World Bank releases USD30m for Gambian telecoms, energy reforms

20 May 2020

The World Bank has allocated USD30 million to Gambia to support the implementation of reforms in the energy and telecommunications sectors, with funding in the form of grants aimed at improving financial sustainability and the delivery of services, Agence Ecofin reports. In particular, the funding targets better and more transparent management of debts and public investments in state enterprises. Initiatives financed by the new funds will aim to ensure that public investments in projects fall within the framework of priorities defined by the National Development Plan. New procurement procedures will also be adopted to minimise ‘over-the-counter procurement’.

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that the Gambian government has committed to reforming state-backed fixed line operator Gamtel and its struggling mobile subsidiary Gamcel, and in February 2019 the Cabinet agreed that the two firms will be restructured and that shares in Gamcel will subsequently be divested. The plan stipulated that Gamcel will operate ‘under an independent management, free from Gamtel’s control and influence’, whilst Gamtel will be ‘restructured and repositioned, in order to make it more effective and efficient’. In May 2019 the telecoms regulator PURA reported that Gamtel was unable to pay its regulatory fee arrears, while also that month Gamcel’s general manager told the National Assembly Public Enterprises Committee that it required ‘a state capital injection or help to secure concessionary financing’ to expand, stabilise and modernise its infrastructure to compete effectively in the market. Gamcel is the country’s smallest cellco, trailing far behind private sector operators Africell, QCell and Comium, according to GlobalComms.