The Gambia, known officially as the Republic of The Gambia, is a country located in West Africa. The Gambia is entirely surrounded by Senegal, but has access to the Atlantic Ocean by its south. The Gambia is the smallest country in continental Africa. Its capital is the port city of Banjul, but Serrekunda is the largest city.
The Gambia has a population of 2,051,363 according to 2017 estimates. The country has a higher female population compared to male. Its female population constituted 52.1% of its total population.
Ethnically, the country has a variety of ethnic groups. The largest ethnic group in the country is the Mandinka group. Other groups include: the Fula, Wolof, Jola/Karoninka, Serahule, Serers, Manjago, Bambara, Aku Marabou and others. While the Krio, descendants of Sierra Leone Creoles, constitute the smallest group.
Religiously, the country is majorly Muslim, with a Christian minority. Muslims constitute 95.7% of the country’s population, while the Christian population is 4.2%.
English is the official language of the country. And has a literacy level of 55.5%, though a gender imbalance in education has led more males to be educated (63.9%) than females (47.6%).
The Gambia has a market-based economy with a GDP of $1.038 billion in 2016. The country’s GDP per capita stands $1,700. However wealth has not been fairly distributed across the country. In 2010, nearly half of its citizens lived on less than $1 a day. The economy is largely agrarian and it employs three-quarters of the population. Agriculture also provides a third of the Gambia’s GDP.
The government has invested heavily in the agricultural sector over the years. And today, agro-products are its main export commodities. Peanut production alone accounts for 6.9% of GDP. Other important agro-products and activities include: livestock farming, fishing, and forest products. Rice,, sorghum, peanuts, corn, sesame, cassava (manioc, tapioca), palm kernels and millets constitute very important domestic agricultural products also.
The Gambia has sparse natural resource deposits however. It relies heavily on remittances from workers overseas and tourist receipts. Remittance inflows to The Gambia amount to about one-fifth of the country’s GDP.
Tourism is however a booming industry in the Gambia. The country’s location on the Atlantic and its proximity to Europe makes it a prominent tourist destination in West Africa. The industry did witness a threatening slowdown in 2014 when Ebola struck West Africa. But it has since been re-emerging.
The country spends a lot on importation. In 2017 its exports totalled $109 million. But its imports totalled $316 million. Its debt profile is also a source of worry. Its total public debt stood at 115.1% of GDP in 2016.
The Gambia became independent from Britain on February 18th 1965. It was however under a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth, with the Queen of England serving as Queen. She was however represented by a governor general. The country became a republic in 1970 following a referendum. Nationalist leader, and serving Prime Minister, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was elected first president. Jawara would go on to win five more elections.
Unlike other African countries, the Gambia has witnessed long spells of stability since independence. Its major political crisis occurred in 1981, when an attempted coup almost brought down Jawara’s government. The coup failed, largely thanks to Senegalese troops. Both countries signed a confederation treaty in 1982; but The Gambia pulled out in 1989.
On 22 July, 1994, Jawara was however removed from power through a bloodless coup. The coup was led by Lieutenant (later Colonel) Yahya Jammeh, who was 29 years old at the time. He was proclaimed head of state of the country. Jammeh transitioned the country back to a democracy and held elections periodically. He had won all election since 1996.
But in 2016, Adama Barrow surprisingly beat Jammeh in the presidential elections held in December. Jammeh at first promised to hand over power, but later refused, and called for a new election. He cited that some irregularities had taken place during the election. But with international pressure piling up, particularly from ECOWAS, Jammeh announced that he would hand over power. He vanquished power, and left the country. Adama Barrow has since been sworn in as the country’s head of state.