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Lansana FOFANA

High Commissioner - Organization for the Development of the Gambia River (OMVG) - Guinea



In what way INBO is an important network for sharing knowledge and experiences, for the African continent and on a global scale?

First of all, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak.
I am the High Commissioner of the Organization for the Development of the Gambia River, and, as a basin organization, we are one of INBO's components at the sub-regional, regional and African levels.

In what context was the Organization for the Development of the Gambia River created in 1978?

Following the major droughts of the 1970s and 1970s in Africa, and in particular in the Sahel, our leaders of the time quickly understood the need to take steps to ensure the sustainability of water resources, sustainable development and rational exploitation for economic and social development and the preservation of ecosystems for future generations.

It is in this context that the Organization was established on 30 June 1978 in Kaolack, Senegal, by Presidents Jawara (Gambia) and Sédar Senghor (Senegal).

But given that the river originates in the Fouta-Djalon massif, it was necessary to have a rational and balanced global vision of the resource at the basin level, and therefore for Guinea to be able to join the organization. Which she did in June 1981.

Followed in June 1983 by Guinea Bissau, which, although not in the Gambia River Basin, had expressed interest in joining this organization. Thus, the Kayanga/Géba and Koliba/Corubal river basins, which Guinea Bissau shares with Guinea and Senegal, have been placed under the jurisdiction of OMVG.

What are the specific difficulties encountered on the legal or other aspects in setting up the organisation and perhaps also in the course of implementing these actions?

When creating an organization, we always start by designing the legal and institutional framework.
The eminent lawyers of our states, supported by international advisers, have proposed structures that have been validated by the states. Thus, the convention establishing the OMVG was accompanied by a convention giving the Gambia River the status of an international river.

An institutional framework has been adopted, with the Conference of Heads of State, the supreme body that defines the policy and main orientations of the development programme. This Conference meets every two years, and has a rotating presidency between the four member countries (Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Senegal).

Below that is the Council of Ministers, which is the decision-making body. It examines and approves annual activity programmes and draft budgets. All decisions taken are sanctioned by resolutions of the Council of Ministers to the attention of the implementing body, which is the Office of the High Commissioner. Like the Conference of Heads of State, the Council has a rotating presidency every two years, divided between the four countries.

The High Commissioner is therefore the implementing body that implements the policy and decisions once the programme and budget have been approved. It is composed of a High Commissioner, a Secretary General and 4 Directorates.
The post of High Commissioner is assigned to a country, it is also rotating, with a mandate of 4 years renewable once. it is supported by the Studies, Planning and Regional Infrastructure Department, the Finance Department, the Environment and Sustainable Development Department and the Directorate of Administration and General Resources.

To ensure good governance of the Organization, a financial controller and an External Auditor monitor the expenditure of the High Commission and report to the Council of Ministers. This ensures transparency and financial regulations.

But what is important is the common nature of the works, their co-ownership: not all the works that the OMVG carries out belong to a State: even if it is on its territory, it is the property of the four States.

It is a pledge of shared responsibility and interest, of consensual decision-making; it is also a pledge of solidarity, security, peace and stability for our States.


What are the main problems, or the main problem, if any, facing the Organization?

Like any organization, there are sometimes minor difficulties, particularly in collecting States' contributions. But the organization does not suffer as a result.

We are currently implementing a gigantic "Energy" project consisting of two hydraulic installations and a 1700 km 250 KV high voltage line that will supply all production centres in the 4 countries at a cost of 722 million dollars.
It is an excellent example of a collective contribution: it is financed by 8 donors (AfDB, IDB, IBU, AFD, KFW, BOAD, Cohesion Fund, etc.) and States.
However, the multiplicity of donors leads to the multiplicity of procedures, each donor having its own constraints that must be respected. This is a factor in the extension of the turnaround time, and it results in claims from companies,

The Samba-Galou multi-purpose dam will produce 128 MW in terms of power, and will allow the irrigation of 90,000 hectares (50,000 in Gambia and 40,000 in Senegal). This will make it possible to develop agriculture and ensure food self-sufficiency in these countries.

It will also push back the "salt tongue" by 100 kilometres (this will allow agricultural land to be reclaimed), and regulate the hydrological regime of rivers, thus limiting flooding.

However, we will allow a so-called ecological flow to pass through, to allow aquatic life downstream and thus comply with environmental standards.

What are your other medium-term priorities for action in the next 10 years?

In terms of energy, there are second-generation facilities in the pipeline, whose production will use our interconnection line (which is oversized, with a transmission capacity of 800 megawatts).
In addition, the 1700 kilometres of line will be accompanied by a vast rural electrification programme: all the villages crossed, and less than 10 km from the line will be supplied; this action is already underway, even before the end of the project. This is financed by the World Bank.

Areas that are more than 10 km away will be electrified by the AfDB-funded "Universal Access to Electricity" project. For non-eligible areas, renewable energy production systems will be set up (wind, solar, etc.).

But it is not energy alone that drives development: it is both energy, village water, drinking water, agricultural water, livestock, health, education and transport. In this context, we are in the process of setting up, with Swiss cooperation and the United Nations, an innovative financing mechanism for the study of an Integrated Development Master Plan, which will integrate all aspects of development. Indeed, as long as our cities symbolize happiness, there is nothing we can do about the rural exodus and illegal immigration, which are today the main scourge facing our States and the international community.

A workshop will soon bring together all the technical and financial partners, all the Member States of OMVG. They will be presented with an innovative financing mechanism: it will be a matter of lending directly to the Basin Agency so that it can carry out its programmes.

During a round table, each partner will present the programmes and projects in the short, medium and long term and will say which project interests them, which will finance them in the short, medium and long term.

The organization of the Gambia River is in the forefront, like the OMVS, first by the anteriority, since it was created several decades ago, and then by the system set up of common infrastructures, in co-ownership, benefit sharing, etc....  Are you called by States or emerging transboundary basin organizations that also want to create and implement themselves and are looking for examples such as the one in Gambia?

There is an organization that classifies all basin agencies. OMVS was in first place, but for the past 2 years, OMVS has been tied with OMVG.

All the other basin organizations come to be inspired, the Niger Basin Authority, the Volta Authority, even the countries of Central and East Asia such as Kazakhstan, come to consult us and be inspired by our experience.

What makes the difference between OMVG and other organizations is the basin-wide management of the entire basin, from source to mouth. There are many Basin Agencies, in France or elsewhere, but they only cover the territorial portion of the country, they do not have jurisdiction outside their territory.

You have an excellent example with the Mekong, which unfortunately does not include the 2 countries upstream.....

OMVS and OMVG are structures that manage the entire basin for the benefit of all States, which is what makes them special.


Interview conducted during INBO's 11th World General Assembly - From 30 September to 03 October 2019 in Marrakech (Morocco) - © INBO 2019