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The Gambia, Country Overview
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The Gambia, in the Western most tip of  Africa, is encircled by its neighbouring country Senegal on all sides (map) apart from the Atlantic side, and for this reason the two countries have a lot of cultural & ethnic ties. In contrast to Senegal, a former French colony, The Gambia was colonised by Britain and gained its independence on 18 February, 1965, when it then adopted the National Anthem. The Gambia, in contrast to many of its West African neighbours, it has enjoyed lengthy spells of stability since independence.

Woman in Traditional dressGeographically the small country is situated on the Atlantic coast at the bulge of Africa. It is a thin strip of mainly low plateau, which decreases in height as it nears the Atlantic coast. The plain is broken in a few places by the river and its tributaries. Mangrove swamps, park-like savannah and unspoiled beaches all feature in The Gambia抯 landscape.

In contrast to its all-enveloping neighbour, Senegal, and the massive nations surrounding them, Gambia looks like a sliver in the side of Africa. True, it ranks among the continent's tiniest countries, but its attractions are just as bright and bold-faced as any in the region. Its capital city, Banjul, isJuly 22nd Arch a uniquely African experience, with a bustling marketplace and enough street side culture to chase away the holiday daze of glitzier cities. And for an even more 'traditional' outlook, a quick trip upriver brings you into the Gambian heartland, where the colourful buzz of weekly markets vies with boat trips through mangrove creeks and bike jaunts to mud-hut villages for your time and appreciation.

Although the country is largely defined by its natural features - from the Gambia River, which runs the length of the country, to the golden beaches of its Atlantic coast resorts - the country's greatest draw lies in its people, their culture and the amiable atmosphere of daily life. Whether you're making conversation at a kerbside coffee stall or shouting yourself hoarse at a weekend wrestling match, you're sure to come away with as warm a feeling for Gambians as they tend to show to travellers.

This stability, however, has not translated into prosperity. Despite the predominance of the Gambia river, which runs through the middle of the country, only one-sixth of the land is arable and the poor nature of the soil makes it suitable mostly for one crop - peanuts. The major domestic export products of The Gambia consists of groundnut products, cotton, fish and fish products, fruits and vegetables. Over the past couple of years the country has experienced significant economic growth primarily driven by the construction sector of the economy.

Rice pickersThe country is heavily dependent on peanut exports and as a result is a hostage to fluctuations in the production and world prices of the crop.

Consequently, it suffers from poor health conditions and relies on foreign aid to fill gaps in its balance of payments.

Kumpo danceThe economy has a narrow industrial base and is also a low food-producing nation. Thus it has little option but to resort to importing most products for consumption. The Gambia is a net food importing country particularly, rice, sugar, flour, milk, tomato paste and it gets all fuel supplies from abroad. The re-export trade continues to play an important role in The Gambian economy, particularly in trading with countries in the ECOWAS region of West Africa.

Humming BirdIn 1994, the elected government was toppled in a military coup. The country returned to constitutional rule two years later when its military leader ran as a civilian and won presidential elections (disputed).

In 2000, the country saw a foiled coup, the killing of student demonstrators, and charges of murder being brought against opposition leaders - all this against the background of the collapse of the peanut-marketing system.

The current president is here.

Village sceneBorn in 1965, the former president, Yahya Jammeh, joined the army in 1984 upon leaving school. After serving with Gambian peacekeepers in Liberia, he returned and, together with a group of veterans who had not been paid, ousted the elected president, Dawda Jawara, who had led the country since independence.

At age 36 he won a second term in the October 2001 presidential elections, which earned the approval of foreign observers.

He gained 53% of votes cast against less than 33% for his main rival Ouassainou Darboe, a prominent human rights lawyer.

The only national television station is run by the government.

Between 2005 to 2007 the country experienced accelerated growth rates in the economy largely driven by the building construction sector of the economy. Many new roads and hotel accommodation establishments have been built and street lights have been installed on many junctions.


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