What Are The Biggest Industries In The Gambia?

Fishing is an important industry in The Gambia.
Fishing is an important industry in The Gambia.

The Gambia is a West African nation that stretches 279.6 miles along the Gambia River. The country occupies a total area of 4127.046 square miles and in bordered Senegal to the north, east and south. To the west, the nation has a 37.28-mile shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean. The nation has a population of 1.9 million people who are mainly settled in urban and peri-urban areas. The nation's economy is mainly reliant on tourism and rain-fed agriculture. The nation's economy is fragile and vulnerable to external shocks. Between the year 2015 and 2016, the nation's economy suffered heavily due to erratic rainfall that greatly affected agriculture coupled with the regional Ebola crisis that led to a sharp decline in tourist numbers. The nation, however, recovered well with an economic growth rate of 4.6% in the year 2017. The recovery was driven mainly by the service sector especially commerce which experienced a 10.6% growth. Tourism also recovered in the same year, and agriculture continued to decline due to unevenly distributed rainfall. The nation has a high public debt which rose from 82.3% of GDP in 2016 to 88% of the GDP in 2017. The public debt is considered unsustainable with a significant portion of government revenues going to interest payments. The government, therefore, has limited resources left for improving service delivery and infrastructure development which is needed to spur that nation's economic growth.


The tourism sector remains extremely important to the nation's economy. The sector has remained key to the nation’s economic growth since the nation’s formative years. Between 1990 and 1991, the nation received an estimated 109,164 visitors. About 60% of the number arrived by chartered aircraft. Tourists arriving in the country help boost the hospitality industry. The government has increased investment in the industry to facilitate the expansion of the sector. The government is also looking to exploit cultural and eco-tourism. Other areas of development that have been identified include restoration of landmarks and monuments of cultural significance and natural forest parks. The government is also looking to developed 5-star hotels, bars, and restaurants through joint ventures. Other critical areas include investment in tour operations that target the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Investment in airlines that link the nation to major tourist source nations is also considered key to the continued growth of the sector.


The manufacturing industry in the country is limited to SMEs whose products are mainly meant to supply the domestic market. There is still huge potential in the sector as the country still imports ceramic tiles and sanitary fitting among other products. The foundry industry which utilizes scrap metal in the production of metal plates and finished iron used in construction and small repair workshops offers considerable opportunities. The nation also has a light pharmaceutical industry as well as a manufacturing and assembly industry for local appliances. The nation’s strategic location means that it has the potential to export to the regional markets.

Agricultural Processing Industries

The agricultural processing sector remains largely untapped as the nation still has to import products such a chicken feed, fruit juice, dairy products, and confectionery nuts. There is a need to invest in industries that produce hot pepper sauce, fruit juice, and tomato sauce from the surplus produce of tomatoes, lemons, oranges, and peppers. Investment in such industries will greatly reduce that nation's imports and boost its exports.

Livestock Sector

The livestock industry accounted for an estimated 6% of the nations GDP in 1992. The industry comprises of the rearing of pigs, poultry, and small ruminants which are sold the domestic market. Ranching and large scale milk production are required to fill the market gap, and it is relatively unexploited. Poultry farming is limited by the high cost of feeds which is typically imported.

Horticultural Sector

The horticulture in the Gambia has great potential due to large export value and market opportunities. There are some large scale horticultural farmers in the country with adequate equipment and boreholes. The government has invested in dry cargo and cold storage facilities at the Banjul International Airport. However, the facilities are unable to handle external market demand.


The nation does not have a large mining industry because it does not possess large deposits of high-value minerals. Low-value minerals such as quartz sand mining are carried out along the coast to the south of Bangui. The Carnegie Corporation Limited from Australia and Astron Ltd from China hold a joint venture with exclusive prospective rights in Sanyang, Brufut, Kartong, and Batokunku for mineral sand deposits. Following the completion of a dredging program, the two companies found 20.7 million tons of deposits with heavy metal assembling of 71% ilmenite, and 15% zircon. The nation also has 182.9 million tons of Farim phosphate rock deposit.


The fishing sector has considerable potential in the nation despite the limited shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean waters have abundant fish varieties such as the pelagic and demersal fish as well as crustaceans. The fishing sector is comprised of the artisanal subsector which is carried out using canoes fitted with engines and the industrial sector that is comprised of foreign trawlers. The artisanal sub-sector has an estimated 1,800 canoes while the industrial sub-sector has 57 trawlers. The sector produced an estimated 47,300 tons of fish in 2002, and 631.6 tons were exported to Europe in the same year.

Long Term Development Challenges

Some of the key development challenges that Gambia faces include the undiversified economy, high migration of its people to foreign nations, limited internal market, inadequate resources, lack of skilled labor force, and low job creation rates which is made worse by the rapidly growing population. Despite the challenges, the country's economy is still expected to experience steady growth at an average rate of 5.2% until 2020. Some of the factors that guarantee a steady growth rate include the strong recovery of the tourism sector, political stability, increased electricity provision, continued recovery in trade, and a rebounding agricultural sector. However, poor infrastructure could hinder the desired economic growth. Weak government institutions due to debt burden will also hinder reviving of the economy. The immigration of its skilled population which had reached highs of 10% of the population represents a significant challenge, but the country is enjoying remittance income from those working outside the country.


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