The Gambia has an active private sector with a new government that is very interested in encouraging local investment and foreign direct investment. A national agency that is dedicated to promoting investments and exports from The Gambia is making efforts to provide guidelines and incentives to all investors whose portfolios qualify them for a Special Investment Certificate. President Adama Barrow was elected in December 2016, ending the 22-year autocratic reign of Yahya Jammeh who reportedly bankrupted the government with his lavish spending habits and stifled investment as a result of his penchant for siphoning profits from successful companies. A lack of transparency in regulatory and administrative procedures negatively impacted investment promotion throughout former President Jammeh’s presidency.
The Barrow administration has paved the way for greater private-sector investment and accountability in The Gambia and demonstrated a willingness to cooperate with U.S. business and commercial interests. Within the Office of The President, a Permanent Secretary for Investment was appointed within the first 100 days of Barrow’s presidency. In 2017, the Gambia Revenue Authority also introduced tax reforms which reduces taxes across all brackets.
The Gambia is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic union of 15 countries located in West Africa. Foreign investors hail from the Middle East, North Africa, East Asia, Nigeria, and a limited number of European and American-owned businesses. There is no legal distinction between the treatment of foreign and domestic investors. American companies seeking to invest in The Gambia must work through a local lawyer and be open and transparent in all their dealings. Trade relations with China, India, and Turkey have also increased in recent years.
There are opportunities for investment in several sectors. These include energy (oil exploration and exploitation; renewable energies, specifically solar); natural resources (heavy mineral sands); agriculture (rice and cereal production, but also processed foods); tourism (increasing the number of American tourists); and finally, infrastructure (roads, telecommunications systems, drainage systems, and bridges). The agriculture sector employs approximately 75 percent of Gambians and comprises 30 percent of the country’s GDP. The sub-regional body known as SeGaBi (Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea Bissau) was included in the USDA Priority Countries in the 2017 Food for Progress program, with a focus on the cashews industry. The Services sector comprises approximately 60 percent of GDP, while industry comprises 10 percent. The country has a functional banking system with 12 commercial banks.
As a result of efforts by the Barrow administration to improve The Gambia’s rule of law, human rights, and respect for core labor standards, on January 1, 2017 The Gambia regained its eligibility to participate as a trade beneficiary under the provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which it lost in 2015. AGOA enhances market access to the United States for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. Similarly in 2017, The Gambia was nominated for a Millennium Cooperation Challenge (MCC) Threshold Program based on the government’s efforts to improve the governance, human rights, and economic conditions in The Gambia. The Gambia lost its MCC eligibility in June 2006 following grave concerns over human rights abuses by former President Jammeh. President Barrow’s reform programs are expected to continue into 2018 and lead to greater market freedom and commercial development.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2017||30 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”||2017||146 of 190||www.doingbusiness.org/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2017||x of 128||N/A|
|U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions)||2017||N/A||N/A|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2016||USD 430||http://data.worldbank.org/
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment
The GOTG welcomes investment in all sectors of the economy. There are no laws or practices in The Gambia that discriminate against foreign investors, including U.S. investors. In 2017, the government launched the National Development Plan (2018-2021) with eight priority sectors. These cover energy, agriculture, tourism, health, education, infrastructure, fisheries, and skills development. Through the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), eight areas are also identified as “priority sectors” which attract a Special Investment Certificate (SIC) that provides a number of incentives, including duty waivers and tax holidays. The eight sectors are agriculture, forestry, energy, fisheries, manufacturing, river transportation, and tourism, skills development, and mineral exploration & exploitation.
The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) facilitates foreign investment in The Gambia. GIEPA’s mandate includes export promotion and support for small and micro enterprise (SME) development. The list of priority sectors and incentives for investors are available on the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) website – http://www.giepa.gm .
GIEPA offers the following services:
- Investment Generation (e.g. administer and advise on incentive packages);
- Investment Facilitation (e.g. help businesses obtain licenses, land, clearances, etc. for business operations);
- Business Development Services (e.g. provide market survey and research support);
- Export Development (e.g. Provide advisory services and training to potential and current exporters);
- Support to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) (e.g. Matching grants facility (depending on the availability of funds);
- Image Building and Branding; and
- Policy Advocacy
To maintain dialogue with investors, The Gambia Competitiveness Improvement Forum was created as part of the 2015 GIEPA Act which hosts sector based forums to maintain dialogue with investors. In 2017 GIEPA hosted the International Agriculture Investment Forum to promote agriculture and market-oriented agricultural production within the farming community.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activities in all fields that are deemed lawful economic activities in The Gambia.
There are no limits on foreign ownership or control of businesses except in the operations of defense industries, which have historically been closed to all private sector participation, irrespective of nationality.
With the exception of defense-related activities, no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements were legally applied to foreign ownership and control. Since 2015, temporary restrictions have been imposed on the importation of onions and potatoes. These restrictions, which are still in place under President Barrow, are designed to protect domestic suppliers of vegetables.
There is no mandatory screening of foreign direct investment, but such screening may be conducted if there is suspicion of money laundering or terrorist financing. The GOTG also screens inbound foreign investment of those who seek to invest in or operate an enterprise considered prejudicial to national security, detrimental to the natural environment, public health, or public morality, or which contravenes the laws of The Gambia. An embargo on the establishment of private security companies imposed in previous years was lifted in 2015. All investments are subject to conditions established by the GIEPA Act. There is no current information on how the GIEPA review process for investment proposals works, or the duration period for such reviews.
U.S. investors in The Gambia are not disadvantaged or singled out by any ownership or control mechanisms and restrictions.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
In 2016 UNCTAD conducted a fact-finding mission to produce an Investment Policy Review (IPR) for The Gambia. UNCTAD’s 2017 IPR for The Gambia is available on UNCTAD’s website – http://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=1881
The Gambia promotes business facilitation through the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), which is mandated to facilitate the establishment, operation, and development of businesses in The Gambia. Business enterprise development is a stand-alone department in GIEPA. The GIEPA Act of 2010 was revised as the GIEPA Act of 2015, and its accompanying regulations are currently being amended. A Private Sector Strategy document was also prepared under former President Jammeh, but the document never went to cabinet for approval. Tax and trade policies of The Gambia, with regard to specific services, are all publically communicated by GIEPA.
According to the World Bank Doing Business indicators, The Gambia is ranked 171 for Starting a Business in a pool of 190 countries. The Gambia scores 69.00 on the Starting a Business DTF (Distance to frontier) indicator.
In 2010, a Single Window Business Registration Desk was established at the Ministry of Justice under the World Bank-sponsored Growth and Competitiveness Project. The initiative has significantly reduced the number of days it takes to register a business from 27 days to 1 day to mark a significant improvement in the business registration process. Clear instructions on registering a business in The Gambia are available online, but the actual registration process must be done in person (by the applicant or a representative) at either the Ministry of Justice or the Kanifing Municipal Council head office in Serrekunda. Business registrants must also obtain a Tax Identification Number (TIN) from The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA). The registration process is generally clear and open to foreigners. However, the process is yet to be digitized.
The Gambia’s business facilitation mechanism provides for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy. There are no special business opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities. In 2018, in combination with the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), the National Youth Council (NYC), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) mini-grants were provided to returnee asylum-seekers that were voluntarily repatriated to The Gambia from Libya. The evaluation of this program is yet to be released as the program is still in its infant stages.
The Gambia promotes outward investment through services provided by The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) and The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). The GOTG does not promote outward investment to a particular set of countries or sectors but historically, the target regions for The Gambia’s exports are the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU), and Asia, where India, China, and Vietnam are the target markets.
There are no set restrictions to domestic investors investing abroad.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
- With which other countries/economies has the country signed BITs or FTAs?
- With which other countries/economies is the country currently engaged in ongoing BIT or FTA negotiations?
The Gambia has signed BIT’s with the following countries. The Gambia is currently not engaged in an FTA negotiation with any countries/economies.
- Guinea; Signed
- Iran, Islamic Republic of; Signed
- Kuwait; Signed
- Libya; Signed
- Mali; Signed
- Mauritania; Signed
- Mauritius; Signed
- Morocco; In force
- Netherlands; In force
- Qatar; In force
- Spain; Signed
- Switzerland; In force
- Taiwan Province of China; In force
- Turkey; Signed
- Ukraine; Signed
- United Kingdom; Signed
Bilateral Taxation Treaties
The Gambia does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the U.S. The Gambia has Bilateral Investment Agreements with Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. However, only the agreement with Switzerland has gone into effect.
In 2013, Value Added Tax (VAT) was introduced in The Gambia and has remained unchanged at 15 per cent. In 2015, Corporate Income Tax was reduced from 35 percent to 30 percent. The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) collects excise duties on locally manufactured products (per unit). On April 22, President Barrow announced a reduction on the import duty on flour from 47 per cent to 20 per cent and a removal of the five per cent excise tax on goods.
In 2018, Corporate Income tax in The Gambia was reduced from 30 percent to 27 percent; while the Turnover Tax and Audited Tax Rates were each reduced by .05 percentage points from 1.5 and 2.5 percent respectively.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The GOTG uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis to establish “clear rules of the game.” The Gambia’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms.
A Competition Act was enacted in 2007 and a Competition Commission was established in 2009. The Act mandates the Commission to advocate for competition in The Gambia; and to determine and impose penalties or appropriate remedies to ensure businesses comply with prohibited restrictive practices, and monitor compliance, among other things. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) regulates telecommunications and broadcasting, water and sewage, transport and electricity. The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCP) is a commercial watchdog that ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices, and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices. These laws are available to the general public.
Formal Regulatory Authority and Processes
Rule-making and regulatory authority exists with the National Assembly of The Gambia and more specifically within the various committees of the National Assembly. The regulatory authority expands to the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) and the courts system which includes the Supreme Court, the High Courts, the district courts, and the tribunal courts. At a supra-national level, The Gambia can also be subject to the regulations of the ECOWAS Court of Justice. Rule-making and regulatory authority exists with the President, his cabinet of Ministers, and the committee members under the National Assembly of The Gambia, and various government parastatals. The judicial power of The Gambia is vested in the courts and shall be exercised by them according to the respective jurisdictions conferred by an Act of the National Assembly. There are two types of courts in The Gambia, the Superior Courts and the Magistrates Court, the Cadi Court, District Tribunals and such lower courts and tribunals as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly. The levels of regulation that are relevant to foreign businesses exist at the local, state, national, and supra-national level based on the case concerned.
Bills are prepared by the executive branch of the government of The Gambia and presented to the National Assembly for review and approval. Once a bill has been cleared by the National Assembly, it is then presented to the President for his or her assent. The President shall, within thirty days, assent to the bill or return it to the National Assembly with the request that the National Assembly reconsider the bill. A bill which has been passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President shall become law when it is published in the Gazette, which must happen within thirty days of assent.
Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for comment through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. This practice is in line with U.S. federal notice and comment procedures, and applies to investment laws and regulations in The Gambia.
Regulations are not reviewed on the basis of scientific or data-driven assessments. There are no known scientific studies or quantitative analysis conducted on the impact of regulations made publicly available for comment, but there is a public agency, The Gambia Bureau of Statistics, that does develop data based on enacted legislation. Non-governmental and non-profit organizations are examples of entities that are able to develop such data for public consumption. Public comments received by regulators are not made public.
There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. The accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms. There is no formal stock market such as a stock exchange for trading equity securities, therefore question on accounting standards is not applicable. However, the accounting standards of The Gambia are generally based on that of the United Kingdom.
Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for comment through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. This practice is in line with U.S. federal notice and comment procedures, and applies to investment laws and regulations in The Gambia.
There is no centralized online location where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published. A contract was concluded with LexisNexis in 2009 for the publication of the entire country’s legislation; however access is not free of charge. The nature of the content is unknown because it is not publically available. The National Assembly is also in the process of compiling all regulatory actions on its website. Government ministries’ websites all contain links to the laws that affect the sectors which they govern.
The Policy Analysis Unit (PAU) at the Office of The President ensures that government bodies follow due administrative processes. They work in tandem with the Personnel Management Office (PMO) to enforce laws and coordinate on matters that may require referral within the judicial system. The judicial power of The Gambia is vested in the courts, which exercise this power according to the respective jurisdictions conferred by an Act of the National Assembly. There are two types of courts in The Gambia, the Superior Courts and the Magistrates Court, plus the Cadi Court, District Tribunals and such lower courts and tribunals as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.
There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies. However, the enforcement process is legally reviewable.
No new regulatory system reforms have been announced since the last ICS report, but regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years are being implemented and the Investment Policy Plan of The Gambia is still being drafted. Since these reforms have not been enacted, it is not possible to currently assess their general implications. However, an implication of executive directives under the previous government likely contributed to driving away foreign investors.
International Regulatory Considerations
The Gambia is a member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and as such, is signatory to the 1975 ECOWAS Treaty, which harmonizes investment rules. In cases of investor-state and state-state disputes, the parties can refer their cases to a national court or tribunal or, in the case of disagreement, to the ECOWAS Court of Justice. The ECOWAS Supplementary Acts are passed to supplement the ECOWAS Treaty. These Acts are binding on Member States and the institutions of the ECOWAS Community. The Council of Ministers enacts Regulations and Directives and issues Decisions and Recommendations. Regulations have general application and all their provisions are enforceable and directly applicable in Member States. Therefore, the ECOWAS regional regulatory system has more authority than the national regulatory system of The Gambia. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) first introduced competition legislation in 2008, including a prohibition on anticompetitive mergers. The ECOWAS Regional Competition Authority office was officially opened in The Gambia March 2018.
The international norms and standards of the United Kingdom are referenced and incorporated into The Gambia’s regulatory system. The Gambia has its own regulatory system, which it designs with stakeholders from the international community of NGOs, but international norms or standards referenced or incorporated into the country’s regulatory system are often based on the UK system of regulations.
The Gambia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The government does not notify the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations. However, if requested, draft technical regulations are available to relevant stakeholders like the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).
There is a window of opportunity to expand aid for trade and other development aid to achieve The Gambia’s goals to increase its participation in the multilateral trading system and to achieve higher and inclusive growth. The Gambia’s own efforts through initiatives such as the National Development Plan were considered important to mobilize this assistance. The Gambian economy continued to face challenges, but there were encouraging signs that it was stabilizing and that higher growth might take place. Some of the main problems to this growth were high fiscal deficits, the growing public debt, and financially distressed state-owned enterprises. Also, it was considered that high government borrowing combined with tight monetary policy had resulted in high interest rates crowding out private sector development. Fiscal consolidation in 2017 had already slowed the growth of debt accumulation and has significantly brought down interest rates. Real GDP growth averaged 2.9 percent in the period 2010-16, and growth rates reached 3.2 percent in 2017. The growth forecast for 2018 is 3.5 percent.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
The Gambia’s legal system is based on English common law, and there is a legal framework for enforcing property and contractual rights in courts.
The Gambia does not have written commercial and/or contractual law as its legal system is based on Common Law. The Gambia has eight specialized courts, including a Commercial Court and Labor and Industrial Tribunal Court, but not a designated civil court (the High Court deals with both civil and criminal cases).
The judicial system is independent of the executive branch. The judicial process is procedurally competent, fair, and reliable, and is expected to become more so as the country re-establishes the rule of law under the new administration.
Regulatory or enforcement actions are appealable. Appeals against regulations or enforcement actions may be adjudicated with the lower courts, the High Court, and the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of appeal in the country.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The legal and regulatory framework is generally open to FDI. The investment laws and regulations of The Gambia apply equally to local and foreign investors. The GOTG has made efforts to attract foreign investment by opening all but a few sectors to investment. However, several factors contribute to generating uncertainty and deter investment. These include unclear provisions of some of the laws related to investment, such as competition, labor and corruption; in addition, in some instances regulations do not exist to implement the laws effectively. Additionally, the institutions mandated to implement these laws face insufficient financial and human resources.
For information on the laws, rules, procedures and reporting required, foreign investors can visit the website of the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA): www.giepa.gm . GIEPA is a government agency set up to promote investment, export, and entrepreneurship development.
Potential investors to The Gambia can also visit The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) website to access laws and rules, procedures for investors interested in The Gambia. These laws are available to the general public via: www.gcc.gm
No major investment related laws/ regulations, and judicial decisions came out within the past year.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCP) is a commercial watchdog that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns and ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices, and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices. No significant competition cases have been reported over the past year.
Expropriation and Compensation
The Gambian Constitution of 1997 provides the legal framework for the protection of private ownership of property and only provides for compulsory acquisition by the state if this is found to be necessary for defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning.
There is a history of expropriations in The Gambia. Former President Jammeh was believed to be personally involved in extensive expropriation of land and business. During his 22 years in office, state paramilitary officials were known to arrive unannounced on private property and tear down standing structures on the property in question. Under Jammeh, the GOTG widely ignored its responsibility to offer compensation in cases of expropriation. There is widespread speculation that former President Jammeh benefitted personally from these land grabs.
Both the Constitution and the Compulsory Acquisition Act require the state to effect adequate and prompt compensation in such cases. Under the previous administration, there were cases where the government ignored court injunctions and tore down private property, however, no such instances were reported under the Barrow administration.
Over the course of President Barrow’s administration, hundreds of properties under former President Jammeh’s name were frozen. These include 131 landed properties across the country as of March 2017, and in March 2018, another 28 properties were added to the list of frozen assets. The decision to freeze the assets was taken by the Janneh Commission of Inquiry established by the Barrow Administration in August 2017. It is highly unlikely that Jammeh will be offered any form of compensation for the properties which are understood to have been acquired illegally.
In the above cases, claimants alleged a lack of due process and compensation.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
The Gambia is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), but there is no specific legislation providing for enforcement of ICSID awards. However, Section 219 of The Constitution of The Gambia requires the state to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards.
The Gambia is not a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The Gambia is a signatory to the 1975 ECOWAS Treaty that was revised in 1993 toward the establishment of a Community Investment Code to harmonize investment rules. In cases of investor-state and state-state disputes, the parties can refer their cases to a national court or tribunal or, in the case of disagreement, to the ECOWAS Court of Justice.
The Gambia does not have any BITs or FTAs with the United States.
