The Gambia is a small, fragile country in West Africa. Stretching 450 km along the Gambia River, the country (all 10,689 square kilometers of it) is surrounded by Senegal, except for a 60-km Atlantic Ocean front. The country has a population of 2.1 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 December 2016 presidential election 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, the presidential candidate of a political coalition.
Parliamentary elections in April 2017 led to an absolute majority for the United Democratic Party (UDP) with 31 seats in the 58-seat National Assembly. The former ruling Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party was reduced to five seats. Local elections in May 2018 resulted in 62 of 120 seats going to the UDP and 18 to the APRC.
In December 2019, President Adama Barrow formed a new political party, the National People’s Party, which would allow him to seek a second term in the 2021 elections. A new draft Constitution, which introduces a two-term limit for the presidency, was delivered in November 2019 to National Assembly but did not secure votes at the National Assembly.
Growth was robust at 6% 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 has, however, resulted in a sharp economic downturn in 2020, with a reduction in tourists and trade disruptions leading to a 0% growth and a contraction in real GDP per capita by 2.9%, partially reversing gains in poverty reduction. However, continued sound macroeconomic management and donor grant inflows have helped further reduce the fiscal deficit and public debt, and record high official remittances bolstered international reserves.
The government has taken steps to protect lives and livelihoods during the relief period with support from development partners. The World Bank is providing support through its $10 million COVID-19 Emergency Response Project and 3.46 million Global Partnership for Education funded Emergency Education COVID-19 Response Project, while $10 million out of the $30-million Social Safety Net Project was repurposed. The IMF has provided support through its $21.2 million Rapid Credit Facility and$28.6 million Augmentation of Access under the Extended Credit Facility arrangement. Moreover, the IMF has approved the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust debt relief till April 2021 ($5.9 million). The European Union and African Development Bank have disbursed an additional $19.4 million and $7 million respectively as budget support grants in 2020.
The Gambia is also participating in the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and has received debt service deferral confirmation from most of the creditors endorsing the initiative. The fiscal space created by the DSSI is about $4.15 million in 2020 (0.22%of GDP) and $3 million in 2021 (0.15% of GDP).
Last Updated: Apr 28, 2021