Oil-frontier Gambia needs support, Europe says

May 7 (UPI) — To strengthen political progress, the government in Gambia, an emerging West African oil hotspot, needs international support, the European Commission said.

Opposition leader Adama Barrow assumed the presidency of Gambia in late 2016, ending nearly a quarter century of authoritarian rule by Yahya Jammeh. With Jammeh initially refusing to give up power, the Barrow administration has been beleaguered by a difficult economic and political transition period.

The European Commission hosts an international support conference for Gambia on May 22, where the focus will be on raising financial support for Barrow’s national development agenda.

“In order to meet the expectations of the population to see swift and tangible improvements in living conditions, and to consolidate the political progress achieved so far, the country needs strong international support,” the commission stated.

On top of domestic issues, West African countries have been at odds over their maritime borders. Those disputes have spilled over into the financial interests of several energy companies looking to exploit the emerging oil prospects off the regional coast.

Two Gambian blocks combine for an estimated 1 billion barrels of unrisked barrels of oil and are in close proximity to the SNE oil field offshore Senegal, one of the largest finds in recent years.

For a four-year period ending in 2020, the European Commission said it supported Gambia with around $270 million in assistance. The commission said the funds target budget support and investments in infrastructure necessary for job creation.

The International Monetary Fund predicts recovery for the Gambian economy, which witnessed a sharp contraction in the last election year.

“Over the medium term, The Gambia can achieve a more robust growth path,” the IMF’s latest report read. “This will require continued strong policy implementation and effective fiscal reforms, including ensuring debt sustainability.”