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close this bookThe Courier N 119 Jan - Febr 1990 - Dossier National Languages - Country Report: Gambia (EC Courier, 1990, 100 p.)
close this folderCountry report: The Gambia
View the documentMarket forces rule, OK.
View the documentAn interview with Sir Dawda Jawara
View the documentThe demise of the Senegambian Confederation
View the documentThe Gambia-EEC Cooperation

Market forces rule, OK.


Presenting the 1989/90 budget to Parliament last June, the Gambian Minister of Finance and Trade, Mr Saihou Sulayman Sabally painted the picture of a robust economy. “ The Gambian economy “, he said, “ is now in its third year of growth, exceeding 5% per annum. This has resulted in the first sustained increase in overall real incomes for more than a decade... The private sector activity has increased sharply and business confidence is high. The country’s current foreign obligations are being met, foreign arrears are being reduced and The Gambia’s international financial standing has improved dramatically “.

Mr Sabally’s transparent elation was reflected so much among officials in Banjul that news of the sudden collapse of the Senegambian Confederation-a structure upon which observers have for years placed considerable hope for the future of The Gambia-was received not only with the characteristic calm of The Gambia but with a certain air of confidence in the resilience of the Gambian economy to such an external shock.

For a country of only 11 000 sq km, almost surrounded by Senegal and heavily dependent on one crop, groundnuts, this was surprising, particularly when nothing on the ground bears out the official optimism (the continuing low standard of living and widespread unemployment, for example) and when only weeks after Senegal tightened border controls, hotels in The Gambia were rapidly running out of cooking gas, sowing panic among hoteliers at the beginning of the tourist season.

The Gambian reaction may be based on a feeling that the economy has taken a course which has “ builtin self-defence” mechanisms that will ultimately defeat the kind of measures being taken by Senegal. The fact is that The Gambia, which has always had a liberal economy by African standards, has adopted in recent years a new non-interventionist policy which most economists have described as ultra-liberal.

Mr Sabally ascribes the new policy to the lessons that have been learned in the past four years or so of IMF-inspired structural adjustment which were, among other things, that “ in tandem with political freedoms, economic operations at all levels must be given the freedom to take economic decisions “, and that “ the pace of economic growth cannot be forced through Government intervention that results in budget deficits, excessive credit creation or rapid increase in foreign debt”. It is the duty of the Government, he said, to create a consistent set of incentives “ to encourage the optimal utilisation of all productive resources in the economy”.

There is no doubt that this policy, coupled with such factors as foreign goodwill and patronage have produced, within a short time, spectacular results in stabilising an economy that was deeply in trouble in 1985 with roaring inflation, irregular supplies of essential commodities such as rice and fuel, arrears in the service of external debt, huge budget deficits, a weak reserve position, an acute shortage of foreign exchange and widespread loss of confidence and lack of new investment in the country.

A combination of internal and external factors led to the crisis which actually began as far back as 1980.

They include notably, the fall in the output and world prices of groundnuts, increased costs of food and fuel imports and increased public expenditure. Indeed the situation became so bad that The Gambia had to abandon its Second Development Plan to adopt a Public Investment Plan (PIP) for which funds were sought from donors at a conference in London in 1985. The PIP was soon, though, to be integrated into a Structural Adjustment Programme when the IMF and the World Bank came in demanding changes.

The Government adopted a recovery programme which, first, concentrated mainly on the removal of the disparities in exchange rates and prices, the stabilisation of the balance of payments and the reforming of the public sector. A floating regime for the Dalasi, the national currency, was introduced and the foreign exchange market was liberalised ending the Central Bank’s monopoly. In September 1986 the IMF provided The Gambia with an approximately SDR 10.9 million adjustment facility.

Inflation was brought down from 70% in 1985 to 10.9% in 1987 through the removal of subsidies in such areas as health and transport and through the judicious issue of treasury bills and strict limits to bank credits by the Central Bank. Between 1988 and 1989 alone, banks sold some 804 million Dalasi worth of foreign exchange to the public, a 55 % rise on the period 1987-88. Although the value of the Dalasi has fallen significantly, the gap between the official and parallel markets has almost disappeared. The civil service was pruned and brought down to a manageable size and a number of parastatals have been slated for sale.

By the end of 1987 The Gambia had registered sufficient positive results for the authorities to be convinced that the way ahead resided in a market-oriented economy-where the growth of the productive sectors, agriculture, manufacturing, fisheries and tourism-are determined by the level of private initiatives and investment.

Impressed by the results and The Gambia’s economic orientation, the IMF, late in 1988, provided a three-year credit equivalent to SDR 20.5 million under what it called Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF). The World Bank, the African Development Bank and The Netherlands government, on the other hand, also agreed to provide a loan totalling US$ 34 million towards the programme. The IDA has indeed already provided SDR 17m to The Gambia. This was ratified by Parliament last June. Understandably, the loan will be used mainly for balance of payments support.

These developments no doubt provide the basis for official optimism for the 1990s but they mask the factors that could negate all the efforts: the mixed fortunes of the various sectors of The Gambian economy-their strengths and weaknesses, the fact that The Gambia remains heavily dependent on foreign aid, most of which is in the form of outright grants for capital projects and, to some extent, budgetary support, and the debt burden which currently amounts to $ 355 million.

With no mineral resources, and only its people, the River Gambia, its limited land space, beaches and coastal waters as assets, the task of development would appear daunting. Openness and friendliness towards foreigners, it is true, have so far paid The Gambia rich dividends in foreign assistance, and in tourism. This may or may not continue. The River Gambia’s vital role in agriculture in a naturally dry country is limited by saline intrusion. The country’s forest resources have been depleted. There is therefore not much for a country to sing and dance about.


Agriculture: emphasis on food production

Agriculture, accounts for about 55% of GDP. It has, since the birth of The Gambia as a nation, been dominated by one crop, groundnuts. In the early ‘60s groundnuts played a pivotal role in the development of the country: production rose steadily from an average 94 000 metric tonnes between 1961 and ‘65 to a high 131 000 mt in 1966, earning a reasonable income for The Gambia. The industry was, and still is, managed by the Gambian Produce Marketing board (GPMB), a non-profit organisation which was set up not only to maximise farm-gate prices for farmers but to ensure adequate revenue from groundouts for the government- responsibilities the Board discharged fairly adequately.

The GPMB, however, was to spread its tentacles into the Gambian economy, becoming involved in everything closely or remotely connected with groundnuts, from transportation through storage and processing to export. It was to take responsibility for cotton when the latter became the focus of efforts at diversification of exports.


