Friday, October 18, 2019 - 2:47pm

The entire country of The Gambia (population 2.2 million) has only one public library. Madison Kanifing Sister City organizers, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, and Mayor Talib Ahmed Bensouda will announce the first stage of a plan to build a new public library in Kanifing, The Gambia, at a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, October 22, 11:30am and held at the Madison Public Library’s Central Library (201 W. Mifflin St.)

This proposed new project would expand access to educational resources to the Kanifing Municipal Council, the most densely populated of The Gambia’s eight local government areas.  The library would include resources for technology, community events, trade and skill education, resource center for entrepreneurs and small businesses, and local history preservation resources.  The Kanifing municipality is one of the fastest growing regions in the country resulting in increased demand on basic social services and economic opportunities.

In fall of 2018, Kanifing Mayor Talib Ahmed Bensouda visited Madison, where he toured Madison’s Central Library and was inspired by ideas of how a library could transform his city.  Through the efforts of the Sister City partnership, Mayor Bensouda and his staff are planning to build a new public library in Kanifing.

Kanifing Municipal Council’s vision for the library is for it to be an innovation leader in implementing a variety of strategies to bring knowledge and promote learning opportunities for people of all ages, particularly school or college/university ages.

"The Kanifing Municipal Library will provide a safe space for students to study and offer learning resources that will complement pupils’ learning in schools. Without this, pupils will struggle to compete globally. In the municipality, there is no public library where children can go and educate themselves,” said Kanifing Mayor Taleb  Ahmed Bensouda. “I am very excited about the impact the Kanifing Municipal Library will have on the education and well-being of children and youths."

"Madison's relationships with our Sister Cities, including Kanifing, are essential to breaking down barriers to cultural understanding and connecting with our city's immigrant populations," said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. "I am proud that our library has inspired city leaders in Kanifing to embark upon their own library building project and wish them every success."

In 1998, the City of Madison established a Sister City Program to promote cultural exchange, develop international friendships on the human level, and to work for peace and understanding of all cultures. Since 1998, the City of Madison has established nine sister city relationships. The relationship between Madison and the municipality of Kanifing, The Gambia, established on May 17, 2016, is one of them.  Both Madison and Sun Prairie have significant populations of Gambians.  “The Madison Sister City Program is committed to establishing a new library in the city of Kanifing,” said Madison Kanifing Sister City Chair Jerreh Kujabi.

The library complex will be built in phases.  Land has already been identified and purchased by the Kanifing Municipal Council.  A three-phase approach to construction, common in The Gambia, will include:

Phase one establishes a well-lit courtyard and the initial library building, targeting secondary students and young adults. With just one library in the country, and few places with electricity for students to study, this first stage is a crucial first step toward building partnerships and securing project funding.

Phase two will expand the building to provide access to early childhood education. With 37% of the population of The Gambia under age 14, early education is crucial to the country’s long-term success.

Phase three will further expand the building to make room for job skills training programs. A focus on job skills and knowledge is needed to expand and strengthen the city and nation’s economies.

The library is estimated to cost $3.5 million total, with the first phase costing $800,000.  

The press conference on October 22 is part of a longer visit by Mayor Bensouda and other Sister City representatives from Kanifing, which will include attendance at the Madison Kanifing Sister City Partnership Evening on October 19 from 5-10pm, a meeting between Mayors Rhodes-Conway and Bensouda, and a second tour of the Madison Public Library.