Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Using Skype, Viber in Gambia "strictly prohibited"

The use of Skype, Viber or any other internet devices to make or receive calls at internet cafés in The Gambia has henceforth been banned.

According to a directive from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, through a press release issued on Friday, offering of international and national calling services at internet cafés using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Viber and Skype, is strictly prohibited and considered an offence, although no penalty is specified.
More and more people in the country now make calls via the Internet instead of using mobile phones or conventional landlines. 
“Anyone who is engaged in this activity is depriving the country of the much needed revenue from international and national calls, required for the development of The Gambia,” PURA says.
The Gambia News Online was reliably informed that telecommunications companies in the country have lodged a complaint to PURA, as regulator, that they are experiencing consistent drop in revenue due to reduction in the amount of money spent on recharge phone credit by the public. 
This is primarily due to increase in the number of people using internet cafés to make not only international but also local calls, which cost virtually nothing.
However, with this new directive, internet cafés are strictly prohibited from allowing their customers to use the internet to make or receive calls via Skype, Viber or any other internet services.
Implementing this directive would cause serious confrontations between internet café operators and many of their customers who have already used to making calls via these internet devices. 
Prior to this directive, operators did not have any control over their customers who buy time to surf the net. 
The only restriction some cafés have is browsing pornographic websites, other than that customers could transact any business they want to online. 
“This is going to make me lose a lot of customers,” an internet café operator in Latrikunda German said. 
“Apart from Facebook, most of the people come here just to talk on Skype with their people abroad; now if Skype is prohibited it means many people will not be coming here again.”
Using Skype to call at internet cafés does not attract any additional cost apart from the cost of the time one uses to access the internet. 
For instance, if someone pays D15 to browse the internet for an hour in an internet café, within that time the individual can talk on Skype at no other cost.
Skype or Viber does not allow for free voice call, computer to computer, but both parties communicating can see each other when using a webcam.
“The only time that I talk to my husband is when I go to the internet café,” said Fatou Njie, who says her husband has travelled to the United Kingdom for studies. 
Fatou, who is currently taking the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, said she is not having a phone that is Skype-enabled neither does she have a laptop through which she can communicate on Skype at home. 
“Now prohibiting Skype at internet cafés is just going to make it difficult for me to communicate with my husband for a longer time like we do on Skype.” 

More than $3.5 billion needed to combat malaria in Africa

WHO country representative in The Gambia
Dr Thomas Sukwa
Africa needs to mobilize US$3.6 billion to fully fund malaria control plans and programmes from 2013 to 2015, WHO country representative in The Gambia has said.

Dr Thomas Sukwa said this amount is in addition to about US$4.4 billion already mobilised from international partners and African governments.

Speaking to journalists in Banjul during a press briefing ahead of the 2013 World Malaria Day on 25 April, the WHO country representative said there is need for increase in domestic funding in Africa, where the proportion of domestic funding estimated as part of overall funding was only 32% in 2011 compared to 43% in Asia and 86% in Latin America.

“To highlight the funding gap, a campaign for the three years will be launched on World Malaria Day [2013] under the theme ‘Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria’,” he said.

History has shown that decrease in financial support for fighting malaria, particularly in areas where significant progress has been made, leads to a resurgence of the disease, thereby reversing years of efforts and investment. 

“Therefore, it is crucial that we stay on course as malaria resurgence will remain a persistent threat until the disease is eliminated altogether,” Dr Sukwa said.

Successful malaria control is critical to progress on all the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - goals 4, 5 and 6 - as well as making significant contribution to progress in other areas including reducing school absenteeism and fighting poverty.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Passengers dismayed by increased ferry tariff

Say management of ferry services should rather regulate operations of ferries

News of the increment of ferry tariff across The Gambia come May 1st has been received by users with utter disappointment, as ferry crossing at the Banjul-Barra crossing point continues to cause untold hardship to commuters. 

The Gambia Ferry Services Management Company Limited issued a press release on Monday announcing that the tariff for ferry services across the country will be increased by 25 per cent with effect from 1 May 2013.

In this vein, the price of ticket for individual crossing Banjul-Barra, the main crossing point in the country, will be increased from D10 to D12.50 when the new increment takes effect.

“I have not yet heard of the announcement, but if that is the case I will be very surprised,” said Ousman Jaiteh, who spoke to this paper on Monday at the Banjul ferry terminal. 

“Instead of making normal the operations of the ferries and reassuring people, they are increasing the tariff,” he added.

Ferry services at the Banjul-Barra crossing point have continued to be a source of nightmare for commuters in recent time.

For Amadou Marong, safety and security of the passengers crossing the ferry should be the primary concern of the management of the ferry services because as it is now “people are losing confidence” in crossing onboard the ferries (at the Banjul-Barra crossing point).

Samboujang Sonko, who is studying political science at the University of The Gambia, opined that the ferry services made “a grave mistake” when they bought ferries for millions of dalasis that are not pliable in the country since they are never used after about two years they have been bought. 
In 2011 the ferry services, through the Gambia Ports Authority, bought two “new” ferries to the tune of €6,345,000 equivalent to more than D250 million.

Since the commissioning of the ferries in July 2011, they are yet to make any commercial trip from Banjul to Barra.

“The ferry services should rectify their own mistake rather than pass it on to the people by increasing the tariff,” the student said.

“The input that they said is one of the main reasons for the increment of the tariff, the last time - like three months ago - I read from the Observer [newspaper] that the Taiwanese Embassy here [in The Gambia] gave a huge amount to The Gambia government to buy new ferries.  Where is that money, because since then we have not seen any new engine for the ferries; in fact the conditions of the ferries since then has continued to deteriorate,” he added.

In December 2012, the Taiwanese Embassy in the country presented a cheque for US$747,692 to The Gambia government for the procurement of three new ferry engines.

