The main entry point for goods coming to The Gambia is the seaport in the capital city, Banjul. The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal on its northern, southern, and eastern borders which can also act as entry points and bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. There Gambia’s logistics industry is limited, with few major importers. These importers distribute to a network of wholesalers, who then supply retailers. The Gambian-Lebanese community controls most of the top end of the market. However, Mauritanian, and Indian businesses have also started to become major players in the market.
Customs duties are collected for entering goods, given concerted efforts by the government to maximize revenue collection. It is a common practice for many importers to undervalue goods declared to reduce customs duties. Barrow’s administration continues to crack down on this practice and violators have been known to face stiff fines.
The Gambia has porous transportation infrastructure. National highways are paved, most of the roads has only two lanes. In preparation for forthcoming Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit in Banjul, construction is currently under the way, which involves 50 kilometers of 20 new feeder roads and a modern dual carriageway.
Using an Agent or Distributor
American businesses have the option of working with agents or distributors. The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is a reliable resource of information on businesses across sectors in The Gambia. The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) maintains information on business regulations and procedures for foreign investors. The Political and Economic Office of U.S. Embassy Banjul maintains current information on commercial activities through its links with government ministries and departments, as well as businesses.
The use of an agent or distributor is not compulsory, but most foreign companies entering the market tend to develop a local partnership with one or more domestic businesses because they have experience and a good understanding of the local market.
Establishing an Office
The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) assists foreign investors to establish businesses in The Gambia. According to the 2019 Doing Business report, it takes 7 procedures to register a business in The Gambia. These procedures include registering a unique company name, obtaining a tax identification number, registering employees with the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, registering with the Commercial Registry, obtaining an operational license, and designing a company seal. While this process can be done independently, a local attorney familiar with the system can facilitate the process. The local incorporation fee for businesses is GMD 10,000 (USD 200). Other procedures might also impose additional, albeit less costly fees. In 2010, a Single Window Business Registration Desk was established at the GIEPA offices, which has reduced the time it takes to register a business.
Establishing an office in The Gambia is not difficult. Several modern commercial centers are under construction, which should add to the supply of office buildings and further reduction of rental costs.
For the latest Investment Climate Statement (ICS) which includes information on investment and business environments in foreign economies pertinent to establishing and operating an office and to hiring employees, visit the U.S. Department of Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements website.
Franchise arrangements are rare in The Gambia. The Gambia is a small country with a small consumer base, which limits opportunities for U.S. franchises. Several Gambian businesses have expressed interest in U.S. franchises, and have participated in franchising trade conventions in the U.S. While they may not be present in the market, U.S. brand names are well-known and have a high reputation for quality. The potential for franchising remains largely unexplored in The Gambia. The popularity of U.S. brands suggests that those brands have the potential to succeed in the Gambian market.
Direct marketing is not a well-established business model in The Gambia. There are a very limited number of direct marketing companies with an established presence. However, a recent increase in interest on the part of international direct marketing companies may indicate a future increase in this business method.
U.S. companies should seek professional assistance in negotiating agreements and selecting partners. The Gambia has no restrictions on joint ventures between local businesses and foreign investors. GIEPA provides investment incentives in the form of tax holidays for foreign investments in their priority sectors. Normal due diligence is recommended when partnering with local businesses.
International companies such as (DHL, UPS, and FedEx) dominate express delivery in The Gambia. However, domestically, express delivery options are limited. Each of the major international companies usually have a single office or agent where packages can be picked up or delivered. The delivery of packages by The Gambia Post Office has improved over the years with offices across the country. However, local postal service is not recommended for commercial use.
The U.S. Embassy in Banjul offers assistance to U.S. companies seeking information on a range of economic and commercial issues. The Political and Economic section strongly advises U.S. companies to conduct due diligence on all potential new business partners in The Gambia. This can be supplemented with information from the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and the Gambia Import and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA). Commercial information brokers are not accessible in The Gambia; for instance, there are no private credit bureaus. Though the Central Bank of The Gambia runs a credit reference system, it is mainly used for banking supervision rather than serving as an information sharing system among private parties.