GAMBIA – The Africa Development Bank Group (AfDB)  has committed to supporting Gambia in producing 200,000 tons of paddy rice in a bid to solve the problem of food security and halt imports by 2028.

Gambian President Adama Barrow and African Development Bank Group head Dr Akinwumi Adesina pledged to work together to boost rice production during Adesina’s two-day official visit to The Gambia.

According to Adesina, the African Development Bank Group is helping to cushion The Gambia from some of the impacts of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including rising food insecurity and commodity prices.

It has provided about US$19 million to help the country produce more food, with the objective of achieving self-sufficiency in rice production.

Rice is Gambia’s staple food but the country heavily relies on imports. According to the country data, local production currently meets less than 20% of the demand.

According to the officials, the move aims to invest in the country’s vibrant youth and women entrepreneurs since around 65% of Gambia’s population is under the age of 25.

I am excited by the president’s determination to support the youth of The Gambia, and I told him that the African Development Bank is ready and willing to support and finance the creation of what we call Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks,” Adesina said.

In addition to support for women and youth entrepreneurship in the country, Barrow also identified infrastructure, particularly road construction, as a critical area for the African Development Bank’s support.

Adesina’s visit marked the first official visit by the AfDB president in more than 20 years since Gambia joined the bank in 1974.

He, however, highlighted that since the institution started supporting Gambia, it has provided about US$540 million in support.

He added that the institution has also channeled about US$282 million in support, which covers energy, inequality, agriculture, governance, water and sanitation, and support for youth and women.

These will be new financial institutions that will support young Gambian entrepreneurs to thrive. And the president was very receptive to this… He wants to see a lot of work done to support women in The Gambia.”

The African Development Bank is also supporting the establishment of its Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative in The Gambia. It will provide funding for financial institutions to lend money to women entrepreneurs at affordable rates.