Is the Senegalese transport union informed?

The MarketPlace has tried in vain to contact the management of the ferry services to find out whether the Senegalese transport union is informed of the impending ferry tariff increment.

The last time the tariff of ferry services was increased in July 2005, it created a big confusion between The Gambia and Senegal leading to the closure of the Senegalese side of the border by the transport union.

‘Insurance can boost healthcare in Africa’

The insurance industry can greatly help in improving healthcare delivery in a country by designing health insurance schemes for increasing accessibility and affordability of medical services to the people.

President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma [Source: Salone Reporter]
The president of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, presenting on the topic ‘The West Africa said health insurance schemes are built upon the time honored principle of the insurance industry for pooling resources together to avert the consequences of life's contingencies on people.
Insurance Industry: The Challenges and Opportunities in the Light of Recent Economic and Socio-Political Developments’

“Our profession (the insurance profession) has often discriminated against ordinary people when it comes to health insurance schemes,” the Sierra Leonean president said while presenting his paper at the 35th Annual General Meeting and Educational Conference of the West African Insurance Companies Association (WAICA) which started on Monday.

“Rather, we (insurance practitioners) put great emphases on targeting those who could pay the high premiums,” he added.

The Sierra Leonean president, himself an erudite insurance practitioner, said if the insurance profession should be at the centre of the new economy of growth, inclusion and protection, the practitioners must be transcended this mentality.

He said the insurance practitioners must seek out the various options for including the struggling worker, trader and ordinary citizen in national health insurance schemes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

YJAG to hold mega fundraising dancehall show with DJ Pisces

The Young Journalists Association of The Gambia (YJAG) is to hold a mega dancehall musical show with one of the most renowned DJs in the country, DJ Pisces on 27 April 2013 at Romana in Bakau.

The fundraising is meant to gather more funds for the association to embark on more capacity building programmes for its members, the young journalists, for them to become responsible journalists in order to contribute their quota to national development of The Gambia.

Lamin Jahateh, secretary general of YJAG, reiterated that proceeds from the programme will also be used to implement a line-up of activities which the association is to hold but could not due to the perennial problem of lack of fund.

"The worthy goals of the association cannot be achieved without funds,” Jahateh noted, adding:  “This is why it is imperative that we devise ways and means of raising the much needed funds.  It is in cognizance of this that the forthcoming programme is being organized.”

Nyima Jadama, public relations officer of the association, called on everyone to attend the show saying “this show will be one in town”.  Ticket for programme is only D50, she added. 

The president of the association, Modou S. Joof, said all the journalists particularly YJAG members are encouraged to attend “as the proceeds will be use for the collective good of all”.

YJAG president called on the general public to patronize the association and support the young journalists to achieve their objectives.

YJAG embarked on its first ever successful fundraising show in July 2011 at the Buffer Zone in Tallinding with the popular Senegalese drummer Sheikh Faal and his Group.

YJAG is an independent non-profit making organization and it is legally registered with the Attorney General’s Chamber in September 2007.   

YJAG has members from both the print and electronic media houses nationwide.  The objectives of the association include promoting unity among young journalists in The Gambia, providing capacity building, and addressing the welfare of its members.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Gambia ferry-crossing crisis aggravates

As Nuimi residents seek Allah’s help  

Elders praying for Allah's help to resolve the ferry crisis
The people of Niumi, specifically in Essau village, are now seeking spiritual help from Allah to resolve the seemingly insolvable problems at the Banjul-Barra ferry crossing point. 

At most gathering of the elders – be it religious or social – the elders now pray for Allah’s help as though all human efforts have been employed but solution could not be found to the perennial problems.

On Saturday during the one-year charity of the late Alhaji Kebba Marong, who was the muezzin of one of the mosques in Essau, shortly after recitation of Quran for the deceased, one of the village elders said:  “Let us do another ‘duwa’, supplication, so that Allah can help in bringing normalcy and safety at the crossing point, Banjul-Barra, because the situation there is not very good.”

Without hesitation, the elders stretched their hands to God seeking His intervention in the ferry services.

“Please let us add more, I almost cross every week to Banjul.  I came from Banjul just yesterday (Saturday), the ferry departed Banjul around 2pm and we only arrived after 5pm,” one of the elders lamented.

The current state of the ferry services at the Banjul-Barra crossing point is getting from bad to worse as the ferries that usually ply the distance for 30 to 45 minutes now spend two to three hours or more.

Often times now, the ferries even get breakdown in the river and could be there for hours without reaching the other bank of the river. 

It is understood that the engines of all the three ferries are not in good state.

The state of ferry crossing is becoming more and more terrible by the day as the conditions of the ferries, if anything, is deteriorating rapidly.

At the crossing point in Barra terminal on Sunday, Maram Jobe said they spent four hours at the said terminal before the arrival of the Kanilai Ferry from Banjul.

According to Modou Jallow, a commuter, he arrived at the terminal at 6:00pm and could not get a ferry up to 8:00pm when he boarded the Kanilai Ferry.

The time waiting for the ferry is different from other hours that it takes for the ferry to ply from Banjul to Barra.

Passengers resort to risky transport boats

Many people have now resorted to crossing by boat due to the continuous failing and deteriorating ferry services.

In the same vein, boat operators have also irrationally increased the fare from D15 to D25.

Also, people who carry passengers in and out of the boat have also increased the cost of carrying each passenger from D5 to D10.

Now the entire cost of crossing by boat which used to be D25 (D15 for boat fare, D5 to the porter carrying a passenger to the boat, and another D5 to the one taking the passenger out) is now D45 (that is, D25 for boat fare, D10 to the one carrying the passenger to the boat and another D10 to the one out).