The Gambia Eyes International Trade to Improve Its Economy
Fri, December 3, 2021

The Gambia Eyes International Trade to Improve Its Economy

The Gambia is Africa’s smallest non-island country. / Photo by James Dale via 123rf


The Gambia is Africa’s smallest non-island country. It has a small economy that relies more on tourism, remittances, and rain-dependent agriculture, according to the World Bank. From a 4.3 percent gross domestic product in 2017, it reached 6.6 percent GDP in 2018, representing growth. 


Economic challenges and opportunities in The Gambia

Face with economic challenges such as limited access to resources, an undiversified economy, a lack of necessary skills to build effective institutes, a lack of private-sector job creation, high population growth, and a small internal market, the country is now opening itself to foreign trade.

In a report published by Trade for Development News, an initiative of the Enhanced Integrated Framework dedicated to assisting the least developed countries using trade, the small West African nation is already striving to export its crops to various countries. Despite being a tiny nation, The Gambia has a lot of room for growth. After the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh, there has been a democratic change in their government in 2017. There is also an ongoing nationwide tour on talks about democratic governance and is making it clear even to other nations that they are “open for business.” This only means inclusive and fresh trade agenda to improve the life of The Gambia’s people, considering that almost 50 percent of the population is living below the poverty line.


Focus on agricultural products and exports

Former Gambian minister of trade, industry, regional integration, and employment and now the country's vice president Isatou Touray said that about 30 percent of the country’s GDP is based on agriculture and about 70 percent of the population is also employed in the same sector. This is the reason why they emphasize on improving the value of their agricultural products and not just raw products. She added that they are now adding value in the area of groundnuts, sesame, and cashews.


Gambia has already identified groundnuts, sesame, and cashews as their local products / Photo by Ghenadii Boiko via 123rf


The Gambia is further eyeing to increase its agricultural exports so it can help its economy further. Yet, the move to focus on international trade is not an easy one as it will involve a diverse range of organizations and individuals. These will include the development community, trade officials, policymakers, processors, and farmers.

As of today, the country has already identified groundnuts, sesame, and cashews as their local products that have potential in the worldwide market, and they are partnering with other institutes to get them from the fields to international marketplaces.

A story highlighted by the EIF initiative was that of Alieu Faye. He has been cultivating cashews in The Gambia for 20 years and has followed the cultivation techniques taught to him by the EIF trade studies. He said that the training helped him yield more out of his 10 acres of land in the Gambia River. Another cashew farmer shared that raw cashews are usually sold at 3,000 dalasis or US$60 per bag of 85 kilograms. On the other hand, processed cashews are sold at about 5,000 to 10,000 dalasis (US$98.04 to US$196.08), giving more value and increasing the profits of farmers and sellers.


Industry commercialization

An important step that the country needs to take to improve its export of agriculture products is industry commercialization, which involves supporting the agriculture processing abilities, a certification that meets the international standards, and access to tech in making quality items for exports. However, there are things that small businesses in the country now struggle with, such as complying with the international standards of quality and food safety needed to export.



International trade in goods and services: statistics

The United Kingdom’s Department for International Trade and the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, which was created for science and innovation, industrial strategy, business, and climate change policy purposes and functions, shared that The Gambia’s trade in goods with the world in 2017 amounts to the following:

Exports: $21.80 million
Imports: $548.80 million
Trade balance: -$527.00 million
Bilateral trade: $570.70 million

The department has recorded The Gambia’s trade in goods internationally since 1995 ($214.5 million imports, $18.7 million exports). As of 2000, its trade in goods with the world accounts for $190.4 million imports and $16.1 million in exports. It increased in 2005 with $259.7 million in imports and $7.5 million in exports. In 2010, it reached $283.7 million in imports and $68.3 million in exports. Then in 2015, it had $401.7 million in imports and $90.1 million in exports. Its last year recorded was in 2017 with $548.8 million in imports and $21.8 million in exports.

The Gambia’s top 10 export markets for its goods in 2017:

- Vietnam ($7.8 million)

Mali ($6.0 million)

Guinea-Bissau ($2.1 million)

China ($1.1 million)

India ($1.1 million)

Republic of Korea ($881.1 thousand)

The Netherlands ($384.3 thousand)

USA ($347.5 thousand)

Spain ($326.8 thousand)

Italy ($284.4 thousand)


Meanwhile, its top exported foods to the world in 2017 are the following:

1. Oilseed, oleagic fruits, grain, seed, fruit

2. Fish, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic invertebrates 
3. Dairy products, eggs, honey, edible animal products
4. Man-made filaments
5. Edible fruit, nuts, peel of citrus fruit, melons
6. Sugars and sugar confectionery
7. Footwear, gaiters and the like, parts thereof
8. Wood and articles of wood, wood charcoal
9. Miscellaneous edible preparations
10. Cereal, flour, starch, milk preparations, and products