Discusses distribution network from how products enter to final destination, including reliability of distribution systems, distribution centers, ports, etc.
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 is a somewhat competitive logistics industry, but 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 almost always 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 in order to reduce customs duties. Barrow’s administration continues to crack down on this practice and violators have been known to face stiff fines.
Trade finance or trade credit is not common. This is a reflection of the generally limited access to finance in The Gambia, largely as a result of high interest rates. However, large importers and exporters with longstanding relationships with banks are able to get financing through letters of credit or overdraft facilities. Interest rates have dropped significantly, since the change in governemnet, from being in excess of 25 percent, to current rates of 18 percent.
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.
Establishing an Office
The Gambia Investment and Export Proportion (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 can be done by anyone in theory, a local attorney who is familiar with the system can facilitate the process. The local incorporation fee for businesses is GMD 10,000 ($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. Real estate prices are generally low, relative to average domestic income levels. Several modern commercial centers are under construction, which should add to the supply of office buildings and further reduction of rental costs. A 160 hectare Business Park is under construction at the International Airport City Free Zone, and will be a significant boost for businesses seeking office space 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, U.S. brand names are in high demand and are well known locally and are associated with high quality.
The Gambia has only a few marketing and advertising firms. Due to increasing connectivity through mobile phones with both 3G and 4G connections, which also facilitates access to social media, the costs associated with reaching consumers is low. Direct marketing through regular mail has limited prospects because the reach and quality of the Gambian postal service is low. Media such as print, radio and television platforms also present easy access to consumers.
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.
The Gambia is served by major package delivery companies such as FedEx and DHL. 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. 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.