Production of pricipal crops in the Gambia 1978-1988


Sixty percent of groundnut sales to the Board is accounted for by the Gambia Cooperative Union and the remainder by operators licensed to buy from the farmers. Alternatively the farmers sold groundnuts directly to dealers across the border in Senegal, attracted not only by the convertible CFA franc, which for many years was more stable than the Dalasi, but also by the ease with which they disposed of them (transportation across the border was sometimes easier than across The Gambia). This trade which elsewhere is known as smuggling is described in The Gambia as the centuries-old practice of “cross-border trade “. Figures on The Gambia’s annual groundnut production are therefore unreliable. The FAO estimates show output of 126 000 mt in the 1967/68 season, 130 000 mt in the 1977/78, 150 000 mt in 1982/83 and 110 000 mt in 1986/87. Sales to the GPMB, however, do provide some bases upon which the strength of the groundnut industry has been measured over the years. Purchases by the Board between 1973 and 1977 averaged 132 000 metric tons. They plunged dramatically to 78 000 mt between 1978 and 1982 due mainly to bad weather and pest invasion. The GPMB purchase figures as disclosed to The Courier reveal not enough quantities reaching the Board in recent years. In the 1987/88 season, for example, the GPMB purchased 63 000 mt and only 24 000 mt by September 1989 (see table below).

The slump in the tonnage purchased by the GPMB in a decade when world prices of groundnuts have fallen badly meant huge reductions in foreign exchange earnings from the product. This partly explains the profound crisis that has shaken the GPMB and the groundnut industry as a whole: the Board, anxious to encourage farmers. has had to buy groundnuts at prices far above the world market prices and the Government has had for several years now to subsidise the parastatal, including paying off its debts with the Central Bank. The GPMB which had been a source of income for the Government thus became a drain on its resources, making the Board an inevitable target in the Government’s overall structural adjustment exercise. It will no longer receive subsidies from the Government. Its ancillary activities, particularly in transport, are to be privatised, and it has to compete henceforth, at the buying level from farmers, with operators who no longer require to be licensed.

Although there is widespread fear that the GPMB will sink under competition, at the Board’s headquarters in Banjul the future is viewed with that same air of confidence that is noticeable among officials about the direction of the economy as a whole. The entire Board, which The Courier had the good fortune to interview at one of its regular sessions, feels there has been too much unnecessary worry about the GPMB’s survival. They point to their “ impressive “ achievement of the 1988/89 performance contract which saw the GPMB reduce its operating loss from 28 200 000 dalasi in 1987/88 to 5 300 000 dalasi. But this was due almost entirely to “tighter control over operating costs and lower interest charges” on loans paid to the Central Bank. The Board has still to prove its commercial viability. A factor in its favour is that it remains the only export outlet for all groundnuts and groundnut products. What the reforms have done in essence is to relieve the GPMB of the responsibility of guaranteeing prices to the farmers. The extent to which competition at the buying level will rationalise the groundnut industry, improve output and farmers’ income is yet to be seen. What is clear is that the GPMB is banking on farmers continuing to sell their groundnuts to their cooperative unions or societies which are under contract to sell to the Board and on their preference for the “ cash on the spot “ policy which operates in The Gambia to the “chit system” in Senegal where operators buy now and pay later. “The price has to be substantially attractive for any farmer to sell across the border”, says the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Amadou Taal, who estimates that in the short run there are bound to be price differentials but in the long run “ both countries will have to be influenced by world market forces”. The virtue of the exercise, in the opinion of the Permanent Secretary, is that “ from now on farmers will not be expecting a fixed price for the year”. They could sell to the GPMB or to the private operator depending on the highest bidder. Meanwhile, GPMB’s Managing Director Mr Saihou Drammeh and his Board are figuring out how to operate in this “ slightly modified environment”, feeling they would take “ adequate measures “ to “ operate on a commercial basis”.


All figures in metric tons

If the GPMB found groundnuts tough to crack in recent years it has found it easy going with cotton. Introduced as far back as 1965 as part of The Gambia’s diversification attempts with a project financed by the African Development Bank in the Upper River Division (URD), production rose to 1 175 tonnes in 1978 fell to 99 t in 1979 before rising steadily and reaching 2 500 t in 1985. Although output has fluctuated ever since because of adverse weather conditions, it has nevertheless remained close the 2 000 tonnes mark (1 847 t in fact in 1988/89 with the area under cotton cultivation rising from 1 166 hectares in the 1987/88 season to 2 698 ha in 1988/89). All cotton production is exported.

The Gambia’s diversification thrust, however, has been not so much toward cash crops as towards the production of foodcrops given the escalating costs of food imports-a major factor that contributed to the country’s recent economic difficulties. It remains a heavy burden. In 1988, for example, food accounted for nearly 30% of total imports. Emphasis has been on the production of coarse grains-maize, millet and sorghum-and production increased consistently until in the 1988/89 season when it fell from 72 000 tonnes in 1987/88 to 70 680 t. In support of this grain policy, a number of OECD countries have donated milling machines which have been installed in the rural areas to lighten the task of women who traditionally grew and processed these crops.

It should be noted that the policy of improving the condition of women and making their contributions to development more effective is being taken seriously in The Gambia. A large number of agricultural projects specifically directed at them are being set up all over the country by donors, including the European Economic Community. The EEC has, among others, a women’s vegetable gardens project in Pirang and an integrated rural agricultural development project in the Upper River Division involving women. Mr Taal, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture expects the EEC to concentrate on the production of coarse grain in the URD, for while it is true that there have been increases in foodgrain production in recent years, he says, it is important that the rate of increase in output should outstrip the population growth rate, which is estimated to be 3.4% annually, if The Gambia is to achieve self-sufficiency in food and bring an end to the scourge of heavy food import bills.

Women, on the other hand, are organising themselves into potent forces for development. With the establishment recently of their political forum, the National Women’s Council and Bureau, things are moving fast. A Women’s Development

Project has been launched. This aims at improving literacy among rural women, teaching them basic skills and helping them engage in income-generating activities, particularly in handicrafts and agriculture. To this end, the Gambian Women’s Finance Company has been set up with a loan from the World Bank to provide credits, not normally obtained through the formal banking system, to rural women.

Overall, farmers have the opportunity of meeting face-to-face with President Jawara annually. The latter, has, over the past five years, established the practice of touring the country every year to discuss the farmers’ problems with them.

If there is an area in which The Gambia’s drive at self-sufficiency is producing handsome results it is in the production of rice. Both swamp and irrigated rice are being developed. Output has been rising since the early 1980s. Last season, for example, paddy rice production increased from 20340 tonnes in the 1987/88 season to 23 520 tonnes.

Considerable hope is being placed on the Jahally Patcharr scheme which involves a large number of smallholders using imported rice strains on an irrigated area of 1 500 hectares.

Reportedly producing the highest rice yields per hectare of any farm in the world, the scheme accounted in 1984 for at least one-quarter of The Gambia’s total production. It has continued to perform well. Plans are now afoot to complement it with another scheme - a tidal irrigation rice project at the MacCarthy Island Division which will bring 5 000 hectares under cultivation and involve 10000 farmers.

Simple farming tools are now being produced locally thanks to the SEGAMCO factory, a Gambian/Senegalese joint venture which was set up recently. With a soil conservation programme at Demba Kunda and the Good Seed Programme multiplication scheme at Marembe, The Gambian government obviously takes agriculture very seriously. The results are not only seen in the output of coarse grains and rice but in the production of fruits and vegetables as well. Output of those are up, with export earnings in 1988 reaching 543 000 dalasi, 60% up on the 1987 figure.

