Overview

Country Overview

The Gambia is the smallest country on the African mainland. It stretches 450 km along the Gambia River. Its 11,285 sq. km area is surrounded by Senegal, except for a 60 km Atlantic Ocean front. Although the smallest country on the African continent, the Gambia harbors a wealth of land, coastal, marine and wetland habitats and species of local, national, regional and global significance, making it an attractive tourist destination. Due to its geographic location, it is also a hub for trade in the region.

The country has a population of 2 million, with a fairly high average rate of growth of 2.8% per year over the last decade. With 177 people per square kilometer, it is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. Most of the population (57%) is concentrated around urban and peri-urban centers.

Political Context

Presidential elections on 1 December 2016 resulted in a political transition after the incumbent President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh was defeated by Adama Barrow, who garnered 43.3% of the vote. Jammeh, who had led the country for 22 years after a military coup in 1994 and followed this up through four presidential elections in 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011, won 39.6%. Initially accepting the outcome, Jammeh rejected the results a few days later, calling for a new election.

 Barrow left the country for Dakar, Senegal, while ECOWAS mobilized military troops and gave Jammeh an ultimatum calling for a transfer of power by the constitutional due date of 19 January 2017. 

Presidents Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania and Alpha Condé of Guinea negotiated Jammeh’s exile to Equatorial Guinea on 21 January 2017. Meanwhile, Barrow was sworn in as President at the Gambian embassy in Dakar on 19 January 2017. He returned to Banjul a week later.

Parliamentary elections were organized for April and Barrow’s United Democratic Party won 31 seats (not including the 5 MPs to be appointed directly by the President) in the 53-seat National Assembly. The former ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party was reduced to five seats.

Economic Overview

The Gambia has a small economy that relies primarily on tourism, agriculture, and remittances, and is vulnerable to external shocks, illustrated most recently by the West Africa Ebola crisis and the poor harvest in 2014. Real GDP growth stagnated at 0.9% in 2014, and while government estimates projected a rebound in 2015 to 4.7%, underlying economic data, such as tourist arrivals, trade data, private credit growth, and agricultural production all indicate the growth rate was much more muted, if not actually a contraction. A widening fiscal deficit, ad hoc monetary policy shifts, and Central Bank financing of the deficit caused the macroeconomic situation to further weaken in 2016, and is expected to dampen growth and private investment.

Between 2013 and 2016, real per capita GDP is estimated to have fallen by 20%, suggesting an increase in poverty levels. A household survey from 2015 is currently under analysis and should shed further light of the effects of the recent growth volatility on poverty reduction. However, the concurrent surge in outmigration in 2014 and 2015 suggests that, aside from pull factors, there is increased macroeconomic fragility. Early official figures may not fully reflect the real economy.

The macro- framework continues to be characterized by high debt, crowding out public and private investment and creating significant risks of debt distress. The Gambia has moderate external public debt (59% of GDP in 2015) held primarily in long-dated maturities at concessional rates, but it has substantial, high-cost, short-term domestic debt, currently estimated at 46% GDP. This indebtedness is also undermining the stability of the domestic financial sector. Total debt exceeded 100% of GDP in 2014 and 2015, up from 84% in 2013. Interest payments are forecast to rise to close to 50% of government revenues in 2016 from 40% in 2015.

Exchange rate policies that sharply overvalued the Gambian Dalasi have also contributed to financial strains and balance of payments imbalances. Central Bank official foreign reserves have declined significantly, with the periodic imposition of currency controls since 2013 and overvaluation against the US dollar as high as 30% over pre-peg, market-determined rates. The lifting of currency controls since January 2016 should facilitate a rebuilding of reserves over time, but there are other administrative current controls in place that could pose ongoing challenges, including shipment controls on US dollars, British pounds sterling, and euros.

The key long-term development challenges facing The Gambia are related to its undiversified economy, small internal market, limited access to resources, lack of skills necessary to build effective institutions, high population growth, lack of private sector job creation, and high rate of outmigration.

Social Context

Overall poverty rates declined from 58% in 2003 to 48.4% in 2010, and the coverage and quality of education improved. Progress was made in the public sector, economic and fiscal management, civil service and justice reform, and anti-corruption and public procurement reform. Recent data show modest developments in health, notably on HIV/AIDS prevalence (which remains stable) and maternal mortality (which declined considerably). The government is committed to consolidating these achievements while creating space for continued funding of poverty reduction programs.

Development Challenges

The Gambia faced serious challenges in achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to the World Development Indicators database, the poverty reduction MDG at the national poverty line of $1.25 has been achieved. In terms of human development, the country has achieved the MDGs related to gender parity in primary and secondary education, and to improved access to water sources. All other MDGs were not achieved.

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017

World Bank Group Engagement in The Gambia

The Gambia joined the World Bank in October 1967, two years after independence. The first loan financed the rehabilitation of the Banjul port. Since then, the International Development Association (IDA) has approved 48 projects for The Gambia amounting to about $487 million.

The second African Development Bank (AfDB) – World Bank Joint Partnership Strategy (JPS-2) for FY13-FY16 was discussed by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors on April 4, 2013 - in support of the government’s 2012-15 Program for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) and proposes to respond to the challenges of the country by concentrating on two main pillars:

  • Pillar 1: Enhancing productive capacity and competitiveness in order to strengthen resilience to external shocks. This pillar is aligned with elements of PAGE pillars I (economic growth), II (infrastructure) and IV (governance);
  • Pillar 2: Strengthening the institutional capacity for economic governance and public service delivery is aligned with elements of PAGE pillars III (human capital, social services), IV (governance) and V (social cohesion, cross-cutting interventions).

The JPS-2 is being implemented jointly by the AfDB and the WBG to better harmonize the two institutions’ assistance to The Gambia in line with the 2011 Busan Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. It builds on the achievements of the first Joint Assistance Strategy (JAS-1) for 2008-11.

The current active portfolio for The Gambia comprises five national IDA operations ($60 million), four regional IDA operations ($92 million) and four Trust Fund operations ($12.5 million) amounting to $165 million in total commitments. The portfolio is divided along the following sectors: energy (40%), information and communications technologies (21%), agriculture (14%), education (13%), health & nutrition (8%), and governance (4%). Trust fund grants complement the IDA operations and provide support to increase agricultural production, strengthen basic education, and provide support towards improving the nutrition of, specifically, disadvantaged women and children. In addition, the World Bank is also providing technical assistance on good governance with the strengthening of The Gambia’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) rating as the entry point for dialogue in this area.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC):

The IFC strategy in The Gambia is selective and is focused on enhancing the capacity of local financial institutions (through advisory services and financing) to improve access to finance of potential small and medium enterprise (SME) clients. It is also selectively supporting committed and experienced sponsors in priority sectors (tourism, agriculture). Net IFC commitments in the Gambia as of September 2016 total $9.4 million.

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017

The World Bank Group has contributed to Gambia’s development performance in the following sectors.

Public Finance Management

The Integrated Financial Management Information System Project (IFMIS) is a follow-up operation and it builds on the initial introduction of the integrated financial management system under the country’s preceding Capacity Building for Economic Management Project (CBEMP). The IFMIS is an enterprise resource planning software application that bundles budget preparation, budget execution, accounting, payroll, financial management and reporting activities. In the first phase supported by the CBEMP, setting-up the system was accompanied by organizational restructuring, re-engineering of operational procedures, and extensive training of staff. The system is now processing all central government transactions and producing the annual accounts and monthly fiscal reports in a timely manner. IFMIS has also helped reduce the substantial backlog of annual audits dating back to the early 1990s.

In this second phase, IFMIS has been rolled out to 46 additional government ministries and agencies.  It is expected to be rolled out to the Central Bank and subvented agencies, once the IFMIS system is fully operational, and to be used as a web-based solution with interfaces created for, and operational with, the Central Bank and the Directorate of Loans and Debt Management, which will enable sectorial resources to be better managed. The project also aims at ensuring that the government will be able to operate and maintain the IFMIS on its own beyond the duration of the project. 

Education

Under the Third Education Sector Project, the World Bank Group supported the Gambian government in making exemplary progress on increasing the coverage of basic education. As part of a broader program financed by the government, donor partners (specifically the United Kingdom and Japan), and by the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative, the project delivered strong results:

  • Unqualified teachers were offered opportunities to become qualified, managers across the system (at central, regional and cluster/school levels) and are being offered training opportunities to improve their performance;
  • Performance management systems and service level contracts are now in place to recognize good work and increase accountability.

Learning assessments are enabling the education system to accurately measure the gains across multiple years. Overall, combined donor support has contributed to an increase in the primary gross enrollment rate from 65% in 2000 to 92% in 2009, including Madrassa enrollment. The government is working to meet these demands and the Bank is continuing its support to The Gambia’s Education sector through the Results for Education Achievement and Development (READ) project.  

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017

The government has been working with several development partners over the years. Apart from IDA, the country's largest development partners are the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Kingdom (DFID), and agencies of the United Nations family.

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017


LENDING

Gambia: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments

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