Gambia, The - Country Commercial Guide
Market Challenges

Learn about barriers to market entry and local requirements, i.e., things to be aware of when entering the market for this country.

Last published date: 2021-10-12

The business climate presents several market challenges for investors considering The Gambia as a potential investment destination:

Economic Climate:  Due to its small size, the Gambian market poses challenges to large companies targeting short profit turnover periods. Hurdles to accessing credit, in addition to high interest rates and excessive proof of liquidity deposit demands, have made it particularly difficult for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to access capital within The Gambia. Land registration records are unreliable and difficult to enforce—disputes over real property ownership are difficult and time consuming to resolve.

Inflation dropped from 7.7% (year-on-year) at end-2019 to 5.7% (year-on-year) at end-2020 before picking up to 7.4% at end-March 2021 due to seasonal factors. Large official and private foreign currency inflows helped boost reserves to 4.7 months of imports at end-2020.

Market size:  The Gambia’s small market can be a hindrance to large investments; in 2020, the country had a per capita income (PPP) of $1,850 and estimated GDP (PPP) of $5 billion, both lower than the previous year largely due to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed original expectations for 6.3% growth in 2020. The actual figure was 0 to -0.5%; it is expected to bounce back in 2021 to an estimated growth rate of 4.9%. The decline in growth is mainly due to a sharp decline of the tourism sector due to the global pandemic, though agricultural production and ample remittances funded private construction and prevented an even further drop.  

For the long term, limited integration with other major economies can make it difficult to serve other markets with a Gambia-based operation.   

Telecommunications, hotels, construction firms, directly and indirectly are considered to be active and the leading employers in the private sector in The Gambian economy.

Infrastructure

Frequent power outages pose risks for companies operating without backup power supplies and high data tariffs and interruptions in internet services hinder businesses’ operational efficiency. Telecommunication operating costs remain high and service is slow and subject to black outs due to constant maintenance. In additon, the road system is heavily trafficked and can become impassable during the rainy season due to lack of drainage. Twenty new urban roads are set to be constructed across the Greater Banjul Area, and the main highway running north and south is set to be expanded into a modern four-lane road sidewalks for pedestrians. Timelines for when these projects will be finished are not yet confirmed. The recently constructed Senegambia Bridge, connecting northern and southern Gambia across the river, has provided a vital step in the development of the Trans-Gambia corridor within Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Banjul Port project aims to meet present and future traffic demand at the congested port of Banjul through rehabilitation and expansion of port infrastructure, but the project has not yet made noticable progress.  

Other major infrastructure projects include

  • The Banjul Rehabilitation Project aims to investe $35 million to rehabilitate 37 km of roads and improve the drainage and sewage system in the city of Banjul.
  • The $75 million Basse-Fatoto Road Project will construct a 50 km road from Basse through Fatoto and Koina.
  • The second phase of the Trans-Gambia Corridor Project will include reinforcing the pavement on 24 km of the Farafenni–Senoba road and fill any gaps that may exist in the Phase I Joint Border Post (JBP) construction.

Energy

The Gambia lacks the energy infrastructure necessary to support advanced commercial activities. However, access to electricity has vastly improved throughout the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) since the GoTG signed a contract with Karpowership, a Turkish-owned floating power plant, in 2018 to deploy 35 megawatts (MW) of production for a period of two years. Karpowership, located near Banjul, has been supplying 60% of The Gambia’s total electricity needs. In May 2020, the parties extended the contract by two years. Still, nearly 50% of the population lacks access to electricity. While the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) has made significant improvements in its operational and financial performance in recent years, the utility has yet to achieve financial viability. Customers still face erratic supply of water and electricity.

Human Capital / Labor

The Gambia has a labor force participation rate – both employed individuals and unemployed individuals seeking employment – of 79.4 percent, mainly comprised of young people between 15 and 35. Agriculture is the main source of employment in the economy, providing jobs to 75 percent of the working 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 acadmies in the market.