Although the smallness of The Gambian economy and low world market prices affect agriculture, there is no doubt that pests and diseases and the weather are the greatest constraints. Ricefields and farms are often invaded by weaver birds and locusts. With the international help, The Gambia has been able to contain the threats though not without considerable losses. Geographically, The Gambia is located in the Sahel where rainfall is scanty and droughts are regular occurrences. This makes irrigated farming extremely important. This, however, is realistically possible only up to a point along the River Gambia because of saline intrusion from the sea. Pump irrigation is widely practiced in the country but its impact is limited. For years a project to build a barrage/bridge at Balingho on the River Gambia to control saline intrusion and thus protect investment in the existing and future irrigation projects has been planned. Nothing has come of it. According to the Minister of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, Mr Demba Jatta, there have been various studies on the project. Some of them were favourable, others were negative because of environmental concerns.

But the project has not been abandoned as some officials in Banjul seem to suggest. “ What is being done presently”, he says, “ is mobilising the resources for its realisation”. The project is not only important for agriculture, it is vital to The Gambia’s future energy needs, heavily dependent, as it is, on fuel imports and no prospects of oil discovery in the country. Informed sources indicate that the issue is not so much the absence of resources (a number of donors have indicated their willingness to participate in the financing of the project) as the caution that Senegambian politics demand (see the article on “The demise of the Senegambian Confederation “).

As far as the livestock industry is concerned, The Gambia is making good progress. Except for the year, 1984, when drought affected herds, the production of meat, eggs, chicken, milk, etc. has increased substantially and so also have the allied products of hides and skins. These performances are largely due to good and efficient veterinary services and the use of improved strains. For example, the use of the trypano-resistant N’Dama breed in cattle rearing.

The fisheries sector has also come on strong in the past three years. As well as growing private interest in industrial fishing, two artisanal fisheries projects have resulted in an increasing number of Gambians and foreigners (mostly Senegalese and Ghanaans) taking up fishing as a full time occupation and in the doubling of the catch. One of the projects, funded by the Italians, involved the provision of facilities to fishermen in the Kiang West area. Completed in January 1989, the catch rate per fishing unit of the project has already attained the 98.9 kilos per day deemed necessary to make the scheme viable, so much so that the authorities now want to extend it to five villages in the North Bank and Lower River Divisions. The second project, which is being funded by the EEC, is focussing on six villages along the South Atlantic coast. The project started in 1988. It involves the training of fishermen and the provision of fishing equipment and essential infrastructure for storage, drying, smoking and marketing. With the Gambian coast believed to be rich, particularly in such high-value varieties as shrimps and lobsters, the future of the fishing industry looks bright. A visit to any of the coastal villages involved in the EEC project at the landing hours of the fishermen is enough to convince one of that bright future at the sight not only of the quantity of fish being brought ashore, but the large number of people involved in the industry.

Expanding manufacturing and the private sector

Because of the very narrow agricultural base and limited domestic market, The Gambia’s manufacturing sector is very small, accounting for 8.9 % of GDP. There are set-ups in beverages, palm oil, and salted, dried and smoked fish. (Investments are being sought in fruit and vegetable processing, exploration of tataniferous sands, the manufacture of glass products and biscuits, pharmaceuticals, groundnut butter and confectionery). Otherwise the industrial and commercial sectors are dominated by parastatals: the GPMB (groundnuts and groundnut products), the Gambian Utilities Corporation (electricity and water supply mainly), the Gambia Commercial and Development Bank (finance), GAMTEL (The Gambia telecommunications company), the Gambia National Insurance Corporation and the Livestock Marketing Board. But the Government is set to change that with its divestment policy. Already it had sold the Nyambu timber sawmill and is offering for sale a number of public enterprises, including the National: Trading Corporation (which was converted into a limited liability company in June 1988), Seagull Coldstores, the Banjul Breweries and Africa Hotels Ltd. Others like Ferry Services, the Dockyard and the Gambia River Transport

Company are slated for divestment. If successful, it will broaden the commercial sector.

The Gambia’s overall industrial policy, as seen, aims at the transformation of what resources are available locally. It also aims at the assembly of goods for which The Gambia has comparative advantage in the sub-region, as Mr Alieu N’Gum, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development told The Courier. But it raises not only the question of the attractiveness of The Gambia to foreign investors but also the issue of foreign control of the economy. Although there are schemes like the Private Enterprise Development Project and investment promotion bodies like the National Investment Board, which aim at encouraging Gambians to go into business by providing advice and credits, it is clear that whether in pursuing the privatisation policy or in setting up manufacturing units, The Gambia needs foreign investors and foreign skills. On the latter, although Gambia’s education policy is geared towards the development of indigenous skills, the country relies a good deal on other West African countries for its vital personnel needs. They tend, in this regard, to see a West Africa without frontiers, once more, an illustration of Gambian open-mindedness. Furthermore, there are a large number of technical assistants from a variety of other sources. As far as foreign investments are concerned, they see the fact that there are no constraints whatsoever on foreign investors, which is in tune with their liberal policy, as a big incentive. The Development Act was revised recently to make it possible for an investor to have all the approval he needs to go into business within 90 days of application and provide him with all necessary information.

A booming re-export trade

If the smallness of the manufacturing sector has not been felt in recent years, it is because of the rapid growth of the re-export trade. The Gambia’s traditional exports are, of course, groundnuts and groundnut products, fish and fish products and fruits and vegetables. The last two have become? particularly in the past few years, important sources of foreign exchange: Gambian horticultural produce as well as shrimps and lobsters are increasingly being exported to neighbouring countries and Europe. But it is the re-export trade that has seen a spectacular growth. Commodities such as rice, flour, sugar, tea and textiles are imported for re-export to Senegal, Guinea Bissau, the Republic of Guinea, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali and even as far as to Sierra Leone. Inevitably the computing of The Gambia’s balance of trade is a, complicated affair. What is certain, however, is that the country’s trade deficits are minimised by the strength of the re-export trade which has become the second fastest growing sector of the economy after tourism.

The boom in this trade is due mainly to The Gambia’s low import duties and liberal import policy, made even more liberal since the start of the structural adjustment programme. As the Comptroller of Customs, Mr Sarian Ceesay told The Courier: “There is no restriction on imports and exports, no restriction on the movement of capital, no price approvals. Unlike in some neighbouring countries where customs formalities are cumbersome, where importers have to deal with agents who deal with customs officials, here in The Gambia, importers have direct access to customs officials. They can sort out their problems with the customs within a short time”.

The collapse of the Senegambian Confederation has resulted in Senegal tightening controls on exports and on transit goods from The Gambia at all border crossings with the latter. Not surprisingly there were fears that this move would strangle the re-export trade and create enormous problems for the Gambian economy.

While The Gambia reacted calmly to the situation and adopted a “ wait and see” attitude, Mr Ceesay believes in what he calls the “invisible hands of the laws of economics”, that is, that if one tries to “ use artificial means to restrict certain things the law of economics will take its own course “.

