China has sent officials from its commerce ministry, CHEC construction and EXIM Bank to study the operational capacity of the Banjul seaport as part of plans to build a deep water seaport, just months after restoring diplomatic relations after a two-decade break.China has spent more than $800 million in building a deep water seaport in Kirbi, Cameroon and spent more than a billion dollars in expanding the port of Abidjan.

A new scramble for Africa

All these projects were funded by EXIM Bank and construction done by China Harbor Engineering Company. In February, President Yahya Jammeh announced that he will be building a deep water seaport raising questions as to where funding for the billion-dollar project might come from and what might necessitate such.

In the weeks following the announcement, the Gambia strengthened diplomatic relations with Russia, prompting predictions that Russia wants better access to the Atlantic to counter the NATO offensive. But there is a new scramble for Africa among world super powers who are trying to grab strategic naval gateways such a Banjul/Dakar and Djibouti.

The Gambia, with its navigable river gives deep access to the Atlantic and to mainland Africa, is a great place for communist nations like Russia and China to have naval stations. The question remains: will President Yahya Jammeh give such access?

New relations for new source of financial aid

China and Russia may not care much about human rights, which is causing Jammeh’s administration to lose millions of dollars in budgetary aid and facing a possible European Union sanction.

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Foreign Affairs

In the middle of the new millennium, The Gambia was removed from the Millennium Challenge Fund and from the African Growth and Opportunity Act in early 2014.

The Gambia, whichhas a cloudy economic outlook with a depleted foreign currency reserve is looking for new allies but many say China is just using Gambia as a puppet in its political games. The Gambia severed ties with Taiwan in 2013 and some see restoring diplomatic relations between Beijing and Banjul as a way to warn Taiwan’s pro-independent new leader.

It has renamed itself as an Islamic Republic as a way to attract Arab and Gulf nation funds, but aside from getting some form of aid through the Kuwait fund, not so much has been gained in relations with Qatar or the United Arab Emirates.

China has been investing heavily in Africa, including in South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The Gambia’s relations with the United States are strained.The Gambia did reject a marine security agreement with the US but it used to be a key US ally as an emergency landing port for its space missions and shuttles and being a landing location for US Allied Naval convoys during the World Wars.

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