The Gambia is famed for their Tourist industry, every year The Gambia see's around 100,000 visitors a year as people come to indulge in the beautiful scenery and fantastic hospitality of the Gambian people. According to a World Bank report last year, arrivals in The Gambia were reported at 91,000 in 2010. It is the second highest earner of foreign revenue. Tourism is said to have contributed approximately 15% of the national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011. But looks like Gambia or should I say Gambians are taking a new route to global recognition and revenue generation.
Enter Ibrahim Ceesay, winner of the 2012 Face of Fashion 4 Africa competition held in The Gambia. The ambitious young man believes that his modelling career is one great way in which he can and will represent the country on a global level. He hopes that by becoming a popular face through participation in fashion shows and being featured on TV, he would be the conduit that tells a positive story of Gambia and consequently attract potential investors, visitors and even new residents.
The 23 year old model of Fula heritage, believes that expressing local Gambian fashion, talent and beauty of Africa is a great way to connect to the world and modelling is just the perfect tool for that job. This is very brave of him because until recently fashion modelling was not seen as the career of choice for many young Gambians, least of all males. If you were from a respectable family, you just do not model. Modelling used to be perceived as something people with little or no parental guidance do. Female models were seen as without morals. As for men, it was totally unheard off. But times have changed and as fellow West African countries, like Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal take the lead in showcasing their cultural heritage through fashion to a global audience, Gambians are beginning to realize the huge potential that is the fashion industry.
However according to Ceesay the Gambian Government has an important role to play in the development of the Fashion industry for sustainable revenue generation and as an employer of young people, "The Government needs to provide the environment suitable for the young ones to groom, practice and excel in their diverse abilities, for the more young ones in the field, the better the future of the industry. Unfortunately many are losing hope and are deviating from their creative potential."
Despite this Ceesay is confident about the future of Modelling and Fashion in Gambia, he says: "over the years, the views and general perspective of Gambians towards modelling has changed for the better, they now seem to appreciate the upcoming talents, we just need more exposure, more current shows and international links, because we can compete at all levels. The more exposure we get will literally change the face of the industry as we have all it takes, from complete professional designers, make up artists, stylists to models."
This is the one time when you can rightly say, watch this space!