OIC comparative report

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OIC comparative report
OIC comparative report

By Saikou Camara

Africa-Press – Gambia. The 15th Session of the OIC Summit, held in Banjul from May 4th to 5th, 2024, has concluded. I want to acknowledge the Gambia government and the OIC Secretariat for hosting the event despite challenging circumstances. Now that the summit has ended, assessments are underway to evaluate the performance of both the secretariat and the government in managing the summit.

It’s crucial to understand the three main mandates of the Gambia OIC secretariat: resource mobilization, infrastructure implementation, and event planning and preparation. While the summit itself has its primary objectives outlined in each summit declaration, such as resolving conflicts, economic cooperation, and addressing crises within the Muslim community, Gambia fulfilled the basic expectations of hosting the summit. This includes hosting representatives from all 57 member countries, with President Adama Barrow presiding over the meetings as the Chair and submitting a final summit declaration to the OIC secretariat for dissemination. Ensuring the peaceful departure of all delegates was also a key priority for the Gambian government.

The OIC summit also has secondary economic impacts on host nations before, during, and after the event. For example, during the 11th summit, Senegal experienced a short-term economic boost, generating $8.8 million in income. However, the direct impact on the Gambian economy during the summit is still under evaluation.

To gauge the true success of the OIC beyond hosting the two days summit itself, we must look at the mandates of the OIC secretariat itself as a yardstick. Since this is Gambia’s first time hosting the OIC or any event of similar magnitude, comparing its success to that of other OIC host countries becomes important. However, to ensure fairness to the Gambia OIC secretariat and government, it’s reasonable to compare their success to the only other sub-Saharan African country to host the OIC, which has done so twice, in 1991 and 2008, Senegal.

Event planning and preparedness:

Senegal hosted the 11th session of the OIC on March 13-14, 2008. Originally slated for 2006 following Malaysia’s hosting of the 10th session in 2003, Senegal’s lack of preparedness caused a delay to 2008. Given this historical precedent, it would be unfair to criticize The Gambia for missing its initial hosting date of 2022 or even the rescheduled date of 2023, eventually meeting the 3rd scheduled date in May 2024. There are other factors causing the delays that are usually beyond host nations purview.

While the 11th OIC session in Senegal saw a significant turnout of Heads of states and dignitaries, including the Secretary-General of the UN and the President of the AU, notable absences like the King of Saudi Arabia and Egypt occurred. Therefore, the success of any OIC summit should not hinge solely on attendance of notable names. However, in comparison to the 15th OIC session in The Gambia, attended by only 7 heads of state, primarily from Africa, with notable absences from major Middle Eastern and Asian countries, questions arise about its success. Additionally, the absence of prominent Saharan African leaders was attributed by some observers to the host nation’s poor preparedness, from logistical challenges to inadequate security measures.

It’s worth noting that The Gambia is still considered a high-risk country, with its national security overseen by ECOMIG peacekeeping forces led by Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana since 2016.

Resource mobilization:

The Gambia OIC secretariat reportedly raised $350 million, as stated by officials of the Gambian government, although they have yet to provide an official breakdown of how these funds are allocated to individual projects and their itemized expenditure.

While not directly tied to the OIC, efforts for resource mobilization ran concurrently with other initiatives, such as the National Development Plan (NDP). It’s important to note that The Gambia received pledges totaling $1.7 billion in grants and loans, but only $360 million materialized. Additionally, a proposed rice project in URR aimed at achieving food sufficiency, to be supported by the French government, failed to materialize. The rice project was to be piloted in URR, which was intended to extend to other regions (CRR & NBR).

The mention of the NDP projects is significant because, as we’ll discuss later, Senegal aligned its NDP with OIC development projects and successfully lobbied wealthy Middle Eastern counterparts for funding, a strategy The Gambia failed to capitalize on fully.

When Senegal prepared to host the 11th session, they secured funds through loans and grants before, during, and after the summit, with President Wade also assuming the chairmanship of the OIC for the subsequent three years. Here’s a breakdown:

· $153 million was raised for the construction and rehabilitation of 40KM of roads and remodeling of hospitality facilities within the Dakar region alone.

· The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) funded a $36 million project to build the road from the Leopold Sedar-Senghor International Airport to the city center.

· The Gulf Cooperation Council-wide Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa provided a loan of $169 million to Senegal’s Ministry of Transportation, including a $10 million loan for building a 210KM road between Linguere and Matam.

· Dubai World invested $700 million to upgrade Senegal’s main container terminal and announced a further investment of $800 million into a new special economic zone outside of Dakar during the same period.

· $490 million in private sector investment was raised and utilized to construct four new five-star hotels.

· The Blaise Diagne International Airport, estimated to cost $575 million, received over $400 million in funding from the Saudi Binladin Group.

In total, Senegal raised approximately $3 billion directly and indirectly linked to hosting the OIC 11th session summit and President Wade’s subsequent chairmanship of the OIC for three years. While the Gambia only managed to raise about $350 million, so far. It is yet to be seen how President Adama Barrow’s chairmanship is going to yield any meaningful gains for the country moving forward.

Infrastructure implementation:

It’s noteworthy that Senegal initially hosted the OIC summit in 1991.

· During the OIC 6th Sessions in 1991, hosted by Senegal from December 9-11, the King Fahd Palace Hotel and Conference Center were constructed, which remains the largest conference center in West Africa to this day, with a capacity of 5000.

· Senegal made significant improvements to its economy and infrastructure as part of the benefits package from hosting the 11th OIC summit. However, many of these infrastructure projects were completed after the summit itself.

· Hotels like Radisson Blu and Terrou Bi were built in 2009, along with other five-star hotels, after the summit.

· Several hotels in Saly were remodeled and modernized to accommodate delegates since the four planned five-star hotels were not completed in time for the summit.

· Hotels such as Pullman Hotel and King Fahd Hotel in Dakar received grants to upgrade their facilities for VIP guests.

· Senegal’s main container terminal was rebuilt, establishing it as one of the premier seaports in West Africa.

· A 210KM road between Linguere and Matam was constructed.

· Roads from the main airports to the city center were developed.

· 78 KM of roads within the greater Dakar area underwent rehabilitation and construction.

It’s also important to note that the majority of Senegal’s infrastructural developments were completed after the 2008 OIC summit. For instance, a temporary luxury ship was commissioned at Dakar seaport to accommodate high-level guests due to the delayed readiness of the OIC hotels. Therefore, the delayed completion of infrastructural projects in Gambia is not unique to Gambia and should not be solely considered as a measuring rod to determine failure or success of the summit. It is the total missed opportunities that Gambians should be concerned about.

On the other hand, The Gambia has benefited from the following infrastructural developments:

· A VVIP lounge at the Banjul International Airport, valued at $10.5 million.

· The construction of a $79 million, 22KM road from the airport junction to Sting Corner.

· Ongoing construction and rehabilitation of 50KM of feeder roads within the greater Banjul area, funded by the Saudi Fund for Development ($50 million).

· Completion of a state-of-the-art $50 million conference center, sponsored by the People’s Republic of China.

· Plans for a water treatment plant, though yet to be realized, with $22 million secured for the project.

· Allocation of $32 million for the improvement of NAWEC electricity and water supply, pending realization.

· A $100 million contract for the construction of a five-star hotel, signed with a foreign Senegalese investor, which currently appears doubtful for completion in the foreseeable future.

Missed Opportunities for Gambia:

· Despite Morocco’s pledge of $22 million to build a border control surveillance center to strengthen our national security, the pledge was rescinded for unclear reasons.

· Gambia overlooked the opportunity to expand its airport, runway, and other facilities to attract major airlines post-summit, potentially making it a central hub in West Africa.

· The failure to construct a five-star hotel hindered efforts to revitalize the struggling tourism industry.

· Hoteliers received inadequate financial support to upgrade their infrastructure for summit delegates, impacting the tourism sector.

· Saudi Arabia’s pledge to build a five-star hotel for VIP delegates was never fulfilled.

· Negotiations with Azerbaijan for a $50 million grant for OIC operations and road expansions collapsed due to a diplomatic blunder, resulting in lost funding.

· The King of Saudi Arabia’s pledge of 110 luxury vehicles for VIP guests did not materialize.

· The World Bank’s feasibility study at the Banjul container terminal, aimed at attracting foreign investors like Dubai World, was derailed by dubious dealings, missing out on potential benefits similar to Senegal’s partnership.

· Gambia failed to attract investment to overhaul the telecommunications sector.

· Diversification of OIC development projects to other regions, as Senegal did with the construction of a 210KM road from Linguere to Matam, was not pursued.

Considering these factors, one may question the success of the OIC summit in comparison to our neighboring state. I leave it to the Gambian people and readers to decide. Be your own judge.

STANDARD

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