Overview

  • The Gambia is a small and fragile country in West Africa. It stretches 450 km along the Gambia River. Its 10, 689 sq. km area surrounded by Senegal, except for a 60 km Atlantic Ocean front. The country has a population of 1.9 million. With 176 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 December 1, 2016 resulted in a political transition after the incumbent President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, who had led the country for 22 years, was defeated by Adama Barrow, who garnered 43.3% of the vote. The Parliamentary elections in April 2017 led to an absolute majority for Barrow’s United Democratic Party (UDP) with 36in the 53-seat National Assembly. The former ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party was reduced to five seats. In the recent local elections, 62 of the 120 seats went to the UDP and 18 to the APRC.

    Economic Overview

    The Gambia has a small economy that relies primarily on tourism, rain-dependent agriculture, and remittances, and is vulnerable to external shocks. In recent years, the economy was hit by economic shocks in agriculture caused by erratic rainfalls and in tourism caused by the spillover effects of the regional Ebola crisis and the political crisis during 2015-2016.

    The economy recovered strongly in 2017, with growth estimated at 4.6% (below potential), up from 0.4% in 2016.  Robust growth in the service sector (10.6%), mainly in commerce, drove this recovery. Tourist arrivals turned around in the second half of 2017. However, agriculture contracted by 8.1% due to uneven distribution of rainfall.

    Strengthened fiscal discipline and substantial donor support reduced the fiscal deficit from 6.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 to 5.4% in 2017. These led to a sharp decline in net domestic borrowing from 8.4% of GDP in 2016 to –0.5% in 2017. Expenditure ceilings have helped, but tax collection declined from 11.1% of GDP in 2016 to 10.2% of GDP in 2017.

    Public debt increased from 82.3% of GDP in 2016 to 88% in 2017 due to the low growth, the fiscal deficit, higher loan disbursement, recognition of external private debt, and debt reconciliation with creditors. As a result, The Gambia is currently in external debt distress and public debt is unsustainable. Interest payments consumes an inordinate share of available government revenues (42 in 2016 and 2017), leaving very little fiscal space to improve service delivery and undertake the public investments in physical and human capital needed to support the emergence of a thriving private sector.

    The exchange rate was fully liberalized, and the Dalasi has remained stable since April 2017 at around 47 Dalasi per U.S. dollar. The reduction in net domestic borrowing prompted the three-month T-bill interest rate to drop from 17.5% in October 2016 to 6.8% in May 2018. Central Bank official foreign reserves have increased from 1.4 months of import cover in 2016 to 2.9 in 2017.

    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.

    Medium-term outlook

    Economic growth is projected to accelerate to 5.4% in 2018 and 2019 and 5.2% in 2020 but will remain slightly below potential. This assumes a strong recovery in tourism and trade, a normal agricultural season, and improvements in electricity provision. Political stability, combined with improved macroeconomic conditions, would help strengthen investment activity. Economic activity would also be underpinned by key infrastructure developments, notably energy supply, as well as improved trade and re-export trade.

    However, a legacy of fragility across various dimensions pose a risk for the medium-term outlook. The limited capacity of public institutions hinders public policy and its implementation. The Gambia’s growing debt leaves little fiscal space to reinvigorate the economy and ensure inclusive growth. The share of immigrants has reached almost 10% of the population. While the loss of labor to migration has long slowed the country’s economic development, remittance income is an increasingly crucial component of household consumption. A high propensity to erratic rainfalls exacerbates vulnerability to food insecurity and volatility of growth.

     

    Last Updated: Nov 01, 2018

  • World Bank Group Engagement in The Gambia

    The active portfolio for The Gambia comprises six national International Development Association (IDA) investment operations for $136.84 million, and four regional IDA operations for $51.5 million in commitments. International Finance Corporation commitments are $5.3 million. 

    Last Updated: Nov 01, 2018

  • The World Bank Group (WBG) continues to contribute to The Gambia’s development performance in the following sectors:

    • Emergency budget support to strengthen the government’s fiscal position while restoring the provision of essential public services. The operation provided critical financial resources needed to restore macro-fiscal sustainability while shielding poor and vulnerable households from the impact of the economic crisis.
    • Support to the electricity and energy sector to rehabilitate generation assets, reduce technical and commercial losses in distribution, and improve the National Water and Electricity Company’s operational performance. In addition, assistance was provided to the government to develop an Energy Sector Roadmap that outlines a national plan for recovery in the power sector.
    • Interventions under the ongoing Results for Education Achievement and Development project, funded jointly with the Global Partnership for Education focus on: (i) increasing enrollment in primary and Early Childhood Development in the poorest areas; (ii) improving the quality of teaching through the reform of teacher training and teacher management; and (iii) improving learning through a phased curriculum overhaul, and high-quality learning materials, with an emphasis on early grade reading.
    • To support the country’s health program, the WBG is working closely with the National Nutrition Agency and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to reprioritize health expenditures, strengthen primary health care, and increase the use of community nutrition and primary maternal and child health services in selected regions of the country. It also helps finance costs associated with social safety net activities.

     

    Last Updated: Nov 01, 2018

  • The World Bank is collaborating closely with the United Nations, European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund to assist the government with elaboration of the National Development Plan FY2018-2021.

    In the energy sector, the World Bank is working with Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Arab Fund for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), ECOWAS BANK for Investment and Development (EBID), EU, European Investment Bank (EIB) and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to support implementation of The Gambia Energy Sector Roadmap. The World Bank is also coordinating with UNICEF, EU, UNFPA, the World Food Programme and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in the health and nutrition sectors. In the education sector, the Bank collaborates closely with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF. The World Bank is also a leading partner on social protection, together with UNICEF, UNDP and EU.

     

    Last Updated: Nov 01, 2018

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LENDING

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

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments


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Additional Resources

Country Office Contacts

Main Office Contact
+221-33-859-41-00
For general information and inquiries
Mademba Ndiaye
Senior Communications Officer
Dakar, Senegal
+221-33-859-41-00
mademba@worldbank.org
For project-related issues and complaints
gambiaalert@worldbank.org