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 small in size, 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 unique geographic location, it is also a hub for trade in the region.

The country has a population of 1.8 million, with a fairly high average rate of growth of 2.8% per year over the last decade. Most of the population (57%) is concentrated around urban and peri-urban centers. The main languages are English, Mandinka, Wolof, Jola and Fula, and 90% of Gambians are Muslim.

Political Context

The Gambia is a presidential republic with a unicameral legislature. The incumbent President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, who originally took office in a bloodless coup in 1994, was re-elected for a fourth term, with 72% of the vote, on November 24, 2011. Parliamentary elections took place on March 29, 2012, with the President’s party (the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, or APRC) maintaining its sizeable majority. The Gambia has maintained a reputation of relative stability and peace, although there was an attempted coup d’état in The Gambia in December 2014. Overall the situation has been calm since then, and presidential elections are expected to remain scheduled for 2016.

Economic Overview

The country had a relatively strong economic performance up to 2013 with average annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.2% from 2008-2010. But it has since dropped to 5.3% in 2012 and 4.8% in 2013. Although there have been no reported cases of Ebola in The Gambia, the sub-regional outbreak led to an estimated 60% decline in tourist arrivals for the 2014 tourist season. This, combined with poor rains that led to an estimated 15 to 30% contraction in agricultural production resulted in stagnant GDP growth in 2014. Real GDP growth is expected to rebound to 4.5% in 2015, as the threat of Ebola recedes and agriculture recovers.

The Gambia benefitted from considerable multilateral debt relief after reaching the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Completion Point in December 2007, with total debt outstanding as a ratio to GDP declining from 143.2% in 2006 (pre-HIPC) to 55.1% in 2008; although it has increased significantly again in the interim to 83% in 2013 and is projected to exceed 90% in 2014. Effects of the global financial crisis of 2008 were tempered by good agricultural outputs in the same period, and by increased tourism revenue.

As a small, open economy, however, the country remains highly vulnerable to external shocks given its relatively undiversified economic base. It faces three main challenges:

  • Restoring growth and macroeconomic stability. This will require diversification of the economy and an improved private sector investment climate.
  • Improving service delivery, through effective civil service reform including improved management capacity for strategic planning, performance measurement, and institutional coordination, collaboration and dialogue.
  • Improving transparency and accountability in public financial management and public procurement. In particular, improving the demand side of public financial management by disseminating information to the public and creating a culture of accountability and citizen participation.

These challenges have been exacerbated by the Government’s exchange rate policy, imposed in May 2015, which is making the economy less competitive and creating internal financial pressures.

Social Context

Overall poverty rates declined from 58% in 2003 to 48.4% in 2010, and education coverage and quality 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 is facing serious challenges in achieving most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to the World Development Indicators database, the poverty reduction MDG at the 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 have not been achieved. 

Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015

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 44 projects for The Gambia amounting to about $417 million. An IDA-16 allocation, covering fiscal years 2012 to 2014, is SDR 28.6 million (about $42.9 million equivalent, is more than double the amount for IDA-15), in addition to debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI).

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 will build on the achievements of the first Joint Assistance Strategy (JAS-1) for 2008-11.

The current active portfolio for The Gambia comprises of five national IDA operations ($53.7 million), four regional IDA operations ($92 million), and four Trust Fund operations ($13 million) amounting to $158.7 million in total commitments. The areas of engagement include agriculture, education, health & nutrition, public financial management, private sector development for growth and competitiveness, infrastructure (communication), and environmental protection. 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 2015 total $8.3 million.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee (MIGA):

MIGA has not yet issued coverage for any investments in The Gambia.

Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015

The Integrated Financial Management Information System Project (IFMIS) is a model for other countries in the region. 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, there was the set-up of the system which 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 rolled out to 39 additional government ministries and agencies, and is expected to be rolled out to the Central Bank later this year, 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.

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 has delivered strong results:

  • Unqualified teachers are being 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

Teaching materials continue to be made available in all core subjects to all students in lower basic education, and teachers are receiving visits from cluster monitors at least twice (and sometimes four times) a month. Increasingly, these visits are providing pedagogic support to teachers and school heads.

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 success at the primary level has however increased pressures to extend opportunities at the secondary and tertiary levels for primary and secondary school graduates, as well as the need to upgrade the quality of teaching at these levels. The government is working to meet these demands and the Bank is continuing its support to The Gambia Education sector through the recently approved Results for Education Achievement and Development (READ) project

Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015

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. Efforts are being made to harmonize development assistance in The Gambia. In light of this, the World Bank Group prepared two Joint Assistance Strategies (JAS) with the African Development Bank, the first in 2008 and the second in 2013. 

Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015


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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments