The business climate presents several market challenges for investors considering The Gambia as a potential investment destination:
During the former regime, there were reports of coercion of private companies, which were forced to agree to business partnerships with then-President Jammeh or his associates as a condition to continuing their business activities in The Gambia. However, the new government has stated that it supports a market-driven economy and will not intervene in the foreign exchange market.
Market size: The Gambia’s small market can be a hindrance to large investments. Limited integration with other major economies could make it difficult to serve other markets through a Gambia-based operation. The poverty rate is also high at 48 percent, and the average public-sector income levels are very low at $50 USD to $150 USD per month. 90 percent of the economy is made up of SMEs. Telecommuncations, hotels, construction firms, directly and indirectly are considered to be active and the leading employers in the private sector in The Gambian economy.
Energy: Gambia lacks the infrastructure necessary to support advanced commercial activities, however conditions are improving. Access to electricity has vastly improved throughout the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) since the GoTG signed a contract with Karpowership in 2018 to deploy a Power ship of 35 MW for a period of 2 years which has been since been renewed until 2027. Karpowership has been supplying 60% of Gambia’s total electricity needs.
Nearly 50 percent of the population does not have access to electricity, and nearly 70 percent of the population in urban areas does not have access to safe drinking water. Furthermore, the quality of services is weak due to frequent service outages, with some communities going without water for days, weeks, or even months at a period. Despite major improvements in operational and financial performance in recent years, the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) has yet to attain financial viability.
Human Capital / Labor: The Gambia has a labor force participation rate of 60.54, mainly comprised of young people between 15 and 35. Agriculture is the main source of employment in the economy, providing jobs to over 75 percent of the population. However, the lack of diversification and modernization, combined with a youth exodus to Europe and the United States through varying modes of migration, has greatly affected productivity. The low literacy rate, which stands at less than 60 percent, limits the amount of available skilled labor, despite the proliferation of skills training centers and academies in the market.