The truth is that the Gambian reexport trade is based on demand by importers in the neighbouring countries and not necessarily on The Gambia’s drive to sell imported goods to them. The problem of transit is therefore much more the affair of the importers than of The Gambia. Experts estimate that even with all the problems that will arise from the new situation (delays and higher costs) importers would still find it cheaper to import through The Gambia than through elsewhere.

This aside, The Gambians see the re-export trade as having become so much of mutual benefit to them and to some powerful communities in Senegal that the latter are expected to exert pressure on their government for a relaxation of the controls. A new regulatory bilateral agreement on goods in transit or on exports from The Gambia to Senegal cannot be ruled out. It should be noted that it is in the area of customs cooperation that the Gambians estimate that much progress had been made under the Senegambian Confederation.

Tourism: the sky is the limit

The extent to which the collapse of the Confederation will affect tourism is yet to be seen. Some of the facilities used by hotels in The Gambia are imported from Senegal. In August/September when relations worsened between the two countries hotels began rapidly to run out of cooking gas as Senegal tightened controls, creating panic among hoteliers, and forcing some to look frantically for alternative sources of supply. Tourism has become the fastest-growing sector of The Gambia economy. It contributes as much as 10% of the GDP and now employs some 7000 people directly and indirectly. Tourist arrivals have increased from 86 000 in 1986/87 to 112 800 in 1988/89. This figure is set to rise further in the 1989/90 season. A number of factors explain the increasing attractiveness of The Gambia as a favoured destination. Apart from the friendliness of the people, the country is peaceful and stable. It is only 5½ hours flight from Europe and provides almost all the facilities that other, further-off, destinations can boast of: fine “unspoilt” beaches as the Gambians like to describe their coastline, good sunshine and warm temperature. For lovers of nature, there are over 4 000 species of birds to watch and there is the Abuko nature reserve where the Gambian authorities have created a mini-park for some lions, crocodiles and other familiar African wildlife.

Fifty-five percent of visitors to The Gambia are British, 15% Scandinavian mostly Swedish, 14% French, and 4% Germans. Promotional campaigns are continuing throughout Europe and the Gambians are so impressed by the response of visitors that they plan to make tourism an all-year-industry and not just a seasonal one that takes place between the months of October and April. They also plan to extend the Tourist Development Area (TDA), which currently covers the area between the Atlantic Hotel in Banjul along the coast to the newly-established Senegambia Hotel, to Brufut. There are at the moment about 14 tourist hotels providing altogether 4 000 beds. More hotels are being planned, for as far as the Gambians are concerned the sky is the limit in tourism. They do not see a point where the number of arrivals will become unacceptable. “ As long as The Gambia is a favoured destination we will accommodate tourists”, says the Minister of Information and Tourism, Dr Lamin Saho.

The extent to which The Gambia is benefitting from tourism, however, remains the subject of criticisms by development experts. True enough, they say, the industry earns foreign exchange, provides employment and has down-stream effects on agriculture and the handicraft industry. But the majority of tourists, they point out, come with package tours which have been paid for abroad, leaving the country with little gain. The Gambia loses out in another way. Dr Saho admits that there are very few Gambians actively involved in the industry, in terms of investment. There are one or two who own hotels or cafes, the rest are just employees. The industry is overwhelmingly in the hands of foreigners.

Low standard of living

In a way this discrepancy in tourism (an industry that is booming with very little benefit for the people) reflects more or less the dichotomy in the economy as a whole: macroeconomic indicators showing rapid economic recovery but no visible improvement in the standard of living of the Gambians. The structural adjustment exercise meant the removal of subsidies and retrenchment of public employees. Although President Al-Haji Sir Dawda Jawara indicates in his interview with The Courier, that measures have been taken and will be taken to alleviate the effects, unemployment is still widespread, purchasing power is still very low despite the fall in inflation. There have been price increases in such basic items as sugar (36%), rice (16%), groundnut oil (15%), fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and eggs. Not only have subsidies been removed on transport, there are not enough buses for city commuters. Indeed transport in Banjul is a nightmare; irrespective of the payment of transport allowances to workers, the roads are almost impracticable with nearly all the streets dug up in projects that are advancing at a snail’s pace to provide the capital with a sewerage system and improved telephone, water and electricity services. Even works on the approaches to Banjul (the Second Highway Maintenance Project and the Banjul/Serrekunda Highway Project, which once came to a standstill after the original contractor ran off with nearly 80 % of the funds allocated to it) are proceeding painfully slowly. These and many other projects throughout The Gambia depend on foreign finance.

Considering its size and population, its dependence on one crop, groundnuts and on a narrow range of other activities, its heavy dependence on external finance for capital projects and it heavy debt burden (indeed for the foreseeable future the country will continue to face heavy debt-servicing despite generous rescheduling and some write-offs) the Gambian government’s ability to influence the pace of the country’s economic development in the coming years is obviously limited. Its option for a market-oriented economy-to rely on market forces to determine exchange rates, the interest rates as well as the allocation of resources to the productive sectors of the economy-would therefore appear logical. It would be interesting to watch whether The Gambia which has been in the forefront of democratic practices in West Africa is blazing the trail in economic liberalism.

Augustine OYOWE


Yundum: no economic spin offs from the shuttle


When the National Aeronautic’ Space Agency (NASA) indicated early in 1989 that the Gambian international airport, Yundum, would be its first choice in an emergency landing, of its shuttle spacecraft, there were hopes that the decision would bring considerable economic spin-offs for the Gambia. It was assumed that it would mean the upgrading of Yundum to meet the shuttle requirements: lengthening the 4000-metre runway, for example, by an extra 300 meters at either end and having some 60 or so staff on the ground.

US sources in Banjul, while confirming NASA’s choice have revealed to The Courier that nothing practically is planned for Yundum. The airport, as it is, they say can receive the shuttle which will I automatically deploy its safety catchnets on hitting; the tarmac.

It should be noted that the choice of Yundum by NASA was based purely on technical grounds. NASA has already alternative emergency landing sites in Morocco and Spain, but Yundum, unlike those two sites, lies directly below the shuttle’s southern trajectory, which will make it easy for the spacecraft, in the event of engine failure on take-off, to simply glide down onto the Gambian airport. The Moroccan and Spanish bases suffer from not being on the path of the shuttle which, in an emergency, would require at least that some of its engines are working for the spacecraft to be manoeuvered for a landing.

A.O.

An interview with Sir Dawda Jawara

“We have adopted quite a radical approach...”

Al-Haji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara has been President of the Gambia since 1970. He had earlier been Prime Minister for Jive years. His leadership has been described as “unusual “ in Africa by the Chairman of the US Senate African Affairs suh-committee, Mr Paul Simon. For almost 24 years, Sir Dawda Jawara and his party, The People’s Progressive Party, have allowed democracy and the respect of human rights to flourish in the small West African state. His government has now adopted a liberal economic policy that has beau/, to yield interesting results. The Courier spoke to him.

· Mr President, what is it it? the nature of The Gambia that the principles of human rights and democracy rook hold early on, for a long time, in a continent where they are no/fashionable?

- It is difficult to answer this question precisely. Certainly one cannot divorce it from the nature of The Gambia and from our history. The fact is that our Party, the PPP, has, right from its inception in 1959, drawn up a constitution which emphasises democracy and human rights, and even though these had not been fashionable in Africa, particularly from the time most African countries were achieving their independence (Ghana in the late ‘50s and many others in the ‘60s), we steadfastly tried to adhere to these principles. It has not been easy, but we have, as you have said, maintained them up to the present day. Of course we have every reason to believe now that this is the correct path and we will continue along it.

· The OAU Commission on Human Rights has its headquarters here in Banjul. Do you consider this as an honour, a recognition of The Gambia’s respect of human rights? How will it operate?

- The Commission has been opened. We of course consider it a great honour to this country. As to how it will operate, there are nine Commissioners elected by the OAU, and of these, one is a Gambian. They have a chairman who is Gabonese.

The Commission is quite independent of any government. Each Commissioner has been elected in his personal capacity. I’m sure they have already started functioning’ receiving complaints from groups of citizens who have something to complain against their governments in the area of human rights. Of course, a Member State can also bring complaints against another Member State.

· But are Member States prepared to adhere to the findings and rulings of the Commission on complaints?

- There is a set procedure for the Commission to process complaints and then bring them to the OAU. This has yet to be done. As you know it’s a new Commission. The headquarters have only recently been inaugurated. I have a feeling that soon we will be seeing the results of its work.

Already we have seen some benefits in terms of a changed attitude towards human rights among the Memberr States.

· These are interesting times international relations. The tension between the East and the West has reduced considerably and we are beginning to witness the salutary effects on Southern Africa. How do you see the situation in South Africa itself evolving?

- Yes, indeed, we are seeing tremendous changes, almost a revolution in attitudes, especially between the superpowers which, of course, is having salutary effects on the approach to regional conflicts around the world, and Southern Africa is no exception. We have seen definite changes, which Pm sure are partly due to this general detente in international affairs. We have seen the change from Botha to De Klerk in South Africa who, of course, sounds much more conciliatory, much more open in his approach to the South African problem, the problem of apartheid and the democratic rights of all South African citizens. We have, of course, not seen any tangible results yet in President De Klerk being in charge. hut we welcome the change in attitude But I think the evolution of this process would be welcome if, for example, the Zimbabwean model is adopted in South Africa, so that a formula could be found whereby the black maority are given their rights-a majority government is established-and whereby the rights of the minorities are protected. I think the Zimbabwean model can be very useful in the case of South Africa.

· You have been the Chairman of ECOWAS. The Organisation’s achievements have no’ been much. What do you think has stalled progress?

- I ceased to be Chairman in June, at the 12th Summit of ECOWAS, which was held in Ouagadougou. I handed over the Chairmanship to President Compaore of Burkina Faso. Of course, the next summit of ECOWAS, the 13th Summit, will be held here in Banjul. Preparations are going on satisfactorily and we hope to host that summit in May 1990. 1 agree with you, progress in ECOWAS has been quite minimal. There have been tremendous setbacks in implementing the protocol on the free movement of persons, goods and services; trade liberalisation has been very slow, and monetary union is yet to be implemented. The first two are really the life and soul of any community of this type: trade and movement of persons, goods and services. The difficulty, I think, has many sources. First of all, as far as trade is concerned, we still have the colonial legacy whereby the trade of the colonies was really an appendage of those of the colonial masters. This has not changed to any great extent: ECOWAS trade is far more between ECOWAS countries and the metropolitan countries in Europe than it is among Member States. We reckon that inter-ECOWAS trade is well below 10% of trade in the region. This is a big setback to the setting up of our economic community. We have also witnessed setbacks in the free movement of persons, in particular. All is not lost, though. As far as monetary integration is concerned, ECOWAS is actively studying a report which has been commissioned to find out whether the region or the sub-region can have a single currency. This is actively being considered and it is a thing that is quite feasible.

· The Senegambian Confederation has more or less been frozen or suspended. How do you see the future of relationship between The Gambia and Senegal?

- Well, the Confederation has come rather abruptly to an end, to our great surprise, because we do feel here that it was achieving some of its purposes. As far as the future relations between us and Senegal are concerned, both Senegal and The Gambia stress the special relationship which has always existed between the two countries, even before the Confederation, and I hope that this will continue. It is likely that soon after the winding up of the Confedration has been completed the two Governments, maybe the two Heads of State, will come together and see what can be put in the place of the Confederation, how we can in fact implement this special relationship between the two countries.

· Does this mean the suspension of on-going projects; for example, the project to improve road and telephone links between the Gambian town of Basse and the Senegalese town of Villengara?

- Well, suspension is the wrong term to use; actually, the Confederation has not been suspended, it has been dissolved-completely dissolved along with everything that relates to it. It is even stated in the agreement dissolving the Confederation that all contracts have come to an end so that, even if there was any contract going on (which as far as the road is concerned there has been none, just a project under study), that contract would have come to an end, and matters would have to be resolved with the contractors. The dissolution of the Confederation has been so total that really anything that we do now will have to be based on a new initiative on a bilateral basis.

· The Gambia owes a great deal of its continuing economic recovery’ to increased flows of external aid, some of which are outright grants. To what extent is the country’ moving towards a greater self-reliance in budgetary matters?

- As far as the budget is concerned, there is a subsidy to the extent of 5.6% of GDP. In the context of our Economic Recovery Programme, it is envisaged that external dependence of the recurrent budget on subsidies will be reduced to 5 % next year, and gradually from there on. The subsidy on the development budget is much heavier because about 60 % of the project costs are financed by external loans and 27.5 % by grants. Nevertheless, we still hold fast to the philosophy of self-reliance our slogan is tesito which means belttightening-or much more than that. The reality is that we could only be self-reliant if our efforts at sustainable growth yield the desired results in the short and the longterm. But, as you know, there are certain handicaps-internal as well as external. The internal handicaps are: a weak economic base, limited savings and a low level of investment. The external constraints, of course, are tremendous. The one that easily comes to mind is the debt-burden which weighs heavily on our economies. Of course, The Gambia is by no means alone in this predicament.

· The Gambia relies heavily on a single crop, groundnuts. You have made efforts to diversify, hut how optimistic are you about achieving a broader-based economy?

- It is true we rely mainly on groundnuts as a main export crop, but for many years now we’ve been trying to diversify our economic base, both in the agricultural field and in other areas. Cotton has been a crop which we chose, particularly in the eastern part of the country, URD (Upper River Division), and parts of MRD (Middle River Division). Sesame has recently come in as another crop which could supplement groundnuts as an export cash crop. It is quite promising and I understand there are markets available for it. It’s a good crop to bring in for diversification because even without an export outlet it provides a good oil seed for domestic use and it has been very useful in that regard. Horticulture is coming on as a way of diversifying our agricultural export produce. Livestock is another area which we are working on. The ITC is a research institute which is doing good work on livestock. Tourism is of course another area which is developing, helping us to diversity our economic base. Our focus here is the TDA (the Tourism Development Area), which has been set aside for the development of tourism to supplement upcountry tourism. This industry will act as a stimulus to artisanal industries. Fisheries is another area which can diversify our economic base, and this too we are working on. (Fisheries is an area in which we are cooperating with the EEC.) In diversifying we do not overlook the need for the rational and more efficient use of our resources. Last but not least, we are encouraging private investment. The response has been considerable. There is a great deal of interest in private investment.

· You have established this unique practice of touring the country to see the farmers face-to-face. What effects has this had on you, personally, in the governance of The Gambia, anti what has the response of the farmers themselves been?

- The “ Meet the farmers” tours, which is the name the media has given them have been extremely useful to the Government, because they enable me and my entourage (which includes ministers and high officials, non-governmental organisations and members of the diplomatic corps) to meet the people in their own areas, in their own fields and swamps and so on. I think there’s no better way actually of getting the feel of what the people really want, what their aspirations are, and what their successes and limitations are. We discuss problems frankly. This enables us to understand the nature of these problems and how best to approach them. So I think it is useful both to the Government and to the farmers.

· Your successful IMF-inspired structural adjustment programme has not been without social costs. What measures has your Government taken to alleviate the hardship?

- We had to address what has now come to be called social dimension of adjustment. When we embarked on implementation of the Economic Recovery Programme, we had to take some very painful decisions, for example, retrenchment of a certain number of employees in the civil service, reducing subsidies and in some instances stopping them completely, implementing cost recovery, for example in the health sector- charging patients so that there is some recovery or partial recovery of costs of services and medicines and so on. All these, of course, have their negative impact on particularly vulnerable groups. We recognised this and have decided, along with the UNDP and UNICEF, to carry out some research, so that we can approach this problem more intelligently.

We have, however, early on in the Programme-which of course started in 1985-tried to help those civil servants who were retrenched by making some resources available to IBAS (the Indigenous Business Advisory Service) which works with the Ministry of Economic Planning and Industrial Development, to help them to use their retirement benefits, supplemented by IBAS, to set up businesses in horticulture, poultry, or whatever. This has been extremely effective. It is our intention to increase the resources available for this. We have also, in the cost-recovery exercise in the health area, made exceptions for groups which are considered vulnerable, like children, pregnant mothers, those suffering from communicable diseases, etc. These are the initial measures we are taking on the social dimension of adjustment. As I have said, we are now carrying out specific research into this in conjunction with UNDP, UNICEF and others and when this is completed, we hope that we will mobilise resources which would be directed at these vulnerable groups to help them counter the negative effects of the adjustment programme.

· Is the Government prepared to see the Gambian Produce Marketing Board, GPMB, go to the wall if it finds competition too tough in your overall liberal policy?

- Yes, and this applies to all our parastatals, really. We have to reform or modify them considerably. Those parastatals, or parts of parastatals, which we think should continue are actually being made the subject of a performance contract. The GPMB is one of them. We have hived off some of its activities which are not quite commercial in nature and we have signed a performance contract with it on what remains. If the GPMB can make it commercially, that’s well and good, but if it cannot, of course, it can go to the wall. The Government used to subsidise GPMB heavily to enable it to pay a certain price to the producer for groundnuts, rice and cotton, but these subsidies have now been removed completely: they were reduced gradually over the last two or three years. The GPMB is now asked to purchase the country’s groundnuts at prices determined by market forces.

· The EEC has made substantial contributions to the development of The Gambia. What are your expectations from LomV?

- The EEC is one of our main partners in development. Their assistance has been welcome in the areas of agriculture, fisheries, education, health and communications. And recently we have seen a new approach. in which EEC assistance on a multi-sectoral basis is concentrated on a chosen geographical area, in this case the Upper River Division, one of our administrative regions, where an integrated programme has been set up. Given this extent of our cooperation with the EEC, we are naturally interested in the outcome of the LomV negotiations. As developing countries, the focus of our interest really lies in trade and development finance, especially at a time when commodity prices have fallen badly and are still falling. Most of our trade with the EEC is in primary commodities and prices have been falling in real terms. and there has been no real increase in the quantum of EDF resources in the previous Conventions. It is my view that Stabex has been one of the most imaginative and popular innovations of the Lomonventions. Nevertheless we are aware that there are areas of disagreement between the ACP Group and the EEC: the ACP Group wants to expand the coverage of Stabex to include more processed products and the EEC wants to restrict it as an agricultural instrument. Similarly, the disbursement of EDF resources is also constrained by complicated and time consuming procedures, which we hope LomV will further rationalise and simplify. I remember saying exactly the same thing when we were negotiating LomII. We have further noted that there has been agreement between the EEC and the ACP relative to the principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and non-reciprocity in trade and in the application of the outcome of LomV negotiations-with the exception of the control of natural resources, especially in the fisheries sector. Of course, we look forward to working out a balanced agreement that will address all remaining contentious issues such as non-discrimination in trade and the dumping of toxic wastes.

Interview by A.O.

The demise of the Senegambian Confederation

The end came suddenly for the Senegambian Confederation last August. According to sources in Banjul, a Gambian suggestion that the presidency of the Confederation should rotate between the Heads of State of Senegal and The Gambia rather than held permanently by the President of Senegal, as it had been since 1982, annoyed the Senegalese. Within 24 hours the Senegalese army and police units in The Gambia-the most visible symbols of the union between the two countries-had been withdrawn and President Dawda Jawara had accepted, not the proposal for a “freeze”, but the complete pulling down of the Confederation. He asked his foreign minister, Mr Omar Sey, to begin negotiations immediately for the dismantling with his Senegalese counterpart. So came to an end the latest (if not the final) chapter in the saga of voluntary union between the two countries which goes as far back as the 19th century.

The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal on three sides, dividing the latter almost into two. In terms of area, Senegal is 20 times the size of The Gambia. Culturally, both countries share the same ethnic groups and languages (Mandinka, Fula, Wolof, Jola and Serahuli). Islam and Christianity are the dominant religions in both countries.

It has always been believed that it was a matter of time before Senegal swallowed up The Gambia since both countries were carved up in the Versailles Treaty of 1783. But for one reason or another, The Gambia has remained separate. In the 1870s the French proposed to exchange The Gambia with territories elsewhere. This proposal seemed at one time to be finding favour in London, but it was successfully scuttled by lobbyists of Bathurst-based English merchants. The British were again prepared, before independence, to see The Gambia absorbed by Senegal, a position strengthened by a UN report which favoured federation. This idea was vigorously opposed not only by the emerging political party in the territory, the PPP (the Protectorate People’s Party which was to become the People’s Progressive Party) but also by some Senegalese politicians, particularly Doudou Thiam who, it is believed, had an eye on the vice presidency of Senegal-a position which was being proposed for The Gambia.

A physical inconvenience for Senegal, the independence of The Gambia was received in Dakar not without a feeling of disappointment. But in the Senghor years that followed, both countries learned to accommodate each other, moving closer step by step after initial difficulties.

In 1964, the FAO proposed a customs union between the two countries but nothing came of it. Three years later, however, they signed a loose Treaty of Association and joined other West African countries in 1975 in signing the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) treaty-a treaty which has among its medium-term objectives a customs union throughout the region.

In 1978, both countries set up The Gambia River Development Organisation which has among its development targets the building of a bridge/barrage across the River Gambia. The bridge/barrage, it is hoped, will provide energy and irrigation possibilities for The Gambia and the fastest and easiest link between the northern and southern parts of Senegal, vital for Senegal not only economically but also from the point of view of security. The project has still not got off the ground for a variety of reasons, the most important being the considerable reluctance on the part of The Gambia, which, informed sources believe, is not really convinced that the economic benefits that will flow from such a bridge will overshadow the implications as far as The Gambia’s sovereignty is concerned.

The Gambia, however, contrary to most forecasts, has proved economically viable despite its geography. Although The Gambia shares the common principle of plural democracy with Senegal, this small country has an entirely different economic system, which seems to work. Gambians continue to guard jealously the independence and sovereignty of the country. They have never made a secret of the fact that The Gambia’s sovereignty is non-negotiable in its relationship with Senegal.

An abortive coup

The abortive coup d’etat in The Gambia in 1981, put down with the help of Senegalese army, forced the authorities to reappraise The Gambia’s relationship with Senegal. It strengthened the ties between the two countries. This culminated in an Agreement which set up the Senegambia Confederation-a union that came into force in February 1982. As well as consolidating the cooperation already existing between the two countries, the Agreement provided among other things, for joint independent institutions: a parliament, an executive and an army with the President of Senegal as President of the Confederation and the President of The Gambia as the Vice-President (Both countries retained their full sovereignty and official languages); harmonisation of foreign policy; strengthening of cultural and technical cooperation and eventual economic integration.

The Confederation’s budget was being financed two-thirds by Senegal and one-third by The Gambia. For the Senegalese, the Confederation represented a step along the road to political union between the two countries. For The Gambia it was a forum for cooperation and eventual economic union, no more, no less. It was this difference in conception of what the Confederation actually meant that was beneath the unspoken disagreement between the two countries and the slow progress towards economic integration.

When the eighth anniversary of The Senegambian Confederation was celebrated in Dakar in February 1989, it was all pomp (military march past) and nothing to show for it. At least 80 % of the Confederation’s budget went on defence and security.

In the eyes of The Gambians, however, progress was being made. Trade between the two countries was on the increase and the re-export trade was booming. Agreement had been reached on the Protocols to establish a Free Trade Area and negotiations were continuing on monetary and customs union between the two countries before the sudden collapse of the Confederation.

The Senegalese reaction, according to Gambian sources, was to tighten border control on goods coming into, or in transit through, Senegal from The Gambia as the text of a telex widely circulated in Banjul, from the Senegalese authorities to all customs posts along the border with The Gambia, made clear. The Gambians have, meanwhile, reacted calmly to the situation with some feeling that, despite the collapse of the Confederation, Senegal would respect other agreements on international trade to which both countries are signatories like the UN Convention on transit and ECOWAS treaty. At the time of writing there has been no major development in the relations between the two countries. It is only left to be seen the extent to which The Gambia’s re-export trade and economy as a whole will be affected.

A.O.


Basic facts about the Gambia

Area: 11 295 sq km along the River Gambia.

Brief history: The Gambia’s first contact with Europe goes as far back as 1456 when Portuguese navigators, Luis de Cadamosto and Antoniotto Usidimare sailed up The Gambia and landed at an island they named St Andrew, after one of their sailors called Andrew, who died of fever and was buried there. For 200 years the Portuguese enjoyed a quiet monopoly of trade with the hinterland until the mid-17th century when they were challenged by other European powers. First by the Baltic Germans of the Duke of Courland, who occupied and built a fort on St Andrew’s Island in 1651. Ten years later, the British captured it and named it James Island after the heir to their throne who was to become King James II.

Then there ensued a long period of rivalry between the British and French as the American and Caribbean colonies expanded, demanding more slaves. The British held on to territories along the bank of the River Gambia and up north to St Louis on the Bank of Senegal River. In 1766 they established the Province of Senegambia with headquarters in St Louis which was placed under the responsibility of the Royal Charter Companies. James Island on the other hand, was placed under a Lieutenant Governor.

Taking advantage of British engagement in the American war of independence, the French in 1779 attacked and captured James Island destroying the fort. The island was, however, returned to the British a couple of years later, under the Versailles Treaty in 1783, when the present-day boundary lines of The Gambia were drawn.

The British acquired the capital, Banjul (formerly Bathurst) in 1816 and administered both The Gambia and Sierra Leone from there until 1888 when they were separated. Apart from trade, the British had little interest in the tiny colony and were willing to part with it in exchange for French colonies elsewhere. Despite French initiatives in this direction, this somehow never happened. As mentioned in the Senegambia article, even at independence, the British were in favour of The Gambia being absorbed by Senegal. a position strengthened by a United Nations report which recommended union. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) won the elections of 1962 which paved the way to self-government with Dawda Jawara as prime minister. In February 1965, The Gambia became independent and in April 1970 a Republic, with Al-Haji Sir Dawda Jawara as its first president. The latter has held the post ever since having successively been re-elected in a country which embraced plural democracy from the moment of self-government.

Population: 695 886 (1983 official estimate) annual rate of growth 3.4%; density 61.5 per sq km. Ethnic groups: Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Jola and Serahuli. Eighty percent are Moslem and the rest are mostly Christians.

Political parties: The PPP (People’s Progressive Party in power since 1962); NCP (the National Convention Party), and the United Party.

Capital: Banjul (pop. approx. 45000: 1985 estimate).

Curreney: Dalasi. D13 = £ I (Sept. 1989): D8.6 = ECU I (Nov. 1989).

Gross Domestic Product ( 1988/89 estimate): D 513.4 million: Agriculture 29.9%; Industry 8.9 %; Services 49.9 % .

GDP per capita: US$250.

International trade (1988/89): exports D 311.4 m; imports D 940 m, deficit D 628 m. Goods exported: groundnuts and derivatives, cotton, fish and fish products, fruits and vegetables.

Principal imports: food, drink and tobacco, machinery and equipment, manufactured goods, minerals and fuel. Goods re-exported; mostly rice, flour, sugar, China green tea and textiles.

Principal trading partners: United Kingdom, France, U.S.A., Belgium and Luxembourg, Thailand, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Switzerland.

Destination of re-exports: Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea. Mali and Burkina Faso.

Reserves (1988/89): D 184.9 m (SDR 20 m).

Foreign debt (1989): US$355m.

The Gambia-EEC Cooperation

In 1990, cooperation between The Gambia and the European Economic Community will have been in existence for 15 years, under the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Lomonventions. 1990 will also see the initiation of the LomV Convention, which, unlike its predecessors, will last for 10 years instead of five. Since the beginning of Lom in 1975, cooperation between the EEC and The Gambia has steadily grown, intensified and matured and is expected to grow further under Come IV.

It would be instructive to examine first what has happened in the past before reviewing the prospects for the future.


Table 1: The Gambia: Allocations, commitments and disbursements, 1975 to 1990 National Indicative Programmes


Lom, II and III Indicative Programmes

Over the three Conventions, the total volume of grants allocated to The Gambia amounted to ECU 44.8 m, of which ECU 43.75 m has been committed, and ECU 28.1 m has been disbursed (See Table I above). The allocation of Special Loans or risk capital under LomI and III amounted to ECU 3.5 m, although ECU 9.56 m has been committed, the additional ECU 6.06 m being “ non-programmable “.

At the end of LomII (1989) commitments under all three Conventions stood at a respectable 98 %, the last two years of the LomII period witnessing a surge of commitments for various projects and programmes. Disbursements under Lom and II Indicative

Programmes have now reached 86 %. Disbursement under the LomII Indicative Programme started slowly due to a slow rate of commitment, but now stands at over 36%.

Table 2 provides an indication of the allocation of funds by category of activity. Lom and II were characterised by a relatively wide range of activities. Under the category “ rural development”, emphasis was given to the construction of rural feeder roads. The largest single project under Lom was the construction and equipping of Gambia College, at Brikama, amounting to almost ECU 4.1 m. Gambia College is the highest educational and training institution in the country, covering the training of teachers, nurses, and agricultural extension staff. The College was officially opened by the President on 18 February 1983-the anniversary of The Gambia’s independence.

The largest project under LomI is the Banjul Sewerage and Drainage Project, for which grant finance of ECU 3.5 m was made available; the design studies were financed under Lom. The project aims at improved rainwater drainage, the provision of water-borne sewerage facilities in the capital Banjul, thus improving public health facilities in a low-lying area with a high water table. The overall project, which is not yet completed, also aims at providing public conveniences and home connections.

Artisanal fisheries development has received attention under all three Conventions, starting in 1977. Initially emphasis was given to access for fishing villages to beach sites and markets, together with a revolving loan fund for fishermen and vendors to acquire improved gear and equipment. In addition, an ice plant was constructed at Brikama, and a fish landing site was completed at Gunjur, in Western Division, in 1983. The objective of the two first phases of the programme was to encourage more Gambians to become fishermen by enhancing the economic environment for greater commercialisation. Under LomII, five beach landing sites have been developed by the construction of smoking huts, market and cleaning facilities, fishermen’s lockers, repair workshops, offices for fishermen and smokers, associations, and fisheries department extension staff, together with a new ice making plant and a landing jetty in Tanji.

The revolving loan fund will be enlarged to allow for the provision of improved vessels, engines and marketing equipment for traders. The construction phase is almost complete, and the work of mobilising fishermen to take advantage of new opportunities has been initiated. The current phase has benefited from the previous eight years’ experience, in that the villages and villagers, both men and women, have been drawn into the design and construction of the project from the start. It is anticipated that the pace of economic activity in the participating villages will be significantly increased as the quantity of fish landed increases, with increased quantities of fresh and processed fish being marketed and consumed both in The Gambia and in neighbouring countries.

Training and education has also figured under the first two Conventions, with the provision of some 212 student years training overseas, in addition to in-country training. Lecturers have been funded to carry out in-country and inservice training at the Management Development Institute in the fields of Financial Management and Accountancy.

LomII: sectoral concentration

The LomII Convention, beginning in 1985, saw a shift of emphasis from a relatively large number of interventions towards a policy of both locational and sectoral concentration, with a view to making aid funds more effective. In the case of The Gambia the period of policy dialogue was somewhat protracted as these new objectives were translated into appropriate projects and programmes. At the same time the European Community developed a new policy of directly helping heavily-indebted sub-Saharan countries undergoing structural adjustment programmes, through the financing of special import programmes designed to lead to the creation of counterpart funds.

It was mutually agreed that the sector to receive concentrated attention would be rural development and the environment. Within this framework, the largest Financing Agreement is for the Upper River Division Integrated Programme (URDIP) with a funding of ECU 7 m, comprising five principal elements: agriculture and forestry, primary schools health, feeder roads and river transport (two ferries at Basse and Fatoto), and credit for agriculture.

Supporting this sectoral concentration was the third Artisanal Fisheries Development Project, already mentioned above, and a Women’s Gardens Programme, both in Western Division.

The Gambia also received in 1988 one of the first Special Import Programmes to be funded by the EEC’ comprising the ECU 5 m funding of diesel and motor spirit needs of The Gambia for a period of one year. The fuel had been successfully delivered by the end of 1989 and the counterpart funds (40 million dalasis) from the programme will be applied to development activities from 1990 onwards, the bulk of them being used in the Upper River Division Integrated Programme (ECU 3.6 m equivalent).

The final significant project to be financed in 1989, a project which derives its funding from the balances of all three Conventions, as well as 10 million dalasis from the Fuel Import Programme, is the Four Provincial Centres Water Supply Programme. Its total estimated cost is ECU 5 m. This programme is linked to a major project for the improvement of water supplies in the Greater Banjul Area to which the European Investment Bank is contributing ECU 5.7 m.



Table 2: Percentage allocations by category under Lom,II and III

Stabex

As a country heavily dependent for foreign exchange and general economic health on the production, processing and export of a single crop-ground-nuts-The Gambia has benefited considerably from the European Community’s instrument of Stabilisation of Export Earnings (Stabex). Over the period 1978-1989, when world prices have fluctuated markedly and declined significantly, and when weather conditions in Sahel countries have been unfavourable, The Gambia has received a total of ECU 47.65 m in the form of Stabex grant transfer payments, which is as much as all national indicative programme allocations under the three Conventions. Stabex transfers are applied to price support measures, input provision, and agricultural diversification.

Regional cooperation

Regional cooperation is assigned an important role under the Lomonventions. Under Lom and II, funding was provided for in the evaluation and related studies of a bridge-barrage across the River Gambia, for the design and construction of various sections of the Banjul-Bissau Highway, for a telecommunications improvement programme for various ECOWAS countries, and for support to the International Trypanotolerance Centre based in The Gambia and Senegal, through ILCA and ILRAD for research on N’Dama cattle.

Under LomII, most regional projects benefiting The Gambia will be derived from its membership of CILSS (Comite Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Secheresse au Sahel).

Cooperation outside the Lomonventions

The Gambia has benefited from food aid, both direct and through Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), emergency aid for locust control, co-financing with NGOs in small rural development projects and family planning, and a small environmental project to protect the diminishing number of hippopotami in the River Gambia.

Mention should also be made of the Fisheries Agreement between the EEC and The Gambia under which European Member State vessels may fish in Gambian waters, with licensing arrangements, and upper limits for total catch. The Agreement allows for an annual payment of ECU 1.1 m to The Gambia, together with funds for training and research. This Agreement is due for renegotiation in 1990.

Prospects for the future

With the signing of the LomV Convention the resources available for cooperation between the European Community and the ACP for the next five years have increased overall by more than 40 %. This increase will hold true also at the national level. The programmes likely to be funded in the future will follow the pattern of the past, particularly with the experience gained during the implementation of LomII. Consequently we may expect a similar concentration of effort