The Gambia is the smallest country on the African mainland. It stretches 450 km along the Gambia River.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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