By Rohey Jadama The Consumer Protection Association of the Gambia (CPAG) and the Foundation Gambia Incorporation-Consumer Rights Protection Centre (FGI-CRPC) have yesterday, 28th January 2016 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) conference hall at Mile 7.The two consumer organisations entered into a strategic partnership to collaborate and cooperate on consumer matters of common concern and interest. Their aim is to synergies their efforts in promoting and protecting the interest of the consumers in The Gambia.Mr. Amadou Ceesay, the Executive Secretary of Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC), who delivered a statement, said the Consumer Protection Act requires the Commission to work on four core areas where they have made much progress and that these are the setting up of a functioning consumer protection unit, consumer tribunals with attendant rules, creation of awareness and the ongoing building of capacities.Mr. Ceesay said the consumer protection tribunals are to operate countrywide but as at now, a pilot tribunal is operational at the Bundung court and ready to hear cases. He said they have also been organising capacity building programs.“We need consumer groups to partner with us. You exist to provide support to consumers and we are stakeholders and we have to work with consumer groups as before and we shall continue to do so,” said the GCCPC Executive Secretary. Mr. Ceesay said GCCPC has been organising consumer forums annually which are meant to bring the stakeholders together to discuss issues affecting consumers. The GCCPC Executive concluded by commending CPAG and FGI-CRPC for this initiative. Also delivering a statement, Mr. Kelepha Samba, Director of Human Resources and Consumer Affairs at the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), deputizing the Director General, said one of their main functions as mandated by the PURA Act 2001 is to protect consumers in the regulated sectors and that this cannot be done effectively without the close collaboration with consumers and consumer associations. He said PURA as a regulator have developed relationship with the Consumer Protection Associations over the years. Mr. Samba said their Consumer Affairs Directorate is the watchdog in protecting consumers in a professional manner. “We want to see transparent, meaningful, comparable and up-to-date information and policies that could be easily available to consumers, in line with the revised United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection . It is worth noting that Consumer protection and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) go hand in hand to ensure greater consumer welfare worldwide,” said Mr. Samba.He said they wholeheartedly agree that consumers must have the ability to exercise their rights, have clear and accurate information, and be able to choose operators freely. “It’s a very simple idea, which we call “consumer empowerment,”. This requires building a good relationship with the consumer protection groups like CPAG, FGI-CRCP. Over the years, we have collaborated on different activities like consumer education, awareness and advocacy, in particular, the consumer parliament, which is the larger platform for the operators and consumers to dialogue in an open forum,” said the Director of Human Resource and Consumer Affairs at PURA.Speaking earlier, Mrs. Juka F. Jabang, chairperson of the ceremony, said the MoU signing is significant because it marks an important milestone in the history of consumer protection efforts in the Gambia.She said the two institutions are already making headways in the areas of consumer rights and protection and that they are coming together for a strategic partnership to jointly pursue their common objectives for consumer rights and protection in the Gambia.Mrs. Jabang, congratulated the two institutions for taking the bold decision to pull their resources together in the interest of efficiency . She said CPAG has taken significant steps in conducting surveys such as Food Survey conducted jointly with NaNA and consumer international and studies on the consumer laws that exists in the Gambia and they have recently completed the implementation of good market project in partnership with ASSET.Mr. Amadou Gaye, the Chairperson of CPAG, after dwelling in detail on the genesis of CPAG, said they have been participating in the development of relevant policies in the different economic sectors in the country since its establishment in 2015 and they continue to be a relevant association in the country.For his part, Mr. Sulayman Madi Sillah, the Secretary General, FGI-CRPC, said his organisation protects the right and interest of consumers in the Gambia. He said their mission is to carry activities that will increase consumer awareness on their rights and responsibilities and to empower them.The MoU was read out by Ms. Amie Jobarteh, a student at ITTOG, before the document was signed by the Chairperson of CPAG and Secretary General of FGI-CRPC.The event was graced by Mr. Lamin Camara, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI), representatives from the relevant government ministries and agencies, private sector operators, consumer associations and the media.