Photos of Gambia, The

Introduction

Background

The Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965. Geographically surrounded by Senegal, it formed a short-lived Confederation of Senegambia between 1982 and 1989. In 1991, the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty, although tensions flared up intermittently during the regime of Yahya JAMMEH. JAMMEH led a military coup in 1994 that overthrew the president and banned political activity. A new constitution and presidential election in 1996, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, completed a nominal return to civilian rule. JAMMEH was elected president in all subsequent elections including most recently in late 2011. After 22 years of increasingly authoritarian rule, President JAMMEH was defeated in free and fair elections in December 2016. Due to The Gambia’s poor human rights record under JAMMEH, international development partners had distanced themselves, and substantially reduced aid to the country. These channels have now reopened under the administration of President Adama BARROW, who took office in January 2017. The US and The Gambia currently enjoy improved relations. US assistance to the country has supported military education and training programs, as well as various capacity building and democracy strengthening activities.

 

 

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Geography

Location

Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal

Geographic coordinates

13 28 N, 16 34 W

Area

total: 11,300 sq km

land: 10,120 sq km

water: 1,180 sq km

country comparison to the world: 165

Area - comparative

slightly less than twice the size of Delaware

Land boundaries

total: 749 km

border countries (1): Senegal 749 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 18 nm

continental shelf: extent not specified

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical; hot, rainy season (June to November); cooler, dry season (November to May)

Terrain

flood plain of the Gambia River flanked by some low hills

Elevation

mean elevation: 34 m

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point: unnamed elevation 53 m

Natural resources

fish, clay, silica sand, titanium (rutile and ilmenite), tin, zircon

Land use

agricultural land: 56.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 41% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 14.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 43.9% (2018 est.)

other: 0% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

50 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

settlements are found scattered along the Gambia River; the largest communities, including the capital of Banjul, and the country's largest city, Serekunda, are found at the mouth of the Gambia River along the Atlantic coast as shown in this population distribution map

Environment - current issues

deforestation due to slash-and-burn agriculture; desertification; water pollution; water-borne diseases

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

almost an enclave of Senegal; smallest country on the African mainland

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Gambian(s)

adjective: Gambian

Ethnic groups

Mandinka/Jahanka 34%, Fulani/Tukulur/Lorobo 22.4%, Wolof 12.6%, Jola/Karoninka 10.7%, Serahuleh 6.6%, Serer 3.2%, Manjago 2.1%, Bambara 1%, Creole/Aku Marabout 0.7%, other 0.9%, non-Gambian 5.2%, no answer 0.6% (2013 est.)

Languages

English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars

Religions

Muslim 95.7%, Christian 4.2%, none 0.1%, no response 0.1% (2013 est.)

Demographic profile

The Gambia’s youthful age structure – almost 60% of the population is under the age of 25 – is likely to persist because the country’s total fertility rate remains strong at nearly 4 children per woman. The overall literacy rate is around 55%, and is significantly lower for women than for men. At least 70% of the populace are farmers who are reliant on rain-fed agriculture and cannot afford improved seeds and fertilizers. Crop failures caused by droughts between 2011 and 2013 have increased poverty, food shortages, and malnutrition.

The Gambia is a source country for migrants and a transit and destination country for migrants and refugees. Since the 1980s, economic deterioration, drought, and high unemployment, especially among youths, have driven both domestic migration (largely urban) and migration abroad (legal and illegal). Emigrants are largely skilled workers, including doctors and nurses, and provide a significant amount of remittances. The top receiving countries for Gambian emigrants are Spain, the US, Nigeria, Senegal, and the UK. While the Gambia and Spain do not share historic, cultural, or trade ties, rural Gambians have migrated to Spain in large numbers because of its proximity and the availability of jobs in its underground economy (this flow slowed following the onset of Spain’s late 2007 economic crisis).

The Gambia’s role as a host country to refugees is a result of wars in several of its neighboring West African countries. Since 2006, refugees from the Casamance conflict in Senegal have replaced their pattern of flight and return with permanent settlement in The Gambia, often moving in with relatives along the Senegal-Gambia border. The strain of providing for about 7,400 Casamance refugees has increased poverty among Gambian villagers.

Age structure

0-14 years: 35.15% (male 391,993/female 388,816)

15-24 years: 20.12% (male 221,519/female 225,414)

25-54 years: 36.39% (male 396,261/female 412,122)

55-64 years: 4.53% (male 48,032/female 52,538)

65 years and over: 3.81% (male 38,805/female 45,801) (2021 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 86.9

youth dependency ratio: 82.1

elderly dependency ratio: 4.7

potential support ratio: 21.1 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 21.8 years

male: 21.5 years

female: 22.2 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 182

Birth rate

26.42 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 43

Death rate

6.66 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 132

Net migration rate

-1.55 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 157

Population distribution

settlements are found scattered along the Gambia River; the largest communities, including the capital of Banjul, and the country's largest city, Serekunda, are found at the mouth of the Gambia River along the Atlantic coast as shown in this population distribution map

Urbanization

urban population: 62.6% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 4.07% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

459,000 BANJUL (capital) (2021)

note: includes the local government areas of Banjul and Kanifing

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

20.9 years (2013 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality rate

597 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 13

Infant mortality rate

total: 65.04 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 70.93 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 58.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 7

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 66.15 years

male: 63.8 years

female: 68.57 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 194

Contraceptive prevalence rate

16.8% (2018)

note: percent of women aged 15-50

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 91.4% of population

rural: 80.4% of population

total: 87.1% of population

unimproved: urban: 8.6% of population

rural: 19.6% of population

total: 12.9% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.1 physicians/1,000 population (2015)

Hospital bed density

1.1 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 80.4% of population

rural: 44.5% of population

total: 66.3% of population

unimproved: urban: 19.6% of population

rural: 55.5% of population

total: 33.7% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever

water contact diseases: schistosomiasis

animal contact diseases: rabies

respiratory diseases: meningococcal meningitis

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 50.8%

male: 61.8%

female: 41.6% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 9 years

male: 9 years

female: 9 years (2010)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 13.1%

male: 9.1%

female: 17.2% (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 106

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of The Gambia

conventional short form: The Gambia

etymology: named for the Gambia River that flows through the heart of the country

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Banjul

geographic coordinates: 13 27 N, 16 34 W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: Banjul is located on Saint Mary's Island at the mouth of the Gambia River; the Mandinka used to gather fibrous plants on the island for the manufacture of ropes; "bang julo" is Mandinka for "rope fiber"; mispronunciation over time caused the term became the word Banjul

Administrative divisions

5 regions, 1 city*, and 1 municipality**; Banjul*, Central River, Kanifing**, Lower River, North Bank, Upper River, West Coast

Independence

18 February 1965 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 18 February (1965)

Constitution

history: previous 1965 (Independence Act), 1970; latest adopted 8 April 1996, approved by referendum 8 August 1996, effective 16 January 1997; note - referendum on new constitution planned over the next 2 years

amendments: proposed by the National Assembly; passage requires at least three-fourths majority vote by the Assembly membership in each of several readings and approval by the president of the republic; a referendum is required for amendments affecting national sovereignty, fundamental rights and freedoms, government structures and authorities, taxation, and public funding; passage by referendum requires participation of at least 50% of eligible voters and approval by at least 75% of votes cast; amended 2001, 2004, 2010

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Adama BARROW (since 19 January 2017); Vice President Isatou TOURAY (since 15 March 2019); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President Adama BARROW (since 19 January 2017); Vice President Isatou TOURAY (since 15 March 2019)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held on 1 December 2016 (next to be held in 2021); vice president appointed by the president

election results: Adama BARROW elected president; percent of vote - Adama BARROW (Coalition 2016) 43.3%, Yahya JAMMEH (APRC) 39.6%, Mamma KANDEH (GDC) 17.1%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly (58 seats; 53 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 5 appointed by the president; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 6 April 2017 (next to be held in 2022)

election results: percent of vote by party - UDP 37.5%, GDC 17.4%, APRC 16%, PDOIS 9%, NRP 6.3%, PPP 2.5%, other 1.7%, independent 9.6%; seats by party - UDP 31, APRC 5, GDC 5, NRP 5, PDOIS 4, PPP 2, independent 1; composition - men 52, women 6, percent of women 10.3%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court of The Gambia (consists of the chief justice and 6 justices; court sessions held with 5 justices)

judge selection and term of office: justices appointed by the president after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission, a 6-member independent body of high-level judicial officials, a presidential appointee, and a National Assembly appointee; justices appointed for life or until mandatory retirement at age 75

subordinate courts: Court of Appeal; High Court; Special Criminal Court; Khadis or Muslim courts; district tribunals; magistrates courts; cadi courts

Political parties and leaders

Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction or APRC [Fabakary JATTA]
Coalition 2016 [collective leadership] (electoral coalition includes UDP, PDOIS, NRP, GMC, GDC, PPP, and GPDP)
Gambia Democratic Congress or GDC [Mama KANDEH]
Gambia Moral Congress or GMC [Mai FATTY]
Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress or GPDP [Sarja JARJOU]
National Convention Party or NCP [Yaya  SANYANG and Majanko SAMUSA (both claiming leadership)]
National Democratic Action Movement or NDAM [Lamin Yaa JUARA]
National People's Party or NPP [Adama BARROW]
National Reconciliation Party or NRP [Hamat BAH]
People's Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism or PDOIS [Sidia JATTA]
People's Progressive Party or PPP [Yaya CEESAY)]
United Democratic Party or UDP [Ousainou DARBOE]

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AU, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Dawda D. FADERA (since 24 January 2018)

chancery: 5630 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20011

telephone: [1] (202) 785-1399

FAX: [1] (202) 342-0240

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Richard "Carl" PASCHALL (since 9 April 2019)

telephone: [220] 439-2856

embassy: Kairaba Avenue, Fajara, P.M.B.19, Banjul

mailing address: P.M.B. 19, Banjul

FAX: [220] 439-2475

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue with white edges, and green; red stands for the sun and the savannah, blue represents the Gambia River, and green symbolizes forests and agriculture; the white stripes denote unity and peace

National symbol(s)

lion; national colors: red, blue, green, white

National anthem

name: For The Gambia, Our Homeland

lyrics/music: Virginia Julie HOWE/adapted by Jeremy Frederick HOWE

note: adopted 1965; the music is an adaptation of the traditional Mandinka song "Foday Kaba Dumbuya"

Economy

Economic overview

The government has invested in the agriculture sector because three-quarters of the population depends on the sector for its livelihood and agriculture provides for about one-third of GDP, making The Gambia largely reliant on sufficient rainfall. The agricultural sector has untapped potential - less than half of arable land is cultivated and agricultural productivity is low. Small-scale manufacturing activity features the processing of cashews, groundnuts, fish, and hides. The Gambia's reexport trade accounts for almost 80% of goods exports and China has been its largest trade partner for both exports and imports for several years.

The Gambia has sparse natural resource deposits. It relies heavily on remittances from workers overseas and tourist receipts. Remittance inflows to The Gambia amount to about one-fifth of the country’s GDP. The Gambia's location on the ocean and proximity to Europe has made it one of the most frequented tourist destinations in West Africa, boosted by private sector investments in eco-tourism and facilities. Tourism normally brings in about 20% of GDP, but it suffered in 2014 from tourists’ fears of Ebola virus in neighboring West African countries. Unemployment and underemployment remain high.

Economic progress depends on sustained bilateral and multilateral aid, on responsible government economic management, and on continued technical assistance from multilateral and bilateral donors. International donors and lenders were concerned about the quality of fiscal management under the administration of former President Yahya JAMMEH, who reportedly stole hundreds of millions of dollars of the country’s funds during his 22 years in power, but anticipate significant improvements under the new administration of President Adama BARROW, who assumed power in early 2017. As of April 2017, the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union, and the African Development Bank were all negotiating with the new government of The Gambia to provide financial support in the coming months to ease the country’s financial crisis.

The country faces a limited availability of foreign exchange, weak agricultural output, a border closure with Senegal, a slowdown in tourism, high inflation, a large fiscal deficit, and a high domestic debt burden that has crowded out private sector investment and driven interest rates to new highs. The government has committed to taking steps to reduce the deficit, including through expenditure caps, debt consolidation, and reform of state-owned enterprises.

Real GDP growth rate

4.6% (2017 est.)

0.4% (2016 est.)

5.9% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 58

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

7.1% (2019 est.)

6.5% (2018 est.)

8% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 195

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$5.218 billion (2019 est.)

$4.92 billion (2018 est.)

$4.588 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 178

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.746 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$2,223 (2019 est.)

$2,158 (2018 est.)

$2,073 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 209

Gross national saving

15.7% of GDP (2018 est.)

17.7% of GDP (2017 est.)

3.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 140

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 20.4% (2017 est.)

industry: 14.2% (2017 est.)

services: 65.4% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 90.7% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 12% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 19.2% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: -2.7% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 20.8% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -40% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

groundnuts, milk, oil palm fruit, millet, sorghum, rice, maize, vegetables, cassava, fruit

Industries

peanuts, fish, hides, tourism, beverages, agricultural machinery assembly, woodworking, metalworking, clothing

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 75%

industry: 19%

services: 6% (1996 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2%

highest 10%: 36.9% (2003)

Budget

revenues: 300.4 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: 339 million (2017 est.)

Public debt

88% of GDP (2017 est.)

82.3% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 28

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$194 million (2017 est.)

-$85 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 98

Exports

$643 million (2019 est.)

$448 million (2018 est.)

$435 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Exports - partners

Guinea-Bissau 51.9%, Vietnam 14.6%, Senegal 8.8%, Mali 7.2% (2017)

Exports - commodities

peanut products, fish, cotton lint, palm kernels

Imports

$1.246 billion (2019 est.)

$851 million (2018 est.)

$754 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 180

Imports - partners

Cote dIvoire 11.5%, Brazil 10.6%, Spain 10.2%, China 7.8%, Russia 6.4%, Netherlands 5.3%, India 5% (2017)

Imports - commodities

foodstuffs, manufactures, fuel, machinery and transport equipment

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$170 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$87.64 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Debt - external

$586.8 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$571.2 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 175

Exchange rates

dalasis (GMD) per US dollar -

51.75 (2020 est.)

51.4 (2019 est.)

49.515 (2018 est.)

41.89 (2014 est.)

41.733 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 49% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 69% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 16% (2019)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 41,179

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1.93 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 161

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 2,977,068

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 139.53 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 141

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: state-owned Gambia Telecommunications partially privatized but still retaining a monopoly with fixed-line service; multiple mobile networks offering effective competition; three licensed ISPs which serve local area without much competition; mobile penetrations above the African average; lack of availability of fixed-line services in many rural areas of the country; govt. started a National Broadband Network program aimed at closing the digital divide but not funded by Parliament in 2018; the Chinese company Huawei helping in the telecommunications sector (2020)

domestic: fixed-line stands at 2 per 100 subscriptions with one dominant company and mobile-cellular teledensity, aided by multiple mobile-cellular providers, is over 140 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 220; landing point for the ACE submarine cable to West Africa and Europe; microwave radio relay links to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

1 state-run TV-channel; one privately-owned TV-station; 1 Online TV-station; three state-owned radio station and 31 privately owned radio stations; eight community radio stations; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are available, some via shortwave radio; cable and satellite TV subscription services are obtainable in some parts of the country 

(2019)

Internet users

total: 406,918

percent of population: 19.84% (July 2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 158

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 4,433

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 182

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 6

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 53,735 (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

over 3,047 m: 1

Roadways

total: 2,977 km (2011)

paved: 518 km (2011)

unpaved: 2,459 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 161

Waterways

390 km (on River Gambia; small oceangoing vessels can reach 190 km) (2010)

country comparison to the world: 88

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Banjul

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Gambia Armed Forces: the Gambian National Army (GNA, includes an air wing); Gambia Navy; Republican National Guard (2020)

Military expenditures

0.8% of GDP (2019)

0.7% of GDP (2018)

1% of GDP (2015)

1.2% of GDP (2014)

0.8% of GDP (2013)

country comparison to the world: 129

Military and security service personnel strengths

estimates for the size of the Gambian National Army (GNA) vary; approximately 3,000 active troops (2019 est.)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the GNA has a limited equipment inventory; the only reported weapons deliveries to the GNA since 2000 are second-hand patrol boats from Taiwan (2009) and one aircraft from Georgia (2004) (2019 est.)

Military deployments

130 Sudan (UNAMID) (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for male and female voluntary military service; no conscription; service obligation 6 months (2012)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

attempts to stem refugees, cross-border raids, arms smuggling, and other illegal activities by separatists from southern Senegal's Casamance region, as well as from conflicts in other west African states

Trafficking in persons

current situation: The Gambia is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Gambian women, girls, and, to a lesser extent, boys are exploited for prostitution and domestic servitude; women, girls, and boys from West African countries are trafficked to The Gambia for commercial sexual exploitation, particularly by European sex tourists; boys in some Koranic schools are forced into street vending or begging; some Gambian children have been identified as victims of forced labor in neighboring West African countries

tier rating: Tier 3 – The Gambia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, investigating one trafficking case but not prosecuting or convicting any offenders in 2014; authorities did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government employees complicit in trafficking, although corruption was a serious problem; the government identified and repatriated 19 Gambian girls subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon but did not identify or provide protective services to any trafficking victims in The Gambia; a government program continued to provide resources and financial support to 12 Koranic schools on the condition that their students were not forced to beg (2015)