Tourism Minister Hon. Hamat Ngayn Kumba Bah has not been able to adequately justify the terms of the so-called Mou the government of the Gambia signed with the Saudi government which he said will pave the way for Gambians to travel to the Kingdom for employment in tourism facilities.
Hamat Bah failed to tell us what kind of jobs are available and what securities are in place for Gambians who want to access these jobs. Gambia being a tourist destination needs more qualified people to work in our hotels rather than working in Saudi Arabia.
What will happen to our hospitality Industry if our qualified personnel leave for a ‘promised greener pasture’ in Saudi Arabia? What positions are available for these people to fill? There are thousands of degrading menial jobs like gardeners, housemaids, garbage collectors etc. out there surrounded by an atmosphere of discrimination. According to the Tourism Minister, the MoU will eliminate ‘unscrupulous’ trafficking of Gambians as domestic slaves to the Middle East. It sounds ridiculous to hear the minister say “The Saudi government has realised and recognised The Gambia as a tourist destination.
They know that they need the expertise of this country and that was why they approached us to have a memorandum of understanding,” Hamat said, adding that the agreement is set to provide part-time seasonal and voluntary jobs for Gambians at tourism facilities in Saudi Arabia.
For the sake of honesty Hon. Bah, Gambia cannot still achieve an all-year round tourism industry, there is much to be achieved in terms of qualified personnel in all areas of the hospitality industry and there is an increasing number of top management positions still in the hands of expatriates, let alone exporting hospitality staff to Saudi Arabia. One may wonder where are the key ministries of Foreign affairs and Gambians Abroad and the Ministry of Trade Industry and Employment in all this. Shouldn’t Hon. Hamat Bah make public the Mou if the promise of a transparent Government is the order of the day?
If according to the ministers assertion, that the Barrow government is committed to the welfare of its youthful population and has a priority to stop the back way journey and help Gambian youth realise their potentials then it has to train them to become experts in what they want to achieve. Remember there are many competitors vying for the same opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Among them are the Asians from India, Pakistan, and The Philippines etc.
Critics of the Mou have condemned the Tourism Minister noting that they know the fate that awaits those that will want to venture into this deal. Some say that there is enough evidence of a hostile and degrading environment awaiting them. Some Gambians with experience from Saudi are narrating horrible stories about their ordeal and encounters while working in the Middle East. Honourable Hamat Bah charity begins at home. Ask the Saudis to help the Gambian tourist industry with a well-equipped hospitality Institute, assist us in building our dilapidated infrastructure and invest in the Industry to create more jobs.
Why should the terms of the MoU will be scrutinised and monitored if he has faith in it? The hon. Minister’s assertion that “Ninety percent of all the hotel staff in Saudi Arabia are foreign workers from other African countries is unfounded and he needs to apologise for misinforming us. The Hon. Minister should know that in these days of technology anything said can easily be investigated and verified.