Located in West Africa, The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa with a population of roughly 2.25 million people. The Gambia has an active private sector, and the government has announced its support for encouraging local investment and attracting foreign direct investment. The government’s Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency is dedicated to attracting foreign investment and promoting exports and it provides guidelines and incentives to all investors whose portfolios qualify for a Special Investment Certificate.
The Gambia has a small economy that relies primarily on agriculture, tourism, and remittances for support. The Gambia remains heavily dependent on the agriculture sector, with 75 percent of the population dependent on crops and livestock for their livelihoods. However, recent economic growth has been mainly driven by the services sector, including financial services, telecommunication, and construction. The country also has a long trading history and is a party to several trade agreements, which have the potential to make it an attractive production platform for the region and beyond.
The Gambia’s largest trade partner is Cote D’Ivoire, a fellow ECOWAS member, from which The Gambia imports the majority of its fuel products. Other major trade partners include China and Europe. 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.
With its young and rapidly growing population, Gambia provides a market with numerous opportunities for the sale of international products and services. Many Gambians have strong personal or professional ties to the United States, as well as a strong affinity for American brands. With a continued interest in new American brands, many Gambians have opened shops strictly selling American products. The quality and durability of American products are highly regarded. English is the official language and the business language. Local languages are also spoken by Gambians, and many of them are multilingual.
Registered property rights are crucial to support investment, productivity, and growth; however, the absence of a land policy means disputes over land are a major problem in The Gambia. Occasional disagreements occur in rural areas, mainly the West Coast Region, over land ownership or succession. Most conflicts result when community leaders sell a plot of land to multiple buyers. The Lands Office record-keeping system is manual and poor.
Frequent power outages, high data tariffs, and interruptions in internet services hinder businesses’ operational efficiency. Telecommunication operating costs remain high, and service is slow and subject to blackouts due to constant maintenance. In addition, the road system is heavily trafficked and can become impassable during the rainy season due to lack of drainage. The Gambia lacks the energy infrastructure necessary to support advanced commercial activities.
In December 2021, President Adama Barrow from the National People’s Party was re-elected for a second term five-year term. During his inaugural speech, Barrow pledged to jumpstart the economy and ensure broad-based development gains. In January 2021, the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources launched the development process of Gambia’s Long-Term Climate Change Strategy (LTS), which aims to help in the full integration of climate into the country’s policies and strategies, better supporting the needs, priorities, and adaptive capacities of communities most affected by climate change. The plan, Vision 2050, has four strategic priorities and was intended to be released in late 2021, but is still in the works.
Domestic Economy Developments
The 2021 fiscal year was a challenging one for the Gambian economy, but it was an improvement from 2020. The economy was expected to grow by 3.2 percent in 2021 in comparison to the -0.2 percent growth rate recorded in 2020. The improved growth rate is attributed to a rebound in the economy, especially in the service sector. In 2021, the agricultural sector was expected to increase at a rate of 4.5 percent, a considerable decrease from the previous year’s 11.7 percent. Due to late rains resulting to an estimated decline in all agricultural sub-components except for livestock, which has an estimated growth rate of 4.2 percent in 2021. In essence, rain dependent agriculture continues to make the sector highly vulnerable to climate change.
The industry sector was predicted to register the same growth rate of 9.9 percent in 2021 as it did in 2020. This is due to the lingering impact of the pandemic on construction especially the new road expansion project funded by Organization for Islamic Countries.
Mining, quarrying, electricity, water, and construction sub-sectors are all projected to register a decline in 2021. Manufacturing is the only sub-sector projected to record an improved growth rate from -21.2 percent in 2020 to -1.7 percent in 2021.
The Service sector, which remains the largest contributor to GDP, was estimated to register a growth from -7.2 percent in 2020 to 0.2 percent in 2021. The growth in the sector is mainly driven by modest performance in most of its sub-components such as wholesale and retail trade; information and communication; financial and insurance activities; professional and technical activities; and education, all of which are all projected to grow by less than 10 percent over the review period.
Economy and Impact of COVID-19
Prior to outbreak of the pandemic, The Gambia had shown strong macroeconomic performance in the few years following the remarkable political transition in 2016-17. Economic growth accelerated, debt vulnerabilities decreased, external stability strengthened, structural and legislative reforms progressed, and key social indicators improved. However, the COVID-19 pandemic halted some of the hard-won progress, slowing economic activity and re-igniting extreme poverty. The Gambia experienced a third wave of the pandemic in mid-2021, which has receded.
The COVID-19 vaccination rate currently stands at about 12 percent of the target population. The first quarter of 2021 looked promising, thanks to a huge vaccination campaign and a dramatic drop in the number of cases and fatalities by the virus. However, the recent emergence of new strains, especially the omicron variant, has dampened this prospect. The economy took a hit due to the closure of businesses and schools, and a slowdown in tourism activities in 2020. The Gambia had projected the start of economic recovery in 2021, as economic activity began showing early signs of recovery from the pandemic-induced contraction registered in 2020.
The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education reported COVID-19 related school closures affected about 674,300 students from Early Childhood Development to senior secondary schools in 2020. While most schools have since reopened, school closures resulted in many dropouts—highest among girls—and learning losses, which will likely have long-term detrimental economic and societal consequences. Limited digital infrastructure further hampered online learning.
Micro-, Small-, and Medium-Size Enterprises (MSMEs), which form the backbone of the Gambian economy by employing 60 percent of the active labor force and contributing approximately 20 percent to GDP, were particularly hard hit during the COVID crisis. The survival of MSMEs is crucial for mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy and to sustain employment and create the conditions needed for future growth once the pandemic is over. Recovery efforts may provide an opportunity to “rebuild better” by prioritizing sustainability, resilience, and inclusiveness.
The World Bank indicated the key to The Gambia’s post-COVID economic strategy will require the creation of a skilled labor force that is more productive and better able to adopt and adapt to new technologies. This includes infrastructure improvements to increase productivity and create jobs. Inclusive and sustained economic growth remains one of the main objectives of the Government of The Gambia (GoTG), and the medium-term policy priorities will be anchored on achieving and sustaining a more diversified growth to improve the living standards of all citizens, in addition to creating a favorable environment for the private sector to thrive.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The GoTG encourages foreign investment and has made increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) a priority. It also recognizes the importance of creating an environment that allows the private sector to be the engine of growth, transformation, and job creation. FDI is welcomed in almost every sector of the Gambian economy. There is no restriction on ownership of businesses by foreign investors in most sectors. Foreign companies can invest in Gambia without facing systemic discrimination in favor of local companies. Excessive and inconsistently applied bureaucratic procedures, decision-making process for public tenders, and contracts are all common complaints.
The Gambia Investment & Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) is the national agency established responsible for the promotion and facilitation of private sector investments into The Gambia.
Through the GIEPA, eight areas are also identified as “priority sectors” which attract a Special Investment Certificate (SIC) that provides several incentives, including duty waivers and tax holidays. The Investment Section at Office of The President plans to start handling foreign direct investment matters.
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. GIEPA normally hosts forums at which investors comment on the government’s policies and action. In 2021, GIEPA launched a new National Export Strategy for 2021-2025 which will focus on supporting The Gambia’s export-ready and export-potential firms to enter the regional and global value chains, particularly in value addition, horticulture and agro-processing, groundnuts, cashew, fisheries, light manufacturing, and hospitality or services – particularly tourism – to bring further benefits to the country.
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 in all forms of remunerative activities in The Gambia. There are no limits on foreign ownership or control of businesses except in the operations of defense industries, which are closed to all private sector participation, irrespective of nationality. Apart from Defense related activities, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements were legally applied to foreign ownership and control.
Foreign investors are not denied national treatment (i.e. the same treatment as domestic firms) or Most Favored Nation (MFN) treatment (i.e. the same treatment as the most favored foreign investor) in any sector. There is no mandatory screening of foreign direct investment, but such screening may be conducted if there is suspicion of money laundering or terrorism financing. Investors subjected to such a screening may be asked for business registration documents and bank statements. As part of the country’s privatization program, foreign investors are treated equal to local investors.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The World Trade Organization (WTO) last conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) in January 2018. The Gambia has maintained its generally open trade and investment regime since the last TPR in 2010. The main trade policy reform has been the adoption of the five-band ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) from 1 January 2017. An executive summary of the findings can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp465_e.htm.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an Investment Policy Review (IPR) in 2017. The review shows The Gambia has adopted an open regime for investment and a range of modern business regulation tools. However, supply-side constraints, vulnerability to exogenous shocks and remaining regulatory and institutional bottlenecks have negatively affected the development of the private sector and the country’s performance in attracting FDI. The report can be downloaded at: https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-gambia.
The Ministry of Justice, which offers a range of administrative services to foreign investors, is the point of entry for company registration. The government has drastically reduced the average number of days it takes to start a business in recent years. In the past it would usually take 25 days to start a business, but this has been decreased to a few days.
According to the 2020 Doing Business report, it takes six procedures and, on average, a few days to start a business in the country. These procedures include registering a unique company name, notarizing company status, obtaining a tax identification number (TIN), registering employees with the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, registering with the Commercial Registry, and obtaining an operational license. While this can be done by anyone in theory, a local attorney who is familiar with the system can facilitate the process.
In 2010, a Single Window Business Registration Desk was established at the Ministry of Justice. This initiative has reduced the number of days it takes to register a business in the country to one day. All projects that could have a negative impact on the environment require an Environmental Clearance issued by the National Environment Agency (NEA) using guidelines set out by the NEA as per the Environment Act 1994.
Foreign investment in The Gambia is facilitated by the GIEPA and the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). Their mandate includes export promotion and support for MSMEs’s development. Domestic investors have no limitations when it comes to investing abroad. Post has been working with the American Chamber of Commerce to expand its role in facilitating trade between The Gambia and the United States.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
The Gambia signed bilateral investment treaties (https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/international-investment-agreements/countries/76/gambia) with the following countries: the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mauritius, Kuwait, Turkey, Spain, Iran, Morocco, Taiwan, Mali, Guinea, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Qatar, Ukraine, Mauritania, Libya, and Switzerland. In April 2019, The Gambia became the 22nd country to approve the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and effectively meeting the minimum threshold for the agreement to come into force. The AfCFTA, which was enacted in 2018, seeks to create the largest trade zone in the world, covering 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP valued at $3.4 trillion. According to a World Bank report, the pact will boost regional income by 7 percent, or $450 billion, speed up wage growth for women, and lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035.
The Gambia is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and acceded to the WTO in 1996. The Gambia does not have a bilateral trade agreement with the United States, however, as a member of ECOWAS, it is a beneficiary of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs) which the United States has had with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) since 2013. The Gambia regained its African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) eligibility in 2018, after initially losing both due to concerns over human rights violations by the previous regime. In 2019, MCC designed a Power Sector Program in The Gambia which will provide tools over a multi-year period for the Gambian government to improve the Gambia’s electricity sector.
The Gambia does not have a bilateral investment treaty, bilateral taxation treaty, or a free trade agreement with the U.S. The Gambia is not a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, nor party to the Inclusive Framework’s Deal on the two-pillar solution to global tax challenges, which includes a global minimum corporate tax.
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. The Consumer Protection Act of 2007 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 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.
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 are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations. There is no formal stock market such as a stock exchange for trading equity securities. 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. 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 National Assembly is also in the process of compiling all regulatory actions on its website. No centralized online location exists where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published. The Gambia also lacks a specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies. There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
There are two types of courts in The Gambia: the Superior Courts and the Magistrates Court. The Cadi Court and District Tribunals and such lower courts and tribunals may be established by an act of the National Assembly. 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. No new regulatory system reforms have been announced since the previous Investment Climate Statement report, but regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years are being implemented. The Investment Policy Plan of The Gambia is still in draft stages.
Proposed laws and regulations are made available to all the relevant stakeholders for their review and discussion at validation workshops. During the process of enactment in the National Assembly, deputies are free to suggest changes. Regulations are not reviewed based on 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. Only limited information on debt obligation is made available. Documents lack complete information on natural resource revenues as well as financial earnings from state-owned enterprises.
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. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) first introduced competition legislation in 2008, including a prohibition on anticompetitive mergers.
The Gambia has its own regulatory system, designed from collaboration 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 international norms and standards of the United Kingdom are referenced and incorporated into The Gambia’s regulatory system.
The Gambia is a member of the 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 country’s legal system is based on English common law and there are effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights. The Gambia has a written and consistently applied commercial law, which is found in the Companies Act. Monetary judgments can be made in both the investor’s currency and local currency. The Gambia does not have a written commercial and/or contractual law as its legal system is based on Common Law. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and although the courts are not totally free from influence of the executive branch, they have demonstrated their independence on occasion. The Supreme Court, presided over by a chief justice, has both civil and criminal jurisdiction. Appeals against decisions of district tribunals (or the industrial tribunal in the case of labor disputes) may be lodged 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 investment laws and regulations of The Gambia apply equally to local and foreign investors. 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. For information on the laws, rules, procedures, and reporting required, foreign investors can visit the website of GIEPA (http://www.giepa.gm/).
The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) (https://gcc.gm/) is the body primarily responsible for the promotion of competition and the protection of consumers mandated by three acts, namely: The Competition Act 2007, The Consumer Protection Act 2014, and The Essential Commodities Act 2015. No major investment-related laws, regulations, or judicial decisions came out within the past year. The GCCPC’s 3rd Strategic Plan (2019 to 2021) covers enforcement and promotion of the Competition Act 2007, administration and promotion of the Consumer Protection Act 2014, advocacy and awareness creation and empowerment, mobilization and optimal utilization of resources, and infrastructure and human capital development.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
GCCPC 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.
Expropriation and Compensation
The Constitution of The Gambia 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. 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. Claimants alleged a lack of due process and compensation stemming from these incidents under President Jammeh.
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. 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. The Gambia does not have any BITs or FTAs with the United States.
The local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government; however, due to executive interference during the Jammeh regime, local courts were not in a position to enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.
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 Society Générale de Surveillance (SGS) certification that they are hormone-free. A U.S. financial group purchased a banking group with bank locations in several West African countries in 2016, including in The Gambia. However, the previous owner of the bank refused to acknowledge the new ownership and the U.S. financial group has been involved in lengthy litigation in Gambian courts since 2017. As of this moment, no final resolution has been reached, despite numerous engagements by U.S. officials with Gambian officials on this matter.
A 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 last major dispute with foreign investors was with the Swiss group Alimenta over the assets of The Gambia Groundnut Corporation in 1998.
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.
Arbitration is governed by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2005 and is generally based on the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (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. In the past year, Gambian SOE’s have not been involved in investment disputes that were determined by any domestic courts.
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.
4. Industrial Policies
With a minimum investment threshold of US$100,000 and US$250,000, the following incentives are offered to domestic investors and foreign investors respectively:
Tax Holiday: A newly established investment enterprise that falls within any priority investment category is granted a tax holiday with respect to its corporate or turnover tax and depreciation allowance.
Tariff and Import Value-Added Tax (VAT) Incentives: A newly established investment enterprise that falls within any priority investment category is granted an import VAT waiver on imported specific goods as per the agreed list of items.
Export Promotion Incentives: An investment enterprise located outside the export processing zone that exports at least 30 percent of its output is entitled to the following:
10 percent corporate or turnover tax concession for 5 years.
Financial planning services and advice.
Participation in training courses, seminars, and workshops.
Export market research.
Advertisement and publicity campaigns in foreign markets.
Product design and consultancy
Zone Investor Incentives: An investor operating in an Export Processing Zone and exports at least 80 percent of its outputs is exempt from payment of numerous duties and taxes, including import VAT waiver on imported goods/items, excise duty, import duty on capital equipment, corporate or turnover tax, municipal tax, and depreciation allocation.
SME Support: SMEs are entitled to the following facilities:
Support for research and development.
Income tax deposit waiver.
Market survey and research support.
The Government currently does not offer any incentives for clean energy investments.
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.
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
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 10 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 a maximum period of ten years. Foreign-owned firms have the same investment opportunities as local companies.
In 2020, the first phase in construction of the GIETAF Special Economic Zone began. The GIETAF is a 160-hectare mixed-use business park being developed through a public private partnership between the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) and TAF Africa Global Limited (TAF). GIETAF incentives will include:
A Tax Holiday in respect of income tax including corporate or turnover tax.
An annual allowance at the rate of 15 percent for depreciation of buildings including structural improvements.
Exemption from import duty in respect of capital goods in accordance with the Customs and Excise Act, 2010.
Exemption from import value-added tax.
Additional deduction from taxable income of 50 percent of training, research, and product development costs.
Foreign ownership of investments.
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 percent 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 the 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. 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.”
There is no known legislation in the investment policy of The Gambia that follows “forced localization” production methods. Additionally, no enforcement procedures exist for performance requirements. The Consumer Protection Act of 2014 prevents companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside The Gambia.
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 Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) is the agency responsible for the enforcement of rules on local data storage within the country and the economy. This organization also undertakes a 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. 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.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights and interests exist and are clearly protected under the laws of The Gambia. The Department of Lands and Regional Government issues title deeds, which are reliable. 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.
There are specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors. In 2007, the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government established the Lands Commission Act:
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.
In 2013, the Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) was launched in The Gambia to assess the number of lands without clear title, but to date, the LGAF implementation has been practically non-existent. 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 Gambia is a signatory to both the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. However, due to a lack of intellectual property rights (IPR) experts, the legal structure for IPR protection is largely weak. Thus, there has been a history of IPR infringement in The Gambia, and according to the Gambia Police Force (GPF), few IPR crimes have been reported.
Cabinet approved the intellectual property policy 2018-2023 in 2019 and the implementation process is ongoing. The policy is basis for The Gambia acceding to all relevant international intellectual property agreements and the enactment of the intellectual property act 2020. The AfCFTA was also ratified by the National Assembly and has intellectual property components.
The implementation process of The Gambia Intellectual Property (IP) Policy and Strategy 2018-2023, under the auspices of the Office of Registrar General, Ministry of Justice, is ongoing. The National Intellectual Property Council (NIPC) comprising of the key intellectual property stakeholders in The Gambia; namely, the Ministry of Justice, National Centre for Arts and Culture, Judiciary of The Gambia, Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency, Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Gambia Technical Training Institute, Gambia Police Force, and the Gambia Armed Forces. is tasked with the implementation and monitoring of the five-year policy. The NIPC is supported by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) in this endeavor.
The Gambia Police Force (GPF) established 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 the United States Trade Representative (USTR)’s Special 301 report, nor is it listed in the Notorious Market List.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Banks and policymakers alike would like to see the exposure ratio return to the long-run average over time, if 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. 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 Central Bank of The Gambia (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.
The country does not have its own stock market. Sufficient liquidity does not exist in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. There is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment, or policies to facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the products and factor markets. Credit is allocated on market terms. Foreign investors can get credit from the local market. The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. The Government respects the IMF Article obligations for member countries, including refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.
Money and Banking System
Currently, the total number of customers in The Gambia stands at 772,101 and only 14 percent use E-Banking. The Gambia currently has 80 branches and 208 point-of-sale (POS) terminals.
The banking system has been resilient to shocks and this includes challenges posed by COVID-19.
The total assets of the banking industry as of the end of December 2021 increased to $1.4 billion from D58.82 billion ($1.2 million) in 2020 due to increases in balances due from other banks, investments and loans and advances. The country’s asset quality improved, mirroring improvement in the non-performing loan ratio. The ratio decreased by 1.2 percentage points to 5.2 percent at the end of December 2021. The industry’s capital and reserves exposure to foreign exchange activities declined to a long position of 0.37 percent in December 2021 from a long position of 4.6 percent in the corresponding period a year ago. The Gambia’s gross loans amounted to $175 million.
The banking system had been adequately capitalized, liquid and profitable with a capital adequacy ratio of 32.6 percent in December 2020, the ratio of liquid assets to total assets at 63.8 percent and the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans at 6.82 percent. The two largest banks account for $513 million and 36.6 percent of the industry’s total assets.
Most of the industry’s banks are foreign subsidiaries locally incorporated in The Gambia. However, no foreign branch operates in the country. Further to this, they are subject to prudential measures or regulations in line with the Central Bank’s Banking Act and guidelines.
The country has a central bank system. Foreign banks or branches can 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. There are no restrictions on foreigners opening a bank account.
Finance companies dominate the non-bank financial sector with robust financial indicators for the period under review. Assets of FCs at end-December 2021 stood at D2.39 billion ($45 million) compared to D2.01 billion ($37 million) same period a year earlier. The increase in assets size was largely driven by gross loans, cash, and bank balances. Capital increased by 31.0 percent to D378.13 million ($7 million) in December 2021 surpassing the minimum requirement of D50.0 million ($932K).
Mobile money financial services, similarly, grew in terms of customer base, but declined in terms of transactions. Year-on-year, the value of cash-in and cash-out transactions decreased by 20.8 and 20.7 while number of account holders surged by 93.8 percent.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
There are no restrictions on foreign investors converting or repatriating funds in The Gambia.
Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency.
The Dalasi (GMD) has a floating exchange rate that is determined by market forces.
Activity volumes of foreign currency in the foreign exchange (FX) market in 2021 rose to US$2.53 billion compared to $2.17 billion a year ago. Correspondingly, the sales and purchase of foreign currency represented by demand and supply increased by $0.17 million and $0.19 million respectively.
The domestic foreign exchange market has stabilized, supported by improved foreign exchange liquidity conditions and confidence. The performance of the external sector, the return of market confidence, and the improved transparency in the exchange rate policy are major contributing factors to the stability of the exchange rate of the Dalasi.
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. Inflows of private remittances continued to be the main supply source of FX in the domestic FX market in 2021. Remittance inflows increased markedly to $776.67 million in December 2021 from $589.89 million in December 2020. The exchange rate of the Dalasi remained stable and resilient in 2021 supported by sustained remittance inflows. In 2021, the Dalasi depreciated against the US Dollar and Pound Sterling by 3.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, while appreciating against the Euro by 2.3 percent.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Neither the host government nor a government affiliate maintains a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The Gambia has a majority ownership in 14 State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that operate in key economic sectors. Seven of the SOEs are commercial and operate more independently from the government, while the others are public corporations or institutions, some providing regulatory functions. While the President appoints the chief executive officer (CEO), or Director General, and the full boards of most of the SOEs, the enterprises remain under the supervision of line ministries. such as agriculture, power generation, energy, and gas. SOEs can also be found in the information and telecommunications, aviation, and finance industries. SOE revenues are not projected in budget documents. Audits of the public sector and SOEs are conducted by the Gambia’s Supreme Audit Institution. The following is a list of 14 SOEs.
Assets Management & Recovery Corporation (AMRC)
Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA)
Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GCC)
Gambia International Airlines (GIA)
Gambia National Petroleum Company (GNPC)
Gambia Ports Authority (GPA)
Gambia Postal Services (GAMPOSTS)
Gambia Public Printing Cooperation (GPPC)
Gambia Radio & Television Services (GRTS)
Gambia Telecommunication Cellular Company (GAMCEL)
Gambia Telecommunication Company (GAMTEL)
National Water and Electricity Corporation (NAWEC)
Public Utility and Regulatory Authority
Social Security Housing & Finance Corporation (SSHFC)
The Gambia’s government imposed an embargo on state-owned enterprises (SOEs) borrowing from each other in June 2020, according to the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs during a National Assembly session. Based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2018 between SSHFC and SOEs, SOEs defaulted in their payments to Social Security. Other SOEs include Gambia International Airline (GIA), Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), GAMCEL, and GAMTEL, with NAWEC being the largest defaulter.
Private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations, such as licenses and supplies. The Ministry of Finance website published the list of SOEs (https://mofea.gm/soe). The Public-Private Partnership Unit at the Ministry of Finance monitors the SOEs.
By using the Public-Private Partnership Unit SOE 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.
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 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 (RBC) 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. There have been no recent high-profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights or the resolution of such cases in the past year. 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. 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.
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. The Gambia has adopted several measures to support environmental protection and reduce the impact of environmental damage.
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 reasons. The Gambian public often views these firms favorably. 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.
There are no reports or concerns relating to responsible business conduct in The Gambia of which foreign businesses should be aware.
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 the government and/or of RBC/BHR policies or practices.
The government finalized “The Gambia 2050 Climate Vision” in 2021. The document lays out The Gambia’s aspiration “to be a climate-resilient, middle-income country through green economic growth supporting sustainable, low emissions development, contributing its fair share to global efforts to address climate change.” The climate plan calls for input from private sector entities. The government has also identified specific plots of land that are protected as nature preserves.
The government pledged to control emissions to comply with the Paris Agreement in 2015. Since then, it has introduced policies favoring renewable energy, restoration of depleted agricultural land, and reforestation. The Gambia aims to reduce emissions by 2.7% by 2030 below business-as-usual (BAU) and, conditional on international financial support, aims for a target of 45.4% reduction by 2030.
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 Gambian Government 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. 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 act 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 complaint 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.
A growing number of Gambians say corruption is on the rise and the government is not doing enough to combat it, the latest Afrobarometer survey shows. Over the past three years, citizens’ perceptions of widespread corruption among public officials have increased significantly. A number of Gambians report having to pay bribes to obtain public services, and only half believe they can report corruption to the authorities without fear of retaliation (Source: https://afrobarometer.org/countries/gambia-1). An anti-corruption bill introduced in the National Assembly in December 2019 has yet to be passed, and the Gambia has no anti-corruption commission, despite being a signatory to numerous conventions, including the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. The 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked The Gambia 102nd, or more corrupt than 101 out of 179 countries.
No international, regional, or local NGOs operating as “watchdog” organizations monitoring corruption are known to exist in the country.
Resources to Report Corruption
Commanding Officer, Fraud & Commercial Crime Unit
Gambia Police Force
The Gambia (+220) 4223015 / 4222307
10. Political and Security Environment
The Gambia was ruled for over two decades by former president Yahya Jammeh, who consistently violated political rights and civil liberties. The 2016 election resulted in a surprise victory for opposition candidate Adama Barrow. Fundamental freedoms including the rights to free assembly, association, and expression initially improved thereafter, but the progress toward the consolidation of the rule of law is slow. The Barrow government has faced increasing criticism over corruption. LGBT+ individuals face severe discrimination and violence against women remains a serious problem.
In January, authorities forcefully dispersed a Banjul demonstration against President Barrow’s decision to remain in office beyond a three-year timetable. Authorities arrested 137 people, including high-ranking members of the Three Years Jotna (ThreeYears Is Enough) pressure group; the group was banned that month and eight members received charges including rioting, which remained pending at year’s end.
In September, legislators rejected a draft constitution that would have introduced term limits for presidents.
President Barrow imposed a COVID-19-related state of emergency in March 2020, which expired in September. Public assemblies were restricted in March and a curfew was instituted in August, though most restrictions were rescinded or loosened by year’s end. The authorities reported nearly 3,800 cases and 124 deaths to the World Health Organization at year’s end.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
As of 2021, the total labor force in The Gambia stood at 768,986, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators. The total labor force comprises people ages 15 and older who meet the International Labor Organization definition of the economically active population: all people who supply labor for the production of goods and services during a specified period. It includes both the employed and the unemployed. While national practices vary in the treatment of such groups as the armed forces and seasonal or part-time workers, in general the labor force includes the armed forces, the unemployed and first-time job seekers, but excludes homemakers and other unpaid caregivers and workers in the informal sector.
In 2019, the labor force participation rate is 60.75 percent. The Gambia suffers from high unemployment and underemployment, compounded by a shortage of skilled workers and trained professionals. About 59 percent of the individuals in the labor force have no formal education. Many of the skilled workers in the construction and mechanical industries are foreigners from neighboring countries. However, many Gambians are now taking up these trades and the government has taken extraordinary steps to increase primary and secondary school enrollment.
Several government policies require the hiring of nationals, including the Labor Act of 2007, the Payroll Tax Act of 2008, and the social security act. The Labor Act of 2007 and its regulations provide the legal framework for labor relations in The Gambia. The Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment enforces the act. It covers most conditions of employment, including dismissals, recruitment and hiring, registration and training, protection of wages, registration of trade unions and employees’ organizations, and industrial relations in general. The act also contains procedures for the settlement of disputes, including an industrial tribunal. Minimum wages and working hours are established through six joint industrial councils: commerce, artisans, transport, port operations, agriculture, and fisheries. Private-sector employees receive between 14 and 30 days of paid annual leave, depending on the length of service. No additional/different labor law provisions are imposed in special economic zones, foreign trade zones or free ports compared to the economy. No new labor related laws were enacted during the last year.
Depending on how the person’s wage is paid, one- or two-months’ notice to quit or a week to two weeks’ notice is required (Section 55 of the Labor Act 2007). In Gambia, there is no unemployment insurance. Although laid-off workers are entitled to a portion of their social security contributions.
In Gambia, collective bargaining is uncommon. Gambia has no organized trade unions, as a result, there is no data for the Gambia in the International Labor Organization’s statistics database (ILOSTAT) for Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) and Trade Union Density, despite the fact that the Gambia has ratified Convention 98. The Gambian Department of Labor (DOL) plans to hold a public awareness campaign about the importance of collective bargaining at the enterprise and sectoral levels. However, DOL is limited to carry out some of the tasks due to funding gap.
The Department of Labor settles individual and collective conflicts by inviting parties to a tripartite meeting to conciliate or mediate with the goal of amicably settling the matter. If the matter is not resolved within a month, the DOL refers the dispute to the industrial tribunal for resolution (Sections 90, 91 & 92 of the Labor Act 2007).
There were no strikes during the last year that posed an investment risk. There are no serious questions of compliance in law or practice with international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors.
The International Labor Organization reported potential gaps in law or practice with respect to international labor standards, including reporting on Gambia’s ratified Fundamental Conventions. Every three years, a report must be submitted on the implementation of these Conventions.
The Department of Labor has reviewed all labor law legislation, which has been pending National Assembly approval for more than ten years. This documentation includes the labor bill, the trade union bill, the factory bill, and the compensation for injuries bill. The Labor Migration Strategy, Pre-departure Training Manual and ethical recruitment guidelines are all new developments.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs
The United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has a limited presence in The Gambia. However, there is a program that will develop an integrated waste to energy and water purification plant for the Government of The Gambia to sustainably fund essential services – clean water, renewable energy and environmental clean-up.
There is potential in the following sectors: Agriculture (Rice, Processing Fruits), Energy (Oil Exploitation, Renewable Energies) Fisheries, Infrastructure (ICT, Light Manufacturing, roads) and Tourism. A DFC agreement exists between The Gambia and the United States.
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: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other