Informations about  the Gambia

General Information about the Gambia

The Gambia, officially the Republic of The Gambia, is a country in West Africa that is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal with the exception of its western coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. It is the smallest country within mainland Africa.The Gambia is situated on both sides of the lower reaches of the Gambia River, the nation’s namesake, which flows through the centre of The Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. It has an area of 10,689 square kilometres (4,127 sq mi) with a population of approx. 2.05 Million (July 2017). Banjul is the Gambian capital and the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama in the Kombo-St. Mary area.

History / Politics

Up to the 19th century

In the 5th and 6th century the area of the Gambia belonged to the great African empire of the Serrahule. Up until the 8th century different tribal kingdoms formed, among them those of the Tekrour, the Wolof and the Serer. From the 10/11th century onwards the Gambia belonged to the empire of Ghana and was first mentioned in the 9/10th century by Arab traders who built roads through the Sahara for the trade of slaves, gold and ivory. From the 13th century onwards the region belonged to the empire of Mali. Mid 15th century the Portuguese discovered the Gambian coast. At the end of the 16th century British traders began to develop the region. From the end of the 17th century up until the end of the 18th France and the Britain fought about the rivers Senegal and Gambia with the British taking over the rule at the end. During the time of the transatlantic slave trade more than 3 million black slaves from that region were shipped to America.

The Gambia, temporarily governed via Sierra Leone, was made a seperate British Crown Colony in 1888.

The 20th century
During the Second World War Gambian troops fought in Burma on the side of the Allied Forces. Banjul served as airport to the USA and a harbour for the Allied Forces.

After a general election in 1962 the Gambia was granted independence. On April 24 1970, after 2 referendums the Republic of the Gambia was founded within the Commonwealth. D. Dawda K. Jawara was elected the first president of the Republic. He was re-elected 5 times and ruled until 1994.

In 1981 a bloody coup attempt was averted with the help of Senegal. The same year both countries signed the founding contract for the confederation Senegambia, which contained the merging of the armed forces, the currencies and the economic areas. In 1989 the Gambia left the confederation again. In 1994 President Dawda Jawara was deposed by a military coup of the „Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council“ (AFPRC).

New ruler of the country became Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, who in 1996 was sworn in as president. With a new constitution taking effect in 1997 he also became head of the government. 1997 to 1999 the Gambia was a non-permanent member of the Security Council. In an election in 2001 Jammeh was reelected for a second period until 2006. Both the local elections and those for the national assembly in 2002 were boycotted by the opposition party. From December 2004 the Gambia took part in a peace mission to the Sudan under the leadership of the African Union. December 16, 2004 the journalist Deyda Hydara, a critic of the government, was murdered. On May 3, 2005, the international day for the freedom of the press, the organisation „Reporter without Borders“ included president Jammeh’s name on the list of the „enemies of the freedom of the press“. In January 2017, shortly before foreign troops could disempower him the already voted-out president Yahya Jammeh declared the relinquishment of his office. Since then Adama Barrow (born 1965) is the democratically elected president of the Republic.

Membership in international organisations

The Gambia is a member of many international organisations and groupings. Among the most important are the United Nations and their subsidiary and special organisations, the International Monetary Funds and the World Bank.Regionally the most important are the African Union and the Economic community of the West African States (ECOWAS)


The literacy rate among adults (above 15 years) according to 2015 estimates is 55.6 per cent (in 2000: 36.8 per cent). Looking at it gender specific it is 63.9 percent of males and 47.6 percent of females. Government spending for the education system in 2013 (same as in 2002) was 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product. The education system is similar to the British, compulsory education only exists in the Greater Banjul Area. School entrance age for primary school is 7 years, the school covers 6 years. After a good degree follow 5 years of secondary high school. Successfully finishing this school there is the possibility of attending the 2 year high school in Banjul. A degree entitles you to enrol in a university. The only university in the Gambia – founded 1998 in Serekunda – started its teaching programme in 1999. Before that students had to go abroad to study medicine or agriculture. Many families can’t afford school fees, school books, school uniforms or transport to school. Thus only every fourth child in the Gambia attends a school! In this area the demands are huge but the possibility of immediate practical help is too.


The Gambia has no natural resources worth exploiting economically – agriculture, tourism and fishing are the country’s main sources of income.Of all exports – 2016 estimated at 120 million US-dollar – approx. 48 percent went to China, approx. 27 percent to India and close to 9 percent to Great Britain. The same year close to 34 percent of imports came from China. The country has a high trade balance deficit due to the low competetive capacity of the local industry. In 2016 it was close to 20 % of its economic performance. In order to cover its import demand the country has to borrow heavily, in 2016 the national debt ran to 116% of the GDP which is among the highest in the world.


Tourism contributes with approx. 18% the second highest amount – after agriculture – to the GDP. Most tourists visit the country for its beaches. River excursions and bird watching are also important branches. Culturally interested people come for the music, the dances or to take courses at a djembé to learn how to play drums.

Industry and manufacturing

Distinct industrial manufacturing does not exist in the Gambia. The biggest industrial branch is the local processing of peanuts. The bigger private businesses are occupied with building roads and houses. You can also find the Banjul Breweries, bakeries, a bycicle manufacturer and a foundry. A pharmaceutical manufacturing business was founded in 2007. There are many small private businesses making furniture, working in metal or wood carving or in fishing. Many of them are state subsidised.

Ethnic Groups

Despite the small size of the country the Gambia is home to many different ethnic groups. The population is mainly formed by the following three tribes: Mandinka (43%), Fulba (18%) and Wolof (15%). Regionally you’ll also find smaller tribes: Jola (7%), Serahuli (7%), Tukoulor (2%), Serer (2%), Aku (1%) as well as Manjango, Mauretanians, Maroccans, Libanese, Chinese and Europeans. The upper class in the Gambia is mainly formed by the tribe of the Mandinka, the civil servants mainly belong to the Wolof tribe.


Next to English as the official language there are of course also different national languages: Mandinka, Wolof, Fulba and the only regionally found Djola, Sarahule, Serere, Manjango and Creole. In daily life it only takes a few words for a Gambian to find out which language the person vis-a-vis understands. If by chance he doesn’t belong to the same tribe or doesn’t speak the same language the Gambians also speak English among each other.


The Gambia is a good example for the peaceful living together of different religions. Everybody can live here according to his/her faith. Approx. 85% of Gambians are Sunnite Muslims. They distance themselves from the radical fundamentalists of the Islam. 10% are Christians. The rest belong to African-animist denominations.