Over the past 10 years, there has been only one trade dispute involving a U.S. person or other foreign investor. In June 2013, the government announced a ban on the importation of frozen poultry parts, which constituted the largest U.S. export to The Gambia, worth over USD 7 million a year. The ban was lifted in November 2013, but a statement issued by the Ministry of Trade imposed a new condition that all shipments of poultry products entering the country required Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) certification that they are hormone-free. This trade issue was resolved in early 2014. Later that year, in October, the government banned the importation of beef offal (liver and kidney) due to concerns over the manner in which it was handled and sold to the public. There was no distinction in the origins of these products but a significant amount of these imports come from the United States. The ban was lifted in December 2014.
Local courts do recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. However, due to executive interference during the Jammeh regime, local courts have not been in a position to enforce these foreign arbitral. The current government is expected to recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against it.
The GOTG has taken extrajudicial action against foreign investors in the past, but not in the past 20 years.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The Gambia is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), but there is no specific legislation providing for enforcement of ICSID awards. However, there is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism as a means for settling disputes between private parties. The law creating the ADR mechanism was enacted in 2005 and the ADR Secretariat became fully operational in 2008.
Arbitration is governed by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2005, and is generally based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, with some provisions adapted from the UNCITRAL Rules. The Gambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is currently engaged in setting up a Dispute Resolution Center.
Local courts recognize and can enforce foreign arbitral awards; however executive directives and interference prevented them from ably enforcing those awards in the past. Reforms by the current political administration are expected to make it easier for local courts to enforce foreign arbitral awards if the need arises.
Information on the percentage of cases that were ruled in the favor of SOEs is not available. In the past one year, Gambian SOEs have not been involved in investment disputes that were determined by any domestic courts. There have been reports of complaints about the court processes during former President Jammeh’s regime, when rulings tended to overwhelmingly favor the GOTG.
Bankruptcy is covered by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of 1992. Creditors, equity shareholders, and holders of other financial contracts may file for both liquidation and reorganization. Bankruptcy is not criminalized in The Gambia.
In 2017, the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) established a Credit Reference Bureau within its Financial Supervision Department. According to a CBG statement, the bank will seek to facilitate the mutual sharing of consumer credit information with commercial banks with a view to making for accurate evaluation of credit risks. Advocacy efforts for improvements in maintaining creditor information came primarily from the banking sector.
4. Industrial Policies
The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) Act, signed into law in 2010, sets out the administrative and legal requirements for investing in The Gambia and makes provisions for business incentives, protection against compulsory acquisition, settlement of disputes and the transfer of funds. The 2010 GIEPA Act specified criteria that investors must meet to qualify for special investment certificates.
Special Investment Certificate (SIC) applicants shall be granted incentives if engaged within any priority investment category as specified under the GIEPA Act for a period of eight years. Such investments will be entitled to the following incentives:
exemption from corporate tax and turnover tax; depreciation allowance; exemption from import value added tax; exemption from import duty in respect of capital goods in accordance with the Customs and Excise Act, 2010;
According to the terms of the GIEPA Act (2015), foreign investors can purchase or lease private property or state-owned land. However, there are some restrictions: the State Lands Act (1991) stipulates that foreigners can only have access to residential land for a period not exceeding 21 years, in an area which is outside 1.5 km of the high water mark as designated by the Minister of Lands and Regional Government, and the property cannot exceed 2,500 square meters. Undeveloped non-residential lands cannot be leased or assigned to foreigners, and, in case of violation, the lease can be terminated without compensation.
The Ministry of Lands and Regional Government can also facilitate free access to land for investors with proposals targeting industrial development activities. The size of the land, location, and duration of the occupancy depends on the details of the proposals received by the Ministry.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The GIEPA Act provides for Export Processing Zones (EPZ) to be established in separate selected areas to which special customs territory status shall be conferred as well as for the establishment of single factory EPZs for which GIEPA will be the regulator.
The aim of the EPZ is to build a conducive business environment for export oriented investment enterprises through the provision of additional incentives, simplifying the import-export procedures and facilitating the acquisition of land, permits and licenses.
An area measuring 164 hectares at Banjul International Airport has been designated an Export Processing Zone (EPZ). In December 2017, 160 hectares of that amount was awarded to Taf Africa Global, a real-estate company under Gambian real estate mogul Mustapha Njie, to develop a Business Park which will be called the “Yundum – International Airport City Free Zone.” There are also some bonded warehouses at the Banjul port which have not yet been designated as EPZs.
An investor operating within an export processing zone that exports at least eighty percent of its output is exempted from the payment of:
- import or excise duty and sales tax on goods produced within or imported into an export processing zone unless the goods are entered for consumption into the customs territory;
- import duty on capital equipment;
- corporate or turnover tax;
- municipal tax.
An investment enterprise located outside an export processing zone that exports at least thirty percent of its output is entitled to the following incentives:
- a ten percent corporate or turnover tax concession for five years;
- participation in training courses, symposia, seminars and workshops on export promotion;
- financial planning services and advice
- export market research;
- advertisement and publicity campaigns in foreign markets;
- product design and consultancy.
Incentives for investors in the EPZ are valid for maximum period of ten years. Foreign-owned firms have the same investment opportunities as local companies.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The government mandates local employment. There is no legislation that applies this scheme to senior management and boards of directors. Foreigners can only represent up to 20 per cent of the total number of employees of a company, with no distinction between management personnel and workers. It is not difficult to obtain visas, residence and work permits or other requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees. The recruitment of foreigners is subject to annually renewed applications and payment of an expatriate quota tax, which varies for West African and non-West African employees. Foreign employees obtain a joint residency and work permit. The Government of The Gambia restricts the ability of foreigners to invest in The Gambia only in that the GIEPA Act states that “a person shall not invest in or operate an investment enterprise which is prejudicial to national security, detrimental to the natural environment, public health, or public morality, or which contravenes the laws of The Gambia.”
The government does not pursue “forced localization,” requiring foreign investors to use domestic content in goods or technology. There is no known legislation in the investment policy of The Gambia that follows “forced localization” production methods.
There are no known laws that require foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption to the local government.
The Consumer Protection Act of 2014 prevents companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside The Gambia.
Such measures do not exceed requirements applicable to data transferred within the country.
As mandated by the Competition Act of 2007 and the Consumer Protection Act of 2014, the GCCPC is the agency responsible for the enforcement of rules on local data storage within the country/economy. The GCCPC Enforcement Committee provides the agency with all the legal and enforcement expertise necessary for it to fulfill its mission of championing competition for growth and choice. Specifically, the Legal Committee Division takes the lead in enforcement action and applies rigorous legal analysis in all investigations and notifications under the Competition Act. It also undertakes critical review of the Competition Act; subsidiary legislation and the GCCPC guidelines; performs all in-house legal advisory work required in the execution of GCCPC’s functions and represents GCCPC in all court and appeal proceedings.
Non-Gambians cannot exceed 20 percent of a company’s staff, according to the law. Companies are also required to pay an annual expatriate quota (or payroll tax) fee of GMD 10,000 (USD 256.40) for ECOWAS citizens and GMD 40,000 (USD 1,025.64) for all other foreigners. Such foreign workers are also required by law to pay an annual registration fee of about USD 54 and a work permit fee of about USD 11. A regulation that set up the Expatriate Quota Board is intended to encourage businesses to hire qualified Gambian staff but is not targeted toward specific industries. If a company chooses to hire an expatriate for a job that can be done by a Gambian, they are required to pay the equivalent of USD 345 in tax annually. An amendment to the Payroll Tax Act approved by the National Assembly in April 2008 set the limit of non-Gambians that businesses can employ to 20 per cent, except in the case of specialized professionals. There have been no publically issued statements on state intentions to maintain, increase, or decrease performance requirements. The above performance requirements are required of both foreign and domestic investors. In theory, these are uniformly applied systematically to both domestic and foreign investors. The GOTG has not expressed any indications of changing the performance requirements.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights and interests exist and are clearly protected under the laws of The Gambia. Property rights were violated extensively under the Jammeh regime. However, the new administration has vowed to uphold the laws going forward. Mortgages and liens exist but are largely unused. The Department of Lands and Regional Government issues title deeds which are reliable.
There are specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors. In 2007, the Lands Commission Act was established by the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government.
Section 14 of the act provides for the following functions:
The Commission shall:
(a) advise the Secretary of State on political matters relating to land administration to ensure strict adherence to those policies and transparency in land allocations;
(b) investigate disputes on land ownership and occupation in any area in The Gambia;
(c) assess land rent and premium for properties within any area in The Gambia;
(d) monitor the registration of properties and inspect land registers and records;
(e) be responsible for all matters relating to national boundaries, including monitoring and reporting to the Secretary of State; and
(f) perform such other functions as the Secretary of State may assign.
The Gambia ranks 129 on the 2017 World Bank Rankings for Registering Property and 118 for Dealing with Construction Permits.
The exact proportion of land without clear title is not publically available. However, all indications of land re-selling suggest that this figure is in excess of 10 percent. The GOTG is committed to identifying property owners and registering land titles. In 2013, the Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) was launched in The Gambia to assess the number of properties without clear title, but to date, the LGAF implementation has been practically non-existent.
In the case of legally purchased property that is unoccupied, property ownership can revert to other owners under agreeable terms to both parties. Legal owners normally allow squatters to occupy empty lands until they are ready to begin construction, at which time disputes often result in the squatters and “other owners” being evicted.
No known financial mechanisms are available for securitization of properties for lending purposes nor are efforts being made by the GOTG individually or in collaboration with international bodies to develop secured lending capabilities for investors. Efforts are needed to strengthen property and protection, contract enforcement, improve bank regulation and supervision and strengthen the bank resolution and crisis management framework to upgrade the financial safety net for domestic and foreign investors.
Intellectual Property Rights
Over the past year, the GOTG has taken several measures to ensure the protection of IP within The Gambia, including launching the National Intellectual Property Policy in February 2018 in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). On March 3, 2018, The Gambia officially began hosting the ECOWAS Regional Competition Authority (ERCA) which also focuses on regional efforts to enforce and combat intellectual property theft.
The efforts by the Barrow administration will target the vacuum created by the lack of IP experts, missing legal structure for IP protection, and history of infringement on rights in The Gambia during President Jammeh’s regime. As a result, few IP crimes were reported in The Gambia according to the Gambia Police Force (GPF), so it is likely that such theft is uncommon.
The Gambia is a signatory to both the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Bern Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. In 2003, the country enacted its own Copyright Act. This law provides adequate protection for intellectual property, patents, copyrights and trademarks. In 2005, the GOTG enacted the Business Registration Act. The Ministry of Justice also hosts the office of the registrar of Intellectual Property.
In 2018, The Gambia launched the National Intellectual Property Policy. There are no reform bills pending in parliament. Since there has not been a history of IP prosecution in The Gambia, the extent to which the Act would improve/hinder the protection of IP rights is unknown, but the introduction of legislation is expected to promote greater competition in the economy. The Gambia serving as host country to the ECOWAS Regional Competition Authority (ERCA) might also help the country on its efforts to catch up in the international arena, in the area of intellection property protection.
On April 12, 2017 The Gambia Police Force (GFP) announced that it will be establishing an Anti-Intellectual Property Crime Unit at the Police Headquarters in Banjul. With the release of the National Intellectual property Policy, The Gambia has officially begun to prosecute IPR violations.
The country tracks and reports on seizures of counterfeit goods. However, there have been no recent reports of the government seizing counterfeit goods, despite the prevalence of counterfeit goods such as pirated movies, music CDs, toothpaste and cigarettes imported from China.
The Gambia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report.
The Gambia is not listed in the notorious market report.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The GOTG encourages foreign portfolio investment in The Gambia.
Gambian banks are trying to return to a more balanced portfolio structure in the medium run following the secular decline in private sector lending relative to investment in government securities. The long-run average corporate-to-government exposure ratio stood at 100 percent during 2000-10. CBG staff contends that the decline in the ratio was delayed by foreign banks entering the local market with an aggressive lending strategy to capture market share. With market saturation setting in, corporate lending then started declining in relative terms from 2011. Banks and policymakers alike would like to see the exposure ratio return to the long-run average over time, provided that the emergence of lending opportunities, both large-scale investment projects and retail credit, can be supported by the banks without compromising their financial soundness and overall financial stability.
The Gambia does not have a stock market. There is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. Sufficient liquidity does not exist in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. While there are no existing policies broadly directed at facilitating the free flow of financial resources, there are no policies in place that impede such activity. The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. Credit is allocated on market terms. Foreign investors are able to get credit on the local market.
The GOTG respects the IMF Article VIII obligations for member countries.
Money and Banking System
The Gambian banking sector has experienced rapid growth over the past few years, driven by important foreign direct investment inflows and intensified competition, with the number of banks doubling between 2007 and early 2010. This growth has helped deepen financial intermediation, and credit provisioning to the private and public sectors has grown by around 4.5 percent a year over the period to reach 17 percent of GDP. As of June 2017, the total assets of the banking industry amount to D35.7 billion.
The microfinance sector has experienced significant growth in the past few years. By 2015, Village Savings and Credit Associations (VISACAs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs) reached approximately 90 per cent of households. As of March 2013 The Gambia received no long-term sovereign credit rating from any of the major credit rating agencies.
Among the 2017 macroeconomic reforms introduced in The Gambia, was a reduction in lending rates from 27 percent to 21 percent which represents a drop of 22 percent. This effort was introduced to spur borrowing from SMEs in the local economy.
The banking sector is healthy. However, according to a 2018 International Monetary Fund (IMF) Country Report, Fiscal stress tests indicate that a tail-risk shock arising from an adverse macroeconomic shock from drought together with an Ebola-like pandemic would have adverse macro-fiscal and macro-financial impacts which would increase contingent liabilities, worsen government finances and make debt deeply unsustainable.
According to the IMF Article IV consultations, the basic multi-factor financial stress scenario implied by the fiscal stress indicates that a relatively modest level of capital would be required to have all the banks meet statutory requirements.
The impact of the Fiscal Stress Test reduces the commercial banks’ level of capital and their ability to meet increased daily cash withdrawals. The percentage of the total banking sector assets estimated to be non-performing is not available.
According to the Minister of Finance’s December 2018 Budget Speech, as at the end of September 2017, the estimated total assets of the 12 commercial banks in the country decreased from GMD 31.3 billion (USD 683.6 million) to GMD 19.2 billion (USD 400 million), due to reduced borrowing by the government from the domestic market.
The Gambia has a central bank system. Foreign banks or branches are allowed to establish operations in The Gambia. They are subject to the banking regulations of The Gambia. No correspondent banking relationships were lost in the past three years. No corresponding banking relationships are in jeopardy.
There are no restrictions on a foreigners opening a bank account.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
There are no restrictions on foreign investors converting or repatriating funds in The Gambia. Investors can repatriate funds (e.g., profits and dividends) through commercial banks or licensed money transfer agencies at prevailing exchange rates.
Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency. However, the Gambian Dalasi (GMD) is not readily convertible to foreign currencies in non-neighboring countries.
The national currency, the Dalasi (GMD), has a floating exchange rate that is determined by market forces. The Dalasi rate does fluctuate.
There have been no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies in The Gambia.
The Migration and Sustainable Development in The Gambia (MSDG) group, is working in partnership with the Central Bank of The Gambia (CBG) to devise, develop and implement a scheme to reduce the cost of remittances to The Gambia to record low levels. The scheme is in line with the 2016 Nairobi Action Plan on Remittances (NARP), the 2015 Joint Valletta Action Plan, and Target 10.7c of the Sustainable Development Goals.
There are no time limitations on remittances. There are no plans to tighten access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. Investors may repatriate profits and dividends through commercial banks or licensed money transfer agencies at prevailing exchange rates.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Neither the host government nor government-affiliated entities maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
SOEs are active in tourism, aviation, maritime services, public transport, power generation, telecommunications, road building, and housing. All SOEs have a Board of Directors which is appointed by their line ministry. Members of the Board are usually comprised of key stakeholders in the sector and some government officials who serve as ex-officio members. Management reports to the line ministry, which has final responsibility to approve Board decisions. All SOEs are required to submit their annual report and audited accounts to the National Assembly, particularly to the Public Enterprise Committee (PEC). In 2017, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs established a publically available directory which lists the number of SOEs that are wholly-owned, the number that are majority-owned, the total assets of SOEs, and the total net income of SOEs. Specific SOEs’ webpages contain specifics such as the number of people employed by SOEs.
A publically available list of parastatals is published online via the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Website – http://mofea.gov.gm/soe-links
SOEs competing in the domestic market do not receive non-market based advantages from the GOTG. U.S. investors are not affected by any form of non-market based advantages the GOTG provides to SOEs. SOEs in The Gambia generally adhere to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance. By using the guideline to form an integral part in organizing good practices among their state-owned enterprise sectors; promoting the implementation of the Guidelines in establishing their ownership practices and defining a framework for corporate governance of state-owned enterprises; disseminating this Recommendation of the Guidelines among Ministries. Additionally, the GOTG is open to a review by the Working Party on State Ownership and Privatization Practices and for follow up on the implementation of the Council’s Recommendations. The GOTG is also expected to report to the Council, no later than five years as recommended in the guidelines, following its adoption in 2015.
The Government of The Gambia is currently not engaged in any forms of privatization programs.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
The notion of corporate social responsibility is still in its early stages in The Gambia and only some state-owned enterprises and some private companies, such as banks and telecommunications companies, adopt Responsible Business Conduct as a policy. However, investors in The Gambia are required by the GIEPA Act 2015 to adhere to Minimum Standards which cover environmental, social, and governance issues.
Gambian laws generally contain a provision that ensures social and environmental protection of its citizens, regardless of activity and its potential for income for the country. These domestic laws are actively and fairly enforced. Currently no national action plan on RBC has been enacted. Agencies that promote or enforce RBC include PURA, GCCP, GIEPA, GCCI, the Standards Bureau, and the Gambia Revenue Authority. GCCP and the Standards Bureau in particular ensure the protection of investment stakeholders across diverse sectors of The Gambia.
The Gambia Standards Bureau was enacted in the 2010 Gambia Standards Bureau Act, but only began operations two years later in 2012. It was mandated to standardize methods and products produced in the Gambia. In 2015, the Director General of The Standards Bureau, established the first Technical Committee (TC) on food which reviewed and adopted ten 10 standards on food and related matters in The Gambia. The launching was announced at a briefing to the Public Accounts Committee/Public Enterprise Committee of the National Assembly where the Director General stressed that standards on food and connected issues e.g. hygiene and labeling, were top priority both for government and the public. In 2016, the Standards Bureau launched the National Quality Awards in collaboration with the West Africa Quality System Program (WAQSP). It aims to promote a quality culture within the public and private enterprises, and encourage quality performance in competition. The Bureau is currently formalizing the National Standards for Food Imports in The Gambia.
The Gambia Public Procurement Agency was enacted in 2001 and revised in 2014 to provide for the establishment, functions and powers of The Gambia Public Procurement Authority and for the basic principles and procedures to be applied in the public procurement of goods, works and services, and for connected matters.
In 1997, the GOTG enacted by the Ombudsman Act, which established the Office of the Ombudsman. It became operational in 1999.
In 2017, Golden Lead, a Chinese-owned fishing factory operating in the coastal town of Gunjur in The Gambia was accused of discharging toxic waste water off the Gambia’s coast. Residents complained of hundreds of dead marine life washing ashore which resulted in the GOTG suing the Chinese company in court. An initial ruling fined the company USD 25,000, but in June 2017, Golden Lead reached an out-of-court settlement with The Gambia’s National Environment Agency (NEA).
In March 2018, another incident involving the same company and local residents, mainly village youths, was reported when an accident involving a Golden Lead commercial vehicle led to some environmental damages, which lead the youth to retaliate by damaging underground waste pipes channeling out of the Golden Lead factory into the sea. The GOTG has yet to intervene on this latest incident, despite the appeal of local residents’ to the government to protect their community.
The Gambia has adopted several measures to support environmental improvement and reducing the decline to environmental damage. Consequently any project with potential environmental impact is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by the National Environment Agency (NEA) before a license or permit is granted. These projects include hotels, roads, bridges, mining, large-scale agricultural projects, processing and manufacturing industries, fish processing, waste disposal, installation of electrical lines, etc. Despite its efforts to enforce domestic laws, the NEA is heavily underfunded and in need of resources for environmental protection.
According to the GIEPA Act, “The Government shall take all necessary measures to protect investments and the property of investors in accordance with the laws of The Gambia and the bilateral investment Treaties.” (Section 41)
In most cases, the understanding of RBC is limited to the allocation of funds to charitable causes such as supporting schools and health projects, disaster relief, and environmental enhancement. However, the banks and mobile phone companies often use such donations for publicity and marketing purposes. These firms are often viewed favorably by the Gambian public and are able to conduct their work freely.
Foreign and local enterprises are encouraged to follow RBC principles such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Areas where natural resources are extracted are not subject to conflict; the GOTG does not specifically promote the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas.
The Gambia does have a budding extractives industry. The GOTG does not participate currently in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standards, although officials at the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MOPE) have expressed interest in participating this year. The Gambia does not participate in the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. There are no domestic transparency measures requiring the disclosure of payments made to government and/or of RBC/BHR policies or practices.
There are laws to combat corruption by public officials in The Gambia.
These laws are largely ineffective because the committees which are commissioned to enforce them are yet to be fully established. In cases when trials are conducted, they are conducted in a non-discriminatory manner.
The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia extend to family members of officials and to members of political parties. They also contain laws or regulations that counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.
The GOTG encourages private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. The constitution of The Gambia calls for internal codes of conduct (Section 222), as does the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance to which The Gambia is a signatory.
Private companies use internal controls and other programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.
The Gambia has signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences, and as of August 1, 2017, also ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. In May 2014, The Gambia ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention.
The GOTG does provide protections to NGO’s involved in investing corruption in The Gambia. During the previous administration, foreign NGOs investigating corruption in particular were at risk to government threats and retaliation.
At least one U.S. person complained in 2016 of corruption as an obstacle to FDI. This was reported in the water resource management sector and involved a commercial dispute between the GOTG and a U.S. firm. The firm has since indicated that the new administration is taking steps to resolve the matter.
Resources to Report Corruption
The following groups offer services for vetting potential local investment partners:
Commanding Officer, Fraud & Commercial Crime Unit
Gambia Police Force
The Gambia (+220) 4223015 / 4222307
Contact at “watchdog” organization:
Fatou Njie-Jallow MRG
Office of the Ombudsman
132 Atlantic Road, Cape Point Bakau
P.O. Box 4113, Banjul, The Gambia.
(220) 4498295 /4494607
10. Political and Security Environment
After independence in 1965, The Gambia experienced its first episode of politically motivated violence in a failed military coup in 1981. In 1994, another military coup installed military dictator Yahya Jammeh, who ruled The Gambia until January 18, 2017. Former President Jammeh banned political activity and drew up a new constitution and held presidential elections in 1996. In 1997 a new constitution was passed and the country transitioned back to civilian rule. Jammeh was elected president in all subsequent elections until the December 2016 presidential elections, when he was defeated at the polls by a coalition of seven political parties. Jammeh’s presidency was rife with politically motivated violence that included the arrest, torture, and killing of many citizens, forcing many, particularly youths, to flee the country.
On April 14 and again on April 16, 2016, Gambians took the streets in what the regime labeled “unauthorized demonstrations.” Members of the country’s largest political opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP), staged peaceful protests in the greater Banjul area, and several dozen UDP members, and even passersby, were arrested, beaten, and held without charge in excess of 72 hours. On July 20 and 21, thirty UDP supporters were convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment. During their incarceration, two detainees died in custody. These peaceful demonstrations were in retrospect the opening stages of a campaign against Jammeh that would lead to his December 2016 electoral defeat, in which eight opposition parties and one independent candidate successfully contested under a coalition ticket.
On December 1, 2016 Gambians voted to remove President Jammeh, and his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) party that had ruled The Gambia for 22 years, from power. On December 2, several cases of vandalism were reported in Serrekunda, in which elated Gambians tore down street sign that had even the slightest relation to Jammeh and the APRC, including privately sponsored billboards with images of Jammeh. After initially accepting the results, Jammeh soon rejected them and called for a repeat vote. Public resistance to those plans, along with international urging, led to Jammeh stepping down from office and leaving The Gambia on January 21, 2017.
In 2017, an ECOWAS security stabilization mission, the ECOWAS Military Intervention in The Gambia (ECOMIG), authorized the deployment of regional troops to the country for a period of six months to remedy the security vacuum created by Jammeh’s departure. The mission, which is still active, has been expanded twice and current indications suggest that it could be extended for another year after the current mandate expires in May 2018. Several clashes have been reported involving villagers from former President Jammeh’s home village in Kanilai and ECOMIG troops, with one reported fatality in early 2017.
In the 22 years of his reign in power, Jammeh reduced the Gambian population to what Human Rights Watch described in 2016, as a “state of fear,” that ultimately bred a fearless determination to get rid of Jammeh. Human rights violations were endemic across The Gambia and included many instances of impunity, restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, and deaths in police and state custody. Over the past ten years, no major damages to investment projects or installations have been reported in The Gambia.
After the coalition victory and Jammeh’s departure from the country, a renewed sense of optimism has spread in The Gambia. Many formerly exiled Gambians have returned, or visited for the first time in many years, including many who are eager to invest.
Security concerns do remain, however. In January 2017, two of Jammeh’s top generals who had left the country in January 2016 with the former president, reentered The Gambia. The officers, who are now in custody, arrived via the airport, where they were not interrogated or detained. It was only several days later that the two officers are arrested. They are currently in detention and being tried in court.
In the April 6, 2016 National Assembly election, the UDP won an overwhelming majority. At the time, there were some reports of public clashes between supporters of the various political parties, particularly between the supporters of the Mandinka-dominated UDP and the Jola dominated APRC. These clashes and the UDP dominance in the government have led to some concerns about increasing tribalism that could negatively affect development plans. Government officials have visited the affected areas and have publically condemned the clashes. The Jola dominated area of the country (the Fonis), from where former President Jammeh drew his principal support, remains somewhat volatile, but indications are that tolerance will prevail nationwide.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The Gambia’s total economically active population is estimated at 760,000. The general labor force participation rate is just below 80 percent, while the youth (15-35) labor force participation rate is 42.7 percent. Approximately 75 percent are engaged in agriculture; 10 percent in industry, commerce, and services; and 8 percent in government. The percentage of the population under the age of 25 is 60 percent. In the last labor force survey conducted in 2015/2016, youth unemployment stood at 61.7 percent. Current figures are estimated to still be in excess of 50 percent. The local workforce is affected by a lack of skills and knowhow; this gap is filled by foreign/migrant workers, mainly from Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and Guinea Bissau. Foreigners/migrant workers are also covered by domestic labor laws and obtain a joint residency and work permit to work in The Gambia.
The Gambia suffers from high unemployment and underemployment, compounded by a shortage of skilled workers and trained professionals. Approximately 59 percent of the labor force has no formal education. Many of the skilled workers in the construction and mechanical industries are foreigners from neighboring ECOWAS countries. However, Gambians are now beginning to take up these trades.
In January 2017, the Gambia Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) was launched to address the root economic causes of the irregular migration out of The Gambia through a program supporting youth employment and entrepreneurship. The four-year project is funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Stability.
The Empretec program in The Gambia is funded by the UNDP and the government of The Gambia and anchored at GIEPA. Since September, 2014 when the first training was commissioned, the Empretec center has trained over 736 entrepreneurs, including 164 farmers, some of whom have started manifesting success in their businesses. The Business Development Sector (BDS) component has also trained 93 BDS advisers and 61 of whom are actively providing advisory services to 293 businesses.
The Gambia Startup Incubator also trains young entrepreneurs on skills to manage their businesses.
Below is a list of all government policies that require the hiring of nationals.
- The Labor Act of 2007
- The Payroll Tax Act of 2008
- The Companies Act of 2005
- The Business Registration Act of 2005
The Labor Act requires employers to disburse all remuneration and accrued benefits to an employee at the termination or completion of a contract. There are no restrictions on employers adjusting employment to respond to fluctuating market conditions, including requirements with respect to severance. Workers laid off for economic reasons are entitled to receive a redundancy of six months regular remuneration. Labor laws in The Gambia do differentiate between layoffs and firing (w/ severance). Gambian labor laws do not provide for unemployment insurance.
Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment. There are no additional/different labor law provisions in special economic zones, foreign trade zones or free ports compared to the economy as a whole. Information on which countries exercise waivers on labor laws in The Gambia is not available.
Labor laws are not waived in order to attract or retain investment. International labor rights, such as freedom of association, the elimination of forced labor, child labor employment discrimination and minimum wage, are recognized within domestic law.
Collective bargaining is especially common in the transportation and ports industry. The Gambia Workers Confederation, formed in 1985, coordinates union activities. Sectoral data on coverage of collective bargaining agreements by sector is not available.
The Gambia has a Labor Tribunal which is presided over by a Magistrate and a panel of members appointed by the Chief Justice, on the recommendation of the Secretary of State. The 2007 Labor Act of The Gambia also authorizes an appointed Labor Commissioner to authorize a public officer to assist in conciliation of labor disputes.
Within the past year, The Gambia has not experienced any labor strikes and there are no occurrences that have posed a reputational or financial risk to investors.
There are no gaps in labor standards or practices that might post a reputational risk. However, the existence of child sex trafficking has been identified by the ILO as an area where the law or practice thereof falls short in comparison to international labor standards.
The Gambia regained its AGOA eligibility in 2018, as a recognition of efforts by the current government to amend human rights abuses by the previous administration, which caused it to lose its eligibility in 2013. The Gambia’s participation in the AGOA program does not require it to update its labor standards.
No new labor related laws were enacted during the last year and there are no pending draft bills.
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
There are currently no active OPIC projects in The Gambia. OPIC has considerable potential to make an influence in the following sectors: energy (oil exploration and exploitation; renewable energies, specifically solar); construction; natural resources (heavy mineral sands); agriculture (rice and cereal production, but also processed foods); tourism (targeting American tourists); and finally (hard) infrastructure (roads, telecommunications systems, drainage systems, and bridges).
There is no OPIC agreement between The Gambia and the United States.
The Chinese and Turkish governments have an active presence in the private sector of The Gambia and they do provide significant investment and some form of insurance financing to their firms in The Gambia.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical Source
USG or International Statistical Source
USG or International Source of Data:
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD)||
USD 883 million
USD 965 million
|Foreign Direct Investment||
Host Country Statistical Source
USG or International Statistical Source
USG or International Source of Data:
|U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions)||
BEA data available at
|Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions)||
BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as percent host GDP||
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
Kairaba Avenue, Fajara
Banjul, The Gambia