Executive Summary

The Gambia has an active private sector with a new government that is very interested in encouraging local investment and foreign direct investment. The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency is dedicated to attracting foreign investment, promotes exports, and provides guidelines and incentives to all investors whose portfolios qualify for a Special Investment Certificate. 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. Barrow’s election has paved the way for greater private-sector investment and accountability in the Government of The Gambia (GOTG).

The Barrow administration has demonstrated a willingness to listen to, and 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. American companies seeking to invest in The Gambia must work through a local lawyer and be open and transparent in all their dealings. The new administration will focus on the following sectors: 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 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. Trade relations with China, India, and Turkey have also increased in recent years. There is no legal distinction between the treatment of foreign and domestic investors.

There are opportunities for investment in several sectors. 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, including tourism, comprises approximately 60 percent of GDP, while industry comprises 10 percent. The country has a functional banking system with 12 commercial banks.

Gambian law provides the legal framework for the protection of private ownership of property and for adequate and prompt compensation in the event of compulsory acquisition. Some outstanding land disputes remain from previous years that appear to be the result of disputes between the previous government and private landowners. Most remain unresolved, but the legal reforms the new government has initiated will provide a proper mechanism to resolve many of the cases.

As a result of the previous government’s poor human rights record, the economy suffered and on January 1, 2015 The Gambia lost its eligibility to participate as a trade beneficiary under the provisions of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA enhances market access to the United States for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. Qualification for AGOA eligibility is based on a set of conditions (e.g., each country must be working to improve its rule of law, human rights, and respect for core labor standards). President Adama Barrow’s administration seeks to regain AGOA eligibility and has taken steps with respect to human rights and rule of law that will help restore The Gambia’s eligibility for AGOA.

Similarly, the decision to rescind The Gambia’s Millennium Cooperation Challenge (MCC) eligibility in 2006 was based on evidence of human rights abuses and increased restrictions on political rights, civil liberties, and press freedom by the Jammeh government, as well as worsening economic policies and reduced anti-corruption efforts. In June 2006 The Gambia lost its MCC eligibility. Regaining access to the MCC will provide the GOTG with much needed assistance in infrastructure development, and in the agriculture and energy sectors. While the process to reinstate The Gambia’s AGOA eligibility can be achieved relatively quickly, the review for MCC eligibility is a lengthier process involving several organizations.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 26 of 175 http://www.transparency.org/
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2016 145 of 190 doingbusiness.org/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2016 N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2015 N/A http://www.bea.gov/
World Bank GNI per capita 2015 N/A http://data.worldbank.org/

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOTG welcomes investment in all sectors of the economy. However, eight were 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, air services, energy, fisheries, Information Communication Technology (ICT), light manufacturing, river transportation, and tourism. There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, including U.S. investors.

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

Additionally, The Gambia Competitiveness Improvement Forum was created as part of the 2015 GIEPA Act to maintain dialogue with investors, but to date the forum has yet to be formally commissioned.

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 remuneration 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. The Gambia has no known defense industries.

While no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements were legally applied to foreign ownership and control (outside of defense-related activities), former President Jammeh informally influenced the business decisions of some (profitable) foreign companies. In 2015, temporary restrictions were imposed on the importation of onions and potatoes. These restrictions, which were designed to protect domestic suppliers of vegetables, were lifted in April 2017.

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.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2016 UNCTAD conducted a fact-finding mission to produce an Investment Policy Review (IPR) for The Gambia. The results of the IPR were presented in April 2017 and the Gambian government has committed to implementing the recommendations contained in the IPR. The IPR will be posted on UNCTAD’ website – http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IPR/Index .

Business Facilitation

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 the cabinet for approval. Tax and trade policies of The Gambia, with regard to specific services, are all publically communicated by GIEPA.

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 reduced the number of days it takes to register a business from 27 days to 1 day. 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.

Outward Investment

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.

The Gambia has Bilateral Investment Agreements with the following countries:

  • Guinea (2002)
  • Iran (2007)
  • Kuwait (2013)
  • Libya (1995)
  • Mali (2004)
  • Mauritania (2001)
  • Morocco (2006)
  • Netherlands (2002)
  • Qatar (2002)
  • Spain (2008)
  • Switzerland (1993)
  • Taiwan (2010)
  • Turkey (2013)
  • Ukraine (2001)
  • United Kingdom (2002)

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.

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.

There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. 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 accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms. Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for commenting through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. This practice is in line with the 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.

There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies. No new regulatory system reforms have been announced since the last ICS report, but regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years are being implemented – the Investment Policy Plan of The Gambia is still in the draft stage. Regulations are developed internally by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of The Government of The Gambia. A Bill or motion may be introduced in the National Assembly by a member of the cabinet or by a member of the National Assembly and the National Assembly gives consideration to Bills and motions introduced.

According to the Constitution of The Gambia “Where a bill passed by the National Assembly is 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 reconsiders the Bill” and if that is the case, “the President shall state the reasons for the request and any recommendations for amendment of the Bill.” A bill which has been duly passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President shall become law as an Act of the National Assembly and the words of enactment shall be, “Enacted by the President and the National Assembly.” When a bill is introduced into the National Assembly, it may be allocated to an appropriate committee for examination, and a report made thereon to the National Assembly.

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 (Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the Special Criminal Court) and the Magistrates Court, which include the Cadi Court, District Tribunals, and such lower courts and tribunals as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly.

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. Public comments received by regulators are not made public.

International Regulatory Considerations

The Gambia is a member of ECOWAS, and as such, is a 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 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 also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The government does not notify the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations. However, draft technical regulations are available to relevant stakeholders, like the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), if requested.

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 a written commercial and/or contractual law as its legal system is based on Common Law. The Gambia has 8 specialized courts, including a Commercial Court and Labor and Industrial tribunal Court, but not a civil court.

In principle, the judicial system is independent of the executive branch, but there were incidents in the recent past in which the executive interfered in judicial matters. The judicial process is, however, procedurally competent, fair, and reliable, and is expected to become more so under the new administration as the country re-establishes adherence to the rule of law.

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, including defense. However, several factors generate uncertainty and deter investment. These include unclear provisions of some of the laws related to investment, such as competition, labor and corruption, and, 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. During President Jammeh’s 22 years in office, state paramilitary officials were known to arrive unannounced on private property and tear down any 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. According to local media reports, the provision has generally been respected, but there have been cases where the government ignored court injunctions and tore down private property.

In April 2017, the GOTG expropriated the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction’s (APRC) political bureau in Kanifing South on the grounds that the previous administration had unlawfully seized the property and failed to pay rent for the building for many years. The building had never legally belonged to the APRC.

In January 2014, the Government of The Gambia terminated the petroleum exploration, development and production licenses awarded to three oil companies – African Petroleum, Buried Hill, and Oranto. A statement from the Office of the President said the companies concerned had failed to meet their licensing obligations. The statement said the government would not allow companies “to acquire licenses only to keep them for speculation.” However, in November 2014, the government announced that it had reinstated the license of African Petroleum after a commitment by the company to drill its first well by September 1, 2016. In 2015, African Petroleum discontinued two ICSID claims against the Government of The Gambia after its licenses were reinstated.

In April 2011, the Gambian government announced it had taken control of all Libyan assets in the country, which included a number of hotels and an amusement park in reaction to the crisis in Libya. In May of the same year, a high court judge ruled that the Gambian government could take control of the Libyan assets until a United Nations-backed political force emerged from the crisis. There were no further statements on the status of the properties, even after the Transitional National Council assumed power in Libya.

In February 2008, the Government of The Gambia announced it had cancelled the license it granted to an Australian mining company in December 2005 to extract and process heavy mineral sands containing zircon, ilmenite, and rutile. The decision to cancel the company’s mining license came nearly a month after the government gave it a 24-hour ultimatum to provide information about the type and quantity of minerals it had mined and the international value of tonnage already exported. The deadline was later extended for two weeks and after it elapsed, the authorities arrested the company manager, who was charged with economic crimes. The trial did not continue after the manager jumped bail and left the country. The company filed a $31 million claim against the Government of the Gambia in ICSID in 2009. In January 2014, The Gambia’s Special Criminal Court delivered a judgment in the government’s case against the company and its manager, and ordered it to pay USD 200 million. According to the judgement if the company defaults, it will forfeit all of its machines and other assets to the state. In July 2015, the ICSID found in favor of the company and awarded it $23 million in damages, including legal costs. The Jammeh government did not comply with the ruling, maintaining its history of delaying or not complying with compensation rulings.

In the above cases, claimants alleged a lack of due process and compensation.

Dispute Settlement

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. There are no known cases of foreign courts rendering judgments affecting the government.

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 a BIT or FTA 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 Societe Generale 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 in previous years, local courts were not able to enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. 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. The last major dispute with foreign investors was with the Swiss group Alimenta over the assets of The Gambia Groundnut Corporation in 1998. This groundnut processing plant at Denton Bridge is the biggest industrial complex in the country, and its hostile takeover by the government in 1999 sparked a protracted legal battle. The government eventually settled out of court and paid Alimenta USD 11.2 million compensation; Alimenta discontinued the claim it had filed with ICSID.

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 enforcing those awards in the past. Reforms by the current political administration are expected to make it easier for these 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. There have been reports of complaints about the court processes which, during former President Jammeh’s regime, tended to overwhelmingly rule in favor of the GOTG.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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.

Investment Incentives

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; and
  • exemption from import duty in respect of capital goods in accordance with the Customs and Excise Act, 2010.

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). 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; and
  • 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; and
  • 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.

The Government of The Gambia restricts the ability of foreigners to invest in The Gambia to the extent 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. It is not difficult to obtain visas, residence, and work permits or other requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees.

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 publicly 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 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. 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.

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.

Real Property

Property rights and interests, though clearly protected under the laws, were not enforced under the old 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: “A “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 exact proportion of land without clear title is not publicly 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 to assess the number of lands 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.

Intellectual Property Rights

The GOTG has taken several measures to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) within The Gambia. Due to a lack of intellectual property (IP) experts, the legal structure for IP protection is largely weak, thus there has been a history of infringement on rights in The Gambia. According to the Gambia Police Force (GPF), few IP crimes have been reported in The Gambia due to the lack of IPR experts in country. Reports of theft are low and so the phenomenon is relatively 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.

No new IP related laws or regulations have been enacted in The Gambia in the past year. There are also no reform bills pending in parliament. However, through the Ministry of Justice, the GOTG is currently in the draft stages of issuing an Intellectual Property and Trademarks Act. 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.

In April 2017 The Gambia Police Force (GPF) announced that it will be establishing an Anti-Intellectual Property Crime Unit at the Police Headquarters in Banjul. The Gambia does keep track of 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 does not prosecute IPR violations.

The Gambia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report, nor is it listed in the Notorious Market report.

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

The GOTG encourages foreign portfolio investment but 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. The Gambia does not have a stock market.

Existing policies do not facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the product and factor markets. However, 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 and 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.

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.

The Gambia banking sector is healthy. According to the Minister of Finance’s December 2016 Budget Speech, as at the end of September 2016, the estimated total assets of the 12 commercial banks in the country was GMD 31.3 billion ($ 683.6 million). The Gambia has a central bank system.

There are no restrictions on a foreigners opening a bank account. 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.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

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 in The Gambia. 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 fluctuates, based on market forces.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies in The Gambia. 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 a government-affiliated maintains a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

SOEs are active in tourism, aviation, maritime services, public transport, power generation, water service, 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. There is no publicly available directory which lists the number of SOEs that are wholly-owned, the number that are majority-owned, the total assets of SOEs, the total net income of SOEs, and the number of people employed by SOEs. Exact figures on the number of SOEs and the particulars of that ownership, including the total assets of those SOEs, total net income of SOEs, stake of the government in those SOEs and the number of people employed by SOEs are not available. This is partially due to the fact that there is no published list of SOEs.

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 Guidelines 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, defining a framework for corporate governance of state-owned enterprises, and 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 OECD Council on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises’ Recommendations. As recommended in the guidelines. The GOTG is also expected to report to the Council no later than five years following adoption in 2015.

There is no publicly available published list of SOEs. However, a publically available list of parastatals is published online – http://www.accessgambia.com/information/government-agencies.html 

Privatization Program

The Gambia does not utilize privatization programs. The new government has not announced the initiation of privatization programs.

The notion of corporate social responsibility is not well known in The Gambia and only some state-owned enterprises and some private companies such as banks and mobile phone companies adopt Responsible Business Conduct as a policy.

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 the Public Utilities Regulatory Agency (PURA), The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC), The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (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 a 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.

In the recent past, there have there been no high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights. The Gambia has adopted several measures to support environmental protection and reducing the impact of environmental damage. 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 short of resources to implement adequate environmental protections.

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 environment enhancement. However, the banks and mobile phone companies often use such donations for publicity and marketing reasons. These firms are often viewed favorably by the Gambian public.

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; 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, but GOTG does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standards or 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 in place 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 political parties alike. The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia 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 do 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, but has not 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.

During former President Jammeh’s rule, the GOTG did not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. However, such protections are likely as part of the new administration’s pledge to take action regarding the African Union convention on preventing and combatting corruption.

At least one U.S. firm 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

Contact at government agency responsible for combating corruption:

Commanding Officer, Fraud & Commercial Crime Unit
Gambia Police Force
Police Headquarters
Banjul, The Gambia
(+220) 4223015 / 4222307

The Gambia experienced its first episode of politically motivated violence or civil disturbance since its Independence in 1965 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, drafted a new constitution, and held a presidential election in 1996 which he won. In 1997 the new constitution was passed and the country transitioned back to civilian rule. Jammeh was re-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, 2016 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 bystanders, were arrested, beaten, and held without charge in excess of 72 hours, the constitutionally mandated period beyond which no one should be held without charge. On July 20 and 21, 2016, thirty UDP supporters arrested during the protests 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 1, 2016 electoral defeat.

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, 2016 several cases of vandalism were reported in Serrekunda, in which elated Gambians tore down street sign posters that had even the slightest relation to Jammeh and the APRC, including privately sponsored billboards with images of Jammeh. Eight opposition parties and one independent candidate successfully contested the election under a coalition ticket.

In the 22 years of his brutal reign in power, Jammeh reduced the Gambian population to what Human Rights Watch described in 2016, as a “state of fear,” that ultimately ironically bred a fearless determination to get rid of Jammeh. Human Rights violations were endemic across The Gambia and included several 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, there have been no examples of damage to projects and/or installations due to the political and security environment. After the coalition victory and Jammeh’s departure in the face of an ECOWAS military intervention on January 21, 2017 a renewed sense of optimism returned to The Gambia with many of the diaspora returning, including many eager to invest. It also emboldened the populace to react and comment on events in the political arena. In the April 6, 2017 National Assembly election, the UDP won an overwhelming majority, and 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 fears of increasing tribalism and a politicized environment that could negatively affect development plans. Government officials have visited affected areas and have publicly condemned these clashes. The Jola dominated area of the country (the Fonis), where former President Jammeh drew his principal support, remains somewhat volatile, but indications are that tolerance will prevail nationwide.

The Gambia’s total economically active population is estimated at 400,000. The labor force participation rate is about 74 percent. About 75 percent are engaged in agriculture, 10 percent in industry, commerce, and services, and 8 percent in government. In the last labor force survey conducted in 2014, youth unemployment stood at 38 percent, while current figures are estimated to 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.

The Gambia suffers from high unemployment and underemployment, compounded by a shortage of skilled workers and trained professionals. About 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, many Gambians are now taking up these trades.

The Empretec program in The Gambia is funded by UNDP and Government of the Gambia and anchored at GIEPA. Since September, 2014 when the first training was commissioned, 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.

The government policies that require the hiring of nationals are the following:

  • 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).

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. 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.

The Gambia experienced a labor strike at the Gambia Milling Corporation (GMC) that began on February 27, 2017. The workers protested against the management of the company, alleging unfair treatment. The workers had eight demands:

  • Qualified Gambian Human Resource personnel to be appointed per Personnel Management policies;
  • That the company provide Medical insurance including family members and dependents;
  • Full time employment for contractors to employees after 6 months’ probation period;
  • Salary increment and better incentive, including respect for employees and customers;
  • Creation of a staff association;
  • Provide loan access to all employees;
  • That the company employ the right qualified people in the right positions; and
  • Provide transportation in the form of staff buses; provide Promotion and upgrading of staffs among other things.

On the 11th of April, staff of the GMC, Officials of the Department of Labour (DoL), the Human Resources Manager of GMC, the Workers’ Union and the Lawyer of the Company held a meeting at the DoL but failed to find a solution. The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade informed workers on the April 11, 2017 that the government has every intention of resolving the matter, and that the Minister of Trade would meet with all parties involved.

There are no gaps in compliance in law or practice with international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. However, child sex trafficking has been identified by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as an area where the law or practice falls short in comparison to international labor standards. No new labor related laws were enacted during the last year and there are no pending draft bills.

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); 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.

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:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2015 $893 2015 $938.8 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A BEA data available at http://bea.gov/international/direct_investment_
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A N/A

*Source: Central Bank of The Gambia
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Country data not available.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Country data not available.

Kebba-Omar Jagne
Economic/Commercial Specialist, U.S. Embassy Banjul
Kairaba Avenue, Fajara. P.M.B. 19 Banjul, The Gambia
(220) 439-2856

2017 Investment Climate Statements: Gambia, The
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