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World Mission

The Gambia

Basic info

  • Area: 10,689 sq km / 4,127 sq mi
  • Population: 2,051,363
  • Infant mortality: 60.2 per 1000 births
  • Life expectancy: 61.1 years
  • Urbanisation: 61.3%
  • Literacy: 42%

History

Arab traders provided the first written accounts of the Gambia area in the ninth and tenth centuries. During the tenth century, Muslim merchants and scholars established communities in several West African commercial centres. Both groups established trans-Saharan trade routes, leading to a large export trade of local people as slaves, also gold and ivory, as well as imports of manufactured goods.

By the 11th or 12th century, the rulers of kingdoms such as Takrur, a monarchy centred on the Senegal River just to the north, ancient Ghana and Gao had converted to Islam and had appointed to their courts Muslims who were literate in the Arabic language.

At the beginning of the 14th century, most of what is today called The Gambia was part of the Mali Empire. The Portuguese reached this area by sea in the mid-15th century, and began to dominate overseas trade.

During the late 17th century and throughout the 18th century, the British Empire and the French Empire struggled continually for political and commercial supremacy in the regions of the Senegal River and the Gambia River. The British Empire occupied the Gambia when an expedition led by Augustus Keppel landed there following the Capture of Senegal in 1758.

The 1783 First Treaty of Versailles gave Great Britain possession of the Gambia River, but the French retained a tiny enclave at Albreda on the river's north bank. This was finally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1856.

As many as three million people may have been taken as slaves from this general region during the three centuries that the transatlantic slave trade operated.

An agreement with the French Republic in 1889 established the present boundaries. The Gambia became a British Crown colony called British Gambia. The Gambia received its own executive and legislative councils in 1901, and it gradually progressed toward self-government. Slavery was abolished in 1906 and following a brief conflict between the British colonial forces and indigenous Gambians, British colonial authority was firmly established.

After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform increased. Following general elections in 1962, the United Kingdom granted full internal self-governance in the following year. The Gambia achieved independence on 18 February 1965. On 24 April 1970, The Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum. President Sir Dawda Jawara was re-elected five times. An attempted coup on 29 July 1981 followed a weakening of the economy and allegations of corruption against leading politicians.

President Jawara requested military aid from Senegal, which deployed 400 troops to The Gambia on 31 July. By 6 August, some 2,700 Senegalese troops had been deployed, defeating the rebel force. Between 500 and 800 people were killed during the coup and the ensuing violence.

In 1994, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) deposed the Jawara government and banned opposition political activity. Lieutenant Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, chairman of the AFPRC, became head of state. Jammeh was just 29 years old at the time of the coup. ation of voters and for the conduct of elections and referendums.

In late 2001 and early 2002, The Gambia completed a full cycle of presidential, legislative, and local elections. On 2 October 2013, the Gambian interior minister announced that The Gambia would leave the Commonwealth with immediate effect, ending 48 years of membership of the organisation. The Gambian Government said it had "decided that The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism". However, on 14 February 2017, The Gambia began the process of returning to its membership of the Commonwealth and formally presented its application to re-join to Secretary-General Patricia Scotland on 22 January 2018. Boris Johnson, who became the first British Foreign Secretary to visit The Gambia since the country gained independence in 1965, announced that the British government welcomed The Gambia's return to the Commonwealth. The Gambia officially rejoined the Commonwealth on 8 February 2018.

Environment

The Gambia is a very small and narrow country whose borders mirror the meandering Gambia River.

The Gambia is less than 31 miles wide at its widest point. About 11% of the country is water (i.e. the Gambia River). It is the smallest country on the African mainland. In comparative terms, The Gambia has a total area slightly less than that of the island of Jamaica.

Senegal surrounds The Gambia on three sides, with 50 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean marking its western extremity.

The present boundaries were defined in 1889 after an agreement between the United Kingdom and France. During the negotiations between the French and the British in Paris, the French initially gave the British around 200 miles of the Gambia River to control. Starting with the placement of boundary markers in 1891, it took nearly 15 years after the Paris meetings to determine the final borders of The Gambia. The resulting series of straight lines and arcs gave the British control of areas about 10 miles north and south of the Gambia River.

Gambia has a tropical climate. A hot and rainy season normally lasts from June until November, but from then until May, cooler temperatures predominate, with less precipitation. The climate in The Gambia closely resembles that of neighbouring Senegal, of southern Mali, and of the northern part of Benin.

Economy

The Gambia has a liberal, market-based economy characterised by traditional subsistence agriculture, a historical reliance on groundnuts (peanuts) for export earnings, a re-export trade built up around its ocean port, low import duties, minimal administrative procedures, a fluctuating exchange rate with no exchange controls, and a significant tourism industry.

The World Bank pegged Gambian GDP for 2011 at US$898M; the International Monetary Fund put it at US$977M for 2011. From 2006 to 2012, the Gambian economy grew annually at a pace of 5–6% of GDP.

Agriculture accounts for roughly 30% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 70% of the labour force. Within agriculture, peanut production accounts for 6.9% of GDP, other crops 8.3%, livestock 5.3%, fishing 1.8%, and forestry 0.5%. Industry accounts for about 8% of GDP and services around 58%. The limited amount of manufacturing is primarily agricultural-based (e.g., peanut processing, bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other manufacturing activities include soap, soft drinks, and clothing.

Previously, the United Kingdom and other EU countries constituted the major Gambian export markets. However, in recent years Senegal, the United States, and Japan have become significant trade partners of the Gambia. In Africa, Senegal represented the biggest trade partner of the Gambia in 2007, which is a defining contrast to previous years that had Guinea-Bissau and Ghana as equally important trade partners. Globally, Denmark, the United States, and China have become important source countries for Gambian imports. The UK, Germany, Ivory Coast, and the Netherlands also provide a fair share of Gambian imports. The Gambian trade deficit for 2007 was $331 million.

In May 2009, 12 commercial banks existed in the Gambia, including one Islamic bank. The oldest of these, Standard Chartered Bank, dates its presence back to the entry in 1894 of what shortly thereafter became Bank of British West Africa. In 2005, the Swiss-based banking group International Commercial Bank established a subsidiary and now has four branches in the country. In 2007, Nigeria's Access Bank established a subsidiary that now has four branches in the country, in addition to its head office; the bank has pledged to open four more.

Ethnic groups

Ethnic Groups(%)

Mandinka

42%

Fula

18%

Wolof

16%

Jola

10%

Serahule

9%

Other

5%

Religion

Religion(%)

Islam

90%

Christianity

9%

African traditional religions

1%

Protestant Denominations

Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists

Languages

  • 38%%

    Mandingo

  • 21.2%%

    Fula

  • 18%%

    Wolof/Serer

  • 4.5%%

    Jola

  • 18.3%%

    Other