between China and The Gambia. I think the two countries also benefitted from that relationship. But there was a break—call it unfortunate; unfortunate in the sense that it was a one man decision. It was not the wishes of The Gambian people. But now both countries have the chance to recover from what we lost that’s why the visit is significant, it’s important. It’s important to me as president, it’s important to the two countries.
Reporter: Great to have you here in Beijing, Mr. President? Holding on to the one China policy, you took office last year and has been very dear to that principle. Why is it so strategically important for The Gambia about this?
President Barrow: The One China Policy is important to The Gambia for the simple reason that we believe in unity, we believe in oneness; if we are together we are stronger. It’s because in The Gambia we became together that’s why we were able to change from dictatorship to democracy; that unity, that spirit was very important in our history, and we believe in that One China policy.
Reporter: Great point there, Mr. President. You know the thing is the trust, and mutually development has to be re-established, how can we start?
President Barrow: we have to be sincere, we have to be honest, and we have to be open.
Reporter: honest about what?
President Barrow: Honest about our relationship, honest to make sure we improve in our relationship. To make sure we have people from the two countries to the extent that our diplomatic level who will collaborate, and I think we are also fortunate that we have a young and dynamic ambassador from China who is representing you in The Gambia, who is doing a wonderful job.
Reporter: Mr. Ambassador sitting on the side [inaudible] with administration officials
President Barrow: I think that was a very good decision. I think that is helping our relationship.
Reporter: you talked about openness, what kind of openness are you referring to?
President Barrow: No country can do it alone, you have to be opened, you have to be a part of the world, we are in the twenty-first century, we need each other.
Reporter: So you believe in globalization?
President Barrow: I believe in that, fundamentally believe in globalization; and that globalization opened that room of communication. If there is communication it enlightens everybody, and at the end of the day everybody benefits from that globalization.
Reporter: you had a wonderful talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and I saw some the photos of your meetings, beautiful smiles from both gentlemen’s faces. I understand this is also about personal relationship in a way between the two presidents, the trust and also between the two countries—the mutual trust. Your country is rich with resources, the tourism, industries as well. Since you have taken the office the country has enjoyed recently quite some stability, but how to translate stability into economic prosperity for your people. It could always be a big question mark. What is the answer from your administration so far?
President Barrow: I think stability is very important. Stability is a foundation.
Reporter: How would you gaurantee that?
President Barrow: We have good policies in the country where by we have the independence of the judiciary; rule of law is respected. It opened up the environment for people to trust the government and that is our strength.
Reporter: Is not easy, right?
President Barrow: It’s not easy, it’s not about giving speeches, it’s not about Marxist and Leninist; it’s about action. But the mindset must change. Then it’s the Gambian people’s responsibililty to make sure we work together, we implement those policies
Reporter: is it easy to change their mindset?
President Barrow: One fundamental thing is important, enlightening the people, if you enlighten the people, you’ve empowered them.
Reporter: Give me some examples.
President Barrow: People must believe what they are; they must believe in where they come from; and we have to learn from others. We are in the same position years back. For example, China was there, they have moved on; and they have succeeded. I think these are the areas that we have to make sure the people understand.
Reporter: To build the confidence in a way?
President Barrow: To make them believe that if other people can do it, there is no doubt we can also do it.
Reporter: I understand Mr. President, there are several areas of cooperation you and your Chinse counterpart, Chinese President Xi Jinping have been talking about, what have you too gentlemen have been specifically discoursing? How will things be following up after this?
President Barrow: We were really welcomed by the president. And as the second largest economy in the world it was an honour and a privilege to have a meeting with such a great leader. We cannot thank the president enough for giving us the opportunity. It was all over the media; it was vote of confidence; it was real support for us. But one thing was important in our discussion, that is where The Gambian strength lies—that is agriculture.
President Barrow: Agriculture
Reporter: what about agriculture?
President Barrow: We ah, our methods is primitive. We want to improve on our methods; we are in for mechanised farming. But we need partners, partners like China because we need the support of people who have experience. We need to learn from them because we need two things. First, people who have the expertise, and people who have the money. We have the land, we have the water, we have the manpower, and we have the political will; but we need that support. So that was very important, because we believe that can create job for us; and they can also bring hope; so we have signed agreement road construction; two bridges which will create a lot of jobs and also the broadband with our network that will create jobs. I think these are areas that will start to create jobs and we have no doubt the Chinese government is very serious with our relationship.
Reporter: we have a government consensus, but it has to be attractive for businesses to go there to develop these projects. So what are some of the policies or preferential treatments your country will bring out to international investors, particularly let’s just say those coming from China; they could be state owned, they could be private investors—all kinds?
President Barrow: Then we are going for partnership—energy. We will give you duty waivers; these are all incentives.
Reporter: Do you see many Chinese investors there?
President Barrow: A lot of them. We know that The Gambia cannot be isolated. We are in a global world, we have to open up and partner with geniune investors for that matter.
Reporter: Genuine investors, I like that adjective you just used? Why would you want to emphasize on that, the geniune investors? Who to you be genuine enough?
President Barrow: That’s why if you want to invest in my country, we go through your profile and we do some enough due diligence to know your background; your company, your credibility, your capacity before we can forward the process to do business with you.
Reporter: what about the future? I understand Mr. President you before the trip said you are extremely impressed by the words coming from Chinese President Xi Jin ping during the 2015 China-Africa Summit which was held then in Johannesburg, and he talked about the future and blueprint of relationship between China and Africa. Help us understand better about your view of China’s role in this cooperation with African countries and where is Gambia in that big picture?
President Barrow: China [have] brought in balance of power in the world. First time if the West [make] a statement you don’t have another alternative. But now we say let’s wait for China.
Reporter: You will say that?
President Barrow: Of course. When they make their statement that’s the time the debates open up so it’s a balance of power in the world. And The Gambia is part of the African Union, the AU; we are part of ECOWAS that brought us together—that brought Africa together; and if China is partnering at that level that means Gambia is part of it.
Reporter: So you believe in institutional building?
President Barrow: I believe in that.
Reporter: Thanks so much Mr. President for being with us.
President Barrow: Thank you