THE GAMBIA AT A GLANCE

 

  • Across West Africa, Politics takes place within the framework of a presidential republic, whereby the President is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.
  • The Gambian state’s monopoly on the use of force is largely uncontested across its territory. There are very sporadic incursions of insurgent groups from southern Senegal, but these do not pose a threat to the state.
  • The Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) maintains a small peacekeeping force in the country, at the request of the Gambian government
  • There are no separatist movements or other significant attempts to call into question the legitimacy of the state while the previous government allegedly granted tacit support to the separatist movement.
  • The Gambian state’s administrative reach is circumscribed and erratic due to a lack of resources and corruption. Basic functions such as tax collection are conducted inconsistently, and tax evasion can occur
  • There is no public financing for elections or campaigns. The electoral act prohibits candidates and parties from seeking funding from businesses and foreigners. However, there are no mechanisms to check this.
ECONOMICAL
  • The Gambia’s economic performance is uneven. By measurements such as inflation, tax revenue, GDP per capita (2017: $1,715), and unemployment, the Gambia underperforms in comparison to the already poor regional standards.
  • The Gambia suffered from years of economic mismanagement under the regime of Yahya Jammeh, which ended in early 2017. Moreover, GDP per capita growth was volatile in recent years but improved from -0.8% in 2016 to 0.4% in 2017.
  • Almost 40% of Gambians live in poverty and in 2017 the country is ranked 174 out of 189 countries in the HDI (0.460). The Gambia’s score on the HDI is considerably lower due to inequality, suggesting that inequality is structurally ingrained.
  • Essential infrastructure such as sanitation and health care is either uneven, subject to interruptions, or simply unavailable to parts of the population (especially in rural areas.)
  • In several key areas of the economy, such as tourism and agriculture, there are tacit agreements in place between large-scale – often international – incumbents, and local vendors, making market entry difficult.
  • There is no import licensing system in The Gambia, and imports/exports can generally proceed without formal legal obstacles.
SOCIAL
  • Gender equality, particularly in terms of education, has been a priority area for successive Gambian governments, but equality is yet to be achieved.
  • The literacy rate gap between men and women is large (almost 20 percentage points in 2013), with a literacy rate of 51.4% for men and 33.6% for women.
  • Although the Gambia is technically a secular republic, Islam plays large role in public affairs. Social exclusion is exacerbated by gender inequality. The Gambia’s score on the Gender Inequality Index was 0.623 in 2017 (ranked 149 out of 160 countries).
  • Gambians who are Muslim (approximately 95% of the population) are under the jurisdiction of Islamic law (Shariah) for personal matters such as divorce and inheritance.
  • Gambia’s social safety net is weak. Retirement benefits are available only to a small percentage of the population. Other social benefits, such as compensation for workplace injuries, unemployment insurance, or family leave are either non-existent or only available to a small subset of the population.
TECHNOLOGICAL
  • Gambia’s TNA (Technological Needs Assessment) emphasizes several climate adaptations and mitigation technologies as ways of building climate resilience and curbing emissions. One of the projects outlined seeks to promote the use of wind energy through the installation of wind energy equipment in a hundred communities.
  • The telecommunication sector is an active market for foreign investors. The four main telecommunication companies are: Africell (foreign-owned), Comium (foreign-owned), Gamtel (state-owned) and Qcell (private, domestic). The penetration rate of mobile phones is well over 100 percent.
  • Importation and management of hardware wireless technology, computer information systems, e-services i.e. e-government systems, servers, printing technologies, audiovisual systems, desktop computers, tablets, and other computer hardware and accessories are among the best leading sub-sector prospects within the Telecommunications sector.
  • With the recent establishment of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) directorate under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the government has identified several priority sectors for long-term concessions. Among these is the telecommunications sector.
ENVIRONMENTAL
  • Environmental concerns have proven to be a major challenge for the Barrow government. Progress on improving access to water has been made, however, as World Bank estimates suggest that 90% of Gambians now have access to water.
  • The national environment agency, under the ministry of environment, climate change, and natural resources, is tasked with ensuring that Gambian social and economic development takes adequate account of environmental concerns by conducting appropriate risk assessments and taking remedial action. However, environmental concerns do not appear to exert a particularly significant influence in policy-making.
  • Illicit fishing remains a major threat to the Gambia and Gambians livelihood, but much of this is carried out by non-Gambian vessels and the country lacks the maritime resources to adequately protect its waters.
LEGAL
  • Disputes on matters are heard by qadi courts, which are provided for in the Gambian constitution and are regulated by the state. The (secular) high courts have appellate jurisdiction over qadi courts. Criminal law is secular and based on English common law.
  • The Gambian judiciary under Barrow can be considered largely independent, not just constitutionally but also in terms of being free from government. There has yet to be a significant test of the Gambian judiciary’s independence.
  • The Gambia has a complete range of business regulation tools and laws that are in line with best international practices. In recent years, the country has taken steps to improve the investment climate and to facilitate trade.
  • Property rights are in principle well-defined and regulated in The Gambia, but there are several areas of concern. Some property matters, such as inheritance, are governed by Islamic law and the implementation thereof, particularly in rural areas, is not always carefully regulated and is arguably discriminatory based on gender.

The negative effects of the current economic downturn are being felt globally, of which West Africa is no exception. The proposed PWA initiatives, methodology/strategy which uses a successful business incubator as the model, our plans for sustainability measurements of success, and international best practices.