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Indian helping to light up Gambia (Diaspora Feature)

IANS  |  Banjul (Gambia) 

Like many Indians who are proving to be philanthropists around Africa, Ram Mohan has set up a social business called Comafrique Intelizon Initiative and has embarked on the replacement of candles in villages in the Gambia with solar lights from India.

"This is an initiative that must be applauded," Abdou Jallow, a teacher in the Serekuda district of the Gambia's capital, Banjul, told IANS.

"I have not met the man Ram Mohan yet, but l have heard of his name from people who spoke about the solar lights," Jallow said in an endorsement of what one man can do for other people.

The decision to venture into the distribution of solar lights fits into Mohan's vision for his company, Comafrique, that renewable sources of energy are key to the future. In its website, the company says it is "looking at a green planet through agriculture as well as the extensive use of renewable sources of energy".

In addition, they believe that "self-sufficiency is attainable through honest and dedicated work".

"Agro-produce and their sensible exploitation are the key to independence from insensible imports and are the key to the eradication of un-employment -- and thus to economic independence."

Mohan, son of a former English Language professor at the National Defence Academy in India, told IANS that he came from Kerala but grew up in Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa and later in Pune and Chennai before finally making his way to the Gambia in West Africa where he has made his home since 1998. For a man who has travelled around a lot, it is no wonder that he has found the Gambia a place to live for all this while and it is no wonder that he is also serving as the consul general of India.

Mohan has also lived for a while in Guinea-Bissau but said, after the 1998 coup in that country, he decided to check out the Gambia on a sesame business lead.

"I came and found the Gambia to be a beautiful, clean and safe country and decided then to make the place a home and that was it," he said.

Since arriving in the Gambia, he has not only built his Comafrique business but also traded in commodities like raw cashewnuts for export, sesame and a few other agro commodities.

Mohan says his company is principally in the domain of agro-produce. "We have played a major role in the popularisation of the export of agro-produce and have stressed on diversification of exports from the traditional peanuts to important cash crops like cashewnuts, sesame and hibiscus."

It is therefore not surprising that Gambians of all ages agree that Mohan has helped to grow their country. The company continues to venture into other business areas and currently is concentrating on simple solar solutions for Africa.

"We have taken up the distrbution of INTELIZONs products for Africa," he said, adding that, "we have also taken up distribution of veterinary products from CIPLA India".

That is not all. An astute businessman that he is, Mohan says, "I also have a thriving restaurant called the Vineyard which has become very popular with both the locals and tourists who visit the country."

When he decided to get into the hospitality business, Mohan did not have to look far, because his brother had been in the restaurant business in Europe for a while.

"My brother ran a restaurant in Kiel, Germany for many years," he said, and so he just called him to help open the Vineyard in the Gambia.

Though the restaurant has been running for a while now, Mohan is quick to say that, "the hospitality business is not my forte -- the restaurant is only an ancillary business".

He is married to Jamila , a Moroccan national who, like Mohan, is settled more or less in the Gambia, Morocco and India.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at

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First Published: Sat, November 22 2014. 14:16 IST