The Gambia is a small, fragile country in West Africa. Stretching 450 km along the Gambia River, the country (10,689 square kilometers) is surrounded by Senegal, except for a 60-km Atlantic Ocean front. The country has a population of 2.4 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.
The Gambia is a multiparty republic. Under the 1997 constitution, the President is the head of state and government, and is elected by universal suffrage to a five-year term. The 2016 Presidential Election led to the end of the autocratic rule of former President Yahya Jammeh, who was in power from 1994 to 2017.
In 2018 the government established the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to lay the ground for reconciliation in the country, restore trust and overcome the trauma of human rights violations. The TRRC final was disclosed in December 2021 with the government expected to present a white paper recommendation to the National Assembly within six months.
The recent presidential elections took place on December 4, 2021, and the incumbent President Adama Barrow was declared the winner by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) with 53.2 % of the vote and was inaugurated for a second term on January 19, 2022.
Growth was robust at 6.2 % in 2019, supported by improving confidence and record tourist arrivals, with sound macroeconomic management helping to reduce the fiscal deficit, exit from debt distress, and increase international reserves closer to prudential levels.
The COVID-19 crisis resulted in a contraction in growth by 0.2 % and in real GDP per capita by 3 % in 2020, reversing gains in poverty reduction. Since then, the economy has started to recover, estimated to have reached 5.6 % (2.6 % in per capita terms) in 2021. All sectors grew, as tourist arrivals were above-expectations and record-high remittances continued to support the construction and distributive trade sectors.
The poverty rate declined from 9.2 % in 2020 to 8.5 % in 2021, lifting over 10,000 people out of poverty, driven by the recovery in the agriculture labor market. However, the fiscal deficit doubled to 4.4 % of GDP as capital expenditure accelerated, mainly for locally funded infrastructure projects, and tax revenues and grants declined. Recurrent spending fell as pandemic-related support was withdrawn. Public debt-to-GDP is estimated to have declined to 83 % and the outlook is sustainable, but the risk of overall and external debt distress remains high as per the December 2021 joint WB/IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis.
Headline inflation started increasing since January 2021, driven by food price increases, which is undermining household food security, as well as by the gradual return of domestic demand. Inflation has reached 8.3 % y/y in February 2022.
The Gambia participated in the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and received a relief of about $4 million in 2020 (0.2 % of GDP).
Last Updated: Apr 19, 2022