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Cement Importers Accused Government Of Favouring Jah Oil Over Local Importers 

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Babucarr O. Joof, Minister of Trade -photo GRTS

By Buba Gagigo

Local cement importers in The Gambia have accused the government of favoring Jah Oil Company over them, especially following the government’s decision to increase border taxes from D30 to D180.

“This move not only benefits Hamidou Jah’s business interests but also raises concerns about exploitation. Gacem, for instance, reportedly buys cement from Jah Oil, exploiting Jah Oil’s Special Investment Certificate to avert import duties. Gacem turns around and charges D30 more for the same cement. Oddly, Finance Minister Seedy Keita previously opposed such policies citing concerns about free market principles and insufficient domestic capacity to meet demand,” they said in a statement.

The importers argued that this lack of capacity will inevitably lead to price hikes, which they claim have already begun in Soma and Farafenni.

“These rural communities, with limited access to established supply chains will be the hardest hit by these monopolistic practices. The lack of sufficient supply is further exemplified by the fact that Jah Oil is scrambling to secure new supply routes from Nigeria, yet again proving he is also merely importing cement and is only after his profit and those of his family of businesses,” they said.

They also alleged that the dominance of companies like Jah Oil stifles innovation, raises consumer prices, and weakens worker bargaining power to maximize profits.

This is evident in Jah’s struggle to retain drivers who found better pay and stronger unions in the competitive logistics industry. A competitive market empowers both the country and its workforce, allowing them to earn a fair wage. Jah Oil’s practices extend beyond cement. They are a major importer of labor, prioritizing family members from Mali for management positions over qualified Gambians. This nepotism creates a glass ceiling for Gambian advancement. Additionally, intermediaries within the company inflate prices further, enriching family members at the expense of consumers,” they said.

The importers further alleged that Jah Oil’s ambitions extend to bananas and rice, indicating a desire for a monopoly over all essential commodities in The Gambia.

“In a manipulative attempt, Jah Oil is scrambling to contract former drivers under the name of his brother Abu Jah to procure cement from Senegal and pay the new duty of D180 per bag. This tactic aims to create a false narrative that the market can sustain such exorbitant costs and paint those who refuse as selfish instead of patriots. This policy shift instigates a trade conflict with Senegal and undermines the recent MOU signed by both countries for better trade facilitation,” they said.

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