On my way here I heard once more Sona Jobarteh with her song “Gambia.” The sound of her voice and the music of the Kora express such a loving connection to your country that you cannot describe it in words. With her concerts in Germany, Sona Jobarteh has brought these feelings to many of my countrymen – and they were fascinated by their music and the insights into the Gambian art and culture. Tonight you are with us, Sona, and I am looking forward to your performance.
And I am also very happy that this is not the only good news from Gambia that has recently come to Germany and around the world. In late 2016 and early 2017, the Gambian people made history with the first regular democratic transition after 22 years of autocratic rule. What a remarkable achievement. This achievement has been made possible by the wise and impressive cooperation between different actors of the former opposition and civil society, and by the strong support from the Gambian regional partners in ECOWAS and AU. Many who played a role in this effort are here with us today. Allow me to congratulate you on behalf of the German people. This transition has made Gambia an important partner for Germany and Europe, almost overnight. I am pleased that our countries have already begun to work together again in many areas.
The plan to set up a Gambian Truth and Reconciliation Commission caught my special attention as a German. We Germans know how important it is to face history and gain strength from the effort to deal honestly and openly with the injustices of bygone times. In line with this philosophy, Gambia’s reorientation in foreign and human rights policy has become an important example in the region, and I welcome the return of your country to the International Criminal Court. Creating stability both internally and externally is the task at stake now, and this is not a short-distance race, but a marathon that will take some time.
Germany is determined to help the Gambia strengthen its democracy through joint efforts in the areas of energy, security, culture and, most importantly, job creation. I am glad that I am accompanied by a high-level business delegation, eager to learn about the opportunities that your country has to offer. I am convinced that although aid can lead to short-term improvements in specific targeted areas, long-term success can only be achieved through investment, local economic policies, education and training. Only then can there be a happy future for the young generation.
We owe it to the young people to work hard for it. When thousands of young men and women risk their lives in the Sahara and the Mediterranean, when some of Africa’s greatest talents fall victim to the nightmare of modern slavery, when the criminal exploitation of young people’s dreams and aspirations has become a successful business model, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot to do and economic efforts on the ground are the key to creating lasting and sustainable prospects.
I hope that we can rekindle the spirit of partnership. Under the German G20 presidency, the Compact with Africa was launched , focusing on private investment and strengthening the local economy. Tomorrow we will sign a partnership agreement between the Gambian Vocational Training Institute GTTI and the State of Baden-Württemberg, and I hope that this will send a signal and lay the foundation for many more cooperation projects in this field. The EU-AU summit in Abidjan recently showed that Europe is following developments in Gambia very closely – not least because your country holds great potential in areas such as tourism and agriculture. I wish you all the best for this development.
With this in mind, Mr President, I would like to raise the glass and toast with you the relationship between our two countries and the good of the Gambian people.