The Gambia River, from Georgetown in the upper right corner of the photograph downstream to Mansa Konko, where it becomes an estuary about 100 km (60 mi) above Banjul, the capital of The Gambia. The river is heavily silted from rain originating in the highlands of Guinea. Image courtesy of NASA.
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Introduction

Background

In the 10th century, Muslim merchants established some of The Gambia’s earliest large settlements as trans-Saharan trade hubs. These settlements eventually grew into major export centers sending slaves, gold, and ivory across the Sahara. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, European colonial powers began establishing trade with The Gambia. In 1664, the United Kingdom established a colony in The Gambia focused on exporting enslaved people across the Atlantic. During the roughly 300 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the UK and other European powers may have exported as many as 3 million people from The Gambia.

The Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965. Geographically surrounded by Senegal, it formed the short-lived confederation of Senegambia between 1982 and 1989. In 1994, Yahya JAMMEH led a military coup overthrowing the president and banning political activity. He subsequently won every presidential election until 2016, when he lost to Adama BARROW, who headed an opposition coalition during free and fair elections. BARROW won re-election in December 2021. The Gambia is the only member of the Economic Community of West African States that does not have presidential term limits. Since the 2016 election, The Gambia and the US have enjoyed improved relations. US assistance to the country has supported military education and training programs, capacity building, and democracy-strengthening activities.


 

 

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

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: 170

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

highest point: unnamed elevation 3 km southeast of the town of Sabi 63 m
note - the Factbook map is incorrect; it shows the wrong location of the high elevation

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

mean elevation: 34 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)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Gambia river mouth (shared with Senegal and Guinea [s]) - 1,094 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major aquifers

Senegalo-Mauritanian Basin

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

Geography - note

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

Map description

The Gambia map showing the country surrounded by Senegal except to the west where the Gambia River empties into the North Atlantic Ocean.

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Gambian(s)

adjective: Gambian

Ethnic groups

Mandinka/Jahanka 33.3%, Fulani/Tukulur/Lorobo 18.2%, Wolof 12.9%, Jola/Karoninka 11%, Serahuleh 7.2%, Serer 3.5%, other 4%, non-Gambian 9.9% (2019-20 est.)

Languages

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

Religions

Muslim 96.4%, Christian 3.5%, other or none 0.1% (2019-20 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% (2021 est.) (male 38,805/female 45,801)

This is the population pyramid for Gambia, The. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

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

28.78 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 32

Death rate

5.81 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Net migration rate

-0.04 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 99

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: 63.9% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 3.75% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

470,000 BANJUL (capital) (2022)

note: includes the local government areas of Banjul and Kanifing

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

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

55-64 years: 0.76 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

20.7 years (2019/20 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-49

Maternal mortality ratio

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

country comparison to the world: 13

Infant mortality rate

total: 37.19 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 40.75 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 33.53 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 38

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 67.6 years

male: 65.83 years

female: 69.41 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 188

Contraceptive prevalence rate

16.8% (2018)

note: percent of women aged 15-49

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 91.8% of population

rural: 85.7% of population

total: 89.5% of population

unimproved: urban: 8.2% of population

rural: 14.3% of population

total: 10.5% of population (2020 est.)

Physicians density

0.08 physicians/1,000 population (2020)

Hospital bed density

1.1 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 75.8% of population

rural: 33.6% of population

total: 60% of population

unimproved: urban: 24.2% of population

rural: 66.4% of population

total: 40% of population (2020 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

note: on 21 March 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Alert for polio in Africa; The Gambia is currently considered a high risk to travelers for circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV); vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain of the weakened poliovirus that was initially included in oral polio vaccine (OPV) and that has changed over time and behaves more like the wild or naturally occurring virus; this means it can be spread more easily to people who are unvaccinated against polio and who come in contact with the stool or respiratory secretions, such as from a sneeze, of an “infected” person who received oral polio vaccine; the CDC recommends that before any international travel, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series; before travel to any high-risk destination, CDC recommends that adults who previously completed the full, routine polio vaccine series receive a single, lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine

Tobacco use

total: 11.1% (2020 est.)

male: 21.4% (2020 est.)

female: 0.8% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 7.5% (2018)

women married by age 18: 25.7% (2018)

men married by age 18: 0.2% (2020 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 50.8%

male: 61.8%

female: 41.6% (2015)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 25.8%

male: 21%

female: 32.3% (2018 est.)

Environment

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, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 32.2 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.53 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 1.96 megatons (2020 est.)

Climate

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

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.)

Urbanization

urban population: 63.9% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 3.75% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 101

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

note: on 21 March 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Alert for polio in Africa; The Gambia is currently considered a high risk to travelers for circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV); vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain of the weakened poliovirus that was initially included in oral polio vaccine (OPV) and that has changed over time and behaves more like the wild or naturally occurring virus; this means it can be spread more easily to people who are unvaccinated against polio and who come in contact with the stool or respiratory secretions, such as from a sneeze, of an “infected” person who received oral polio vaccine; the CDC recommends that before any international travel, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series; before travel to any high-risk destination, CDC recommends that adults who previously completed the full, routine polio vaccine series receive a single, lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 193,441 tons (2002 est.)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Gambia river mouth (shared with Senegal and Guinea [s]) - 1,094 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major aquifers

Senegalo-Mauritanian Basin

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 41.2 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 21.2 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 39.2 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

8 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

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 - in early 2018, the "Constitutional Review Commission," was established to draft  and assist in instituting a new constitution; a second draft completed in March 2020 was rejected by the National Assembly in September

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, 2018

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 2022); 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 2022); 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 4 December 2021 (next to be held in 2026); vice president appointed by the president

election results: Adama BARROW reelected president; percent of vote - Adama BARROW (National People's Party) 53.2%, Ousainou DARBOE (United Democratic Party) 27.7%, Mamma KANDEH (GDC)12.3%, Halifa SALLAH (PDOIS) 3.8%, Essa M. FAAL (Independent) 2%, Abdoulie Ebrima JAMMEH (NUP) 0.96%

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 9 April 2022 (next to be held in 2027)

election results: percent of vote by party - NPP 33.9%, UDP 28.3%, independent 22.6%, NRP 7.5%, PDOIS 3.7%, APRL 3.7%; seats by party - NPP 18, UDP 15, independent 12,NRP 4, APRL 2, PDOIS 2; 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, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant)

Charge d’Affaires Mustapha SOSSEH (16 March 2022)

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

telephone: [1] (202) 785-1399; [1] (202) 785-1428

FAX: [1] (202) 785-1430

email address and website:
info@gambiaembassy.us

https://www.gambiaembassydc.us/home

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Sharon L. CROMER (since 18 March 2022)

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

mailing address: 2070 Banjul Place, Washington DC  20521-2070

telephone: [220] 439-2856

FAX: [220] 439-2475

email address and website:
ConsularBanjul@state.gov

https://gm.usembassy.gov/

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"

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 2 (both cultural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Kunta Kinteh Island and Related Sites, Stone Circles of Senegambia

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 (purchasing power parity)

$5.22 billion (2020 est.)

$5.22 billion (2019 est.)

$4.92 billion (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 176

Real GDP growth rate

4.6% (2017 est.)

0.4% (2016 est.)

5.9% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 58

Real GDP per capita

$2,200 (2020 est.)

$2,200 (2019 est.)

$2,200 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 209

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.746 billion (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

7.1% (2019 est.)

6.5% (2018 est.)

8% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 194

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.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 25.8%

male: 21%

female: 32.3% (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 53

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

$350 million (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$448 million (2018 est.)

$435 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 197

Exports - partners

China 38%, India 22%, Mali 7%, Chile 5% (2017)

Exports - commodities

lumber, cashews, refined petroleum, fish oil, ground nut oil (2019)

Imports

$620 million (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$851 million (2018 est.)

$754 million (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 197

Imports - partners

China 33%, India 10%, Senegal 5%, Brazil 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

clothing and apparel, refined petroleum, rice, raw sugar, palm oil (2019)

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: 60,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 152

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 2,677,954 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 111 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 143

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Gambia’s telecom market is dominated by the incumbent telco Gamtel, which retains a monopoly on fixed-line telephony services; there are five mobile networks providing effective competition, though Giraffe Telecom was only licensed in January 2022 and has not yet been allocated a frequency; the market leader is Africell, with about 62% of the market, while Comium and QCell compete closely for second and third place; Gamtel’s mobile unit Gamcel is by far the smallest network, having suffered from low investment in recent years; Comium has also suffered from financial difficulties: its failure to pay accumulated fees resulted in the government having sought a temporary suspension of its services in mid-2021; mobile subscriptions are well above the African average, itself a testament to the poor condition of the fixed-line infrastructure and the lack of availability of fixed services in many rural areas of the country; the incumbent has a relatively well-developed national fiber backbone network, low fixed-line subscriptions have hindered internet usage; there are only four licensed ISPs, which are small networks serving local areas, and so competition is minimal; their limited services are complemented by the fixed-wireless offerings of three of the MNOs; the government has embarked on a National Broadband Network program aimed at closing the digital divide affecting many parts of the country; Gamtel launched services based on this network in late 2019, though on a limited scale; despite efforts to improve internet connectivity, the country ranks among the lowest globally in terms of digital readiness. (2022)

domestic: fixed-line subscriptions nearly 2 per 100 with one dominant company and mobile-cellular teledensity nearly 111 per 100 persons (2020)

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 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

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: 894,166 (2020 est.)

percent of population: 37% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 149

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 5,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 0.21 (2020 est.) less than 1

country comparison to the world: 188

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

over 3,047 m: 1 (2021)

Roadways

total: 2,977 km (2011)

paved: 518 km (2011)

unpaved: 2,459 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 161

Waterways

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

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), Gambia Navy, Gambia Air Force, Republican National Guard (responsible for VIP protection, riot control, and presidential security) (2022)

Military expenditures

0.8% of GDP (2021 est.)

0.8% of GDP (2020 est.)

0.8% of GDP (2019 est.) (approximately $25 million)

0.7% of GDP (2018 est.) (approximately $20 million)

0.7% of GDP (2017 est.) (approximately $20 million)

country comparison to the world: 142

Military and security service personnel strengths

information varies; approximately 2,000 total active troops (2021)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the GNA has a limited equipment inventory; since 2000, it has received only a few secondhand items (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18-25 years of age for male and female voluntary military service (18-22 for officers); no conscription; service obligation 6 months (2021)

Military - note

in 2017, several members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent security forces to The Gambia to conduct stability operations and provide assistance and training following the 2016 election; as of 2022, the ECOWAS Mission in the Gambia (ECOMIG) was comprised of about 1,000 military and gendarmerie personnel from Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal

the Gambian Armed Forces (GAF) traces its origins to the Gambia Regiment of the British Army; established in 1901, the Gambia Regiment was part of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF, later Royal West African Frontier Force or RWAFF) and served in both World Wars, including the British 1944-45 military campaign in Burma; the Gambia Regiment was disbanded in 1958 and replaced by the Field Force, a police paramilitary unit; the Field Force was responsible for The Gambia’s security until the establishment of the Gambian Armed Forces in 1985; in addition, a defense agreement signed in 1965 between The Gambia and Senegal provided mutual assistance in the face of an external threat; from 1981-1989, The Gambia and Senegal formed a Confederal Army that was made up of two-thirds Senegalese and one-third Gambian soldiers

the military in Gambia, including the Field Force, has a history of heavy involvement in the country’s politics, including multiple coups or coup attempts and mutinies; as of 2022, the Gambia Armed Forces’ principal responsibilities included aiding civil authorities in emergencies and providing natural disaster relief

 

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, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Gambian women, children, 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 sexual exploitation, particularly catering to European tourists seeking sex with children; some Gambian trafficking victims have been identified in neighboring West African countries and the UK; boys in some Koranic schools are forced into street vending or begging

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List — The Gambia does not meet the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, but it is making significant efforts to do so; the government has increased investigations, identified more trafficking victims, improved security at a Department of Social Welfare shelter, increased training for officials, and raised public awareness of the problem of trafficking; the government was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List during this rating period; despite these efforts, the government did not convict a trafficker for the third consecutive year; victim services remained inadequate, and some law enforcement officers reportedly requested  bribes to register trafficking complaints (2020)