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Your Excellency, the Vice President,
Honourable Speaker,
Your Lordship, Chief Justice,
Honourable Ministers,
Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service,
Chairperson of Council of Ministers, Council Members and High Commissioner of the OMVG
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives of ECOWAS and the African Development Bank
Financiers, Contractors and Partners of the Project
Governors, Traditional and Religious Leaders
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathered here today to witness another giant step towards transforming the socio-economic circumstances of our nation through the launching ceremony of the Soma substation under the OMVG Energy Project’s Interconnection Component. Before proceeding, allow me to welcome our international guests and all those who have come to join us here. Welcome to all of you.

Ladies and gentlemen, the striking electricity demand-supply disparity in The Gambia is enough to highlight the significance of this project. The disparity also reflects the justification for the strong emphasis in the National Development Plan (2018-2021) on attracting investments, improving access to electricity and enhancing household energy security for national development.
To address the national energy supply deficit, the Soma substation, when complete, is expected to increase the current 40% access to electricity by 20%. While increasing our generation capacity from 102 to 250 Mega Watts, it will also reduce electricity losses within the country.

However, to guarantee increased energy production without serious environmental consequences, Government is encouraging a major shift towards use of renewable energy from about 2% to 40%.

Better still, to speedily close the huge gap between energy demand and supply, we have taken urgent measures to increase electricity generation through various outlets.
As a short-term measure, for example, our national energy capacity has been expanded through maintenance and rehabilitation of existing engines, which has been augmented by procurement of new machines. The current energy purchase arrangement for rural Gambia complements these efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As an essential link in the economic and social development chain, electricity is a major catalyst or driving force for national development.

Mindful of this, the OMVG has re-energised its activities to enhance and support the development of appropriate energy infrastructure in member countries.
Thus, in February 2017, the Outgoing Chairperson, Professor Alpha KONDE, on behalf of the Heads of State of the OMVG, launched a major interconnection project covering a transmission line of 1677 kilometres and 15 substations at Kaléta in Guinea.

Today, I am pleased to launch here, in The Gambia, the construction works of the Soma substation, which is at the heart of the interconnection project in the country. The substation is designed to link the Eastern and Northern parts of The Gambia through the NAWEC interconnection networks.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency, Professor Alpha KONDE, President of the Republic of Guinea, and Chairman of the African Renewable Energy Initiative, His Excellency, Dr José Mario VAZ, President of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, and His Excellency, Mr. Macky SALL, President of the Republic of Senegal, for their continued commitment to strengthening sub-regional integration and for providing the support necessary for the realisation of this important project. Indeed, the project stands to revitalize our relations and strengthen regional solidarity.

Like the founding fathers of the OMVG, we recognise that, in order to go fast, we must go alone; but, to go far, we have to go together. Therefore, I am pleased to acknowledge that the historic decision to reform the OMVG in Addis Ababa, in January 2016, is beginning to bear fruit. The Energy Project, which was pending for more than twenty years, is now effective for implementation.

At this point, I must express sincere gratitude to the Community of Technical and Financial Partners; in particular, to the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the French Development Agency, the German Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, the West African Development Bank, the Kuwait Fund and the OMVG Member States for mobilizing USD722 million for this project.

I am convinced that the implementation of the project will motivate our distinguished partners further to engage in other sub-regional development projects aimed at fostering African integration. I encourage them to increase their technical and financial support to the OMVG projects and programmes.

The construction works that will start today is a critical part of the OMVG and the West African Power Pool’s regional interconnection networks. It provides for links with networks in Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and other networks. In addition, it will integrate the major hydroelectric power plants in Guinea.

Broadly, the OMVG Energy project fits perfectly within the Roadmap of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative. Nationally, the Soma substation will link various power distribution systems so as to improve access to isolated towns and rural communities in The Gambia. Crucially, it will enhance energy reliability, infrastructure services and efficiency to spur growth.

In this respect, I commend the hard work of all stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Project, particularly the OMVG High Commission. Within a short spell of time, the Commission has repositioned the Organisation visibly, hence the possibility of this ceremony.

This project has obviously raised the hopes and expectations of our people. As a result, I urge our partners and all stakeholders to work collaboratively to ensure compliance for the timely and efficient completion of the project. I assure you of my continued support.

I cannot conclude without expressing profound gratitude to the residents of Soma and the entire population of The Gambia for their cooperation and support. This project marks a turning point in addressing the country’s energy crisis. Therefore, be optimistic, and remain steadfast in supporting Government. Know that better days are ahead for us.

To conclude, on behalf of the entire Gambian nation and the OMVG Member Countries, I take much delight in launching the OMVG Energy Project’s Interconnection Component here, in Soma.

Thank you for your attention.