Gambia, The - Country Commercial Guide
Investment Climate Statement

The Investment Climate Statement Chapter of the CCG is provided by the State Department. Any questions on the ICS can be directed to EB-ICS-DL@state.gov.

 

Last published date: 2021-10-14

The U.S. Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements provide information on the business climates of more than 170 economies and are prepared by economic officers stationed in embassies and posts around the world.  They analyze a variety of economies that are or could be markets for U.S. businesses.

Topics include Openness to Investment, Legal and Regulatory systems, Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property Rights, Transparency, Performance Requirements, State-Owned Enterprises, Responsible Business Conduct, and Corruption.

These statements highlight persistent barriers to further U.S. investment.  Addressing these barriers would expand high-quality, private sector-led investment in infrastructure, further women’s economic empowerment, and facilitate a healthy business environment for the digital economy.  To access the ICS, visit the U.S. Department of State’s Investment Climate Statement website. 

Executive Summary

Known as the “Smiling Coast of Africa,” The Gambia is a small country of roughly 2 million people located in West Africa. The Gambia has an active private sector, and the government has announced its support for encouraging local investment and attracting foreign direct investment. There is a government agency dedicated to attracting foreign investment and promoting exports and it provides guidelines and incentives to all investors whose portfolios qualify for a Special Investment Certificate.

The Gambia has a small economy that relies primarily on agriculture, tourism, and remittances for support. Although The Gambia remains heavily reliant on the agriculture sector, recent economic growth has been mainly driven by the services sector, including financial services, telecommunication and construction. The country also has a long trading history and is a party to several trade agreements, which have the potential to make it an attractive production platform for the region and beyond. Strides are also expected to be made in the energy sector (oil exploration and exploitation; renewable energies, specifically solar); natural resources (heavy mineral sands); agriculture (rice, cereal); processed foods production; tourism; and finally, infrastructure (roads, telecommunications systems, drainage systems, and bridges).

The Gambia is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic union of 15 countries located in West Africa. The Gambia’s major trading partners are Ivory Coast (15% of total imports) and China (15%). Others include: United States, Germany, India, and the United Kingdom.

With its young and rapidly growing population, Gambia provides a market with numerous opportunities for the sale of international products and services. Many Gambians have strong personal or professional ties to the United States, as well as a strong affinity for American brands. There is ongoing interest in new American brands, and many Gambians have opened shops aiming to exclusively sell American products. The quality and durability of American products are highly regarded. English is the official language and the business language across the country. Many Gambians are multilingual, speaking English and other regional languages.

Disputes over land ownership and use are a major problem in The Gambia. There are occasional disagreements in rural areas mainly in the West Coast Region over land ownership or succession. Most conflicts occur when community leaders sell a plot of land to multiple buyers. The Lands Office, responsible for recording and maintaining deeds, relies on an outdated manual record keeping system, with no digitization of land records, hindering efficiency and effectiveness and exacerbating land ownership conflicts.

Economy and Impact of COVID-19

While inclusive and sustained economic growth remains one of the main objectives of the Government of The Gambia (GoTG), the country’s strengthened economic growth trend that began following the peaceful transition of presidential power in 2017 was severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in nine years, GDP contracted in 2020 to -1.5% against original forecasted 6.5% growth. The impacts of airport closures, land border restrictions, and the total collapse of the tourism industry continue to reverberate. The government has stated that economic recovery will be at the core of reform policy priorities for the upcoming year, with medium-term policy priorities anchored on achieving and sustaining a more diversified growth to improve the living standards of all citizens, in addition to creating a favorable environment for the private sector to thrive.

COVID-19 crippled the tourism sector and dampened economic activities throughout the country very early on. From April 2020 to October 2020, The Gambia was in a state of emergency with several restrictive measures put in place, including the closure or scaling down of businesses, schools, markets, restaurants, and nightclubs. For the remainder of the 2019-2020 season, the normally-lucrative tourism sector ground to a standstill as tourists returned to their home countries and many hotels and tourism service-related businesses shut down. The resulting drop in wages or loss of work altogether for Gambians employed in the tourism and service sectors reverberated throughout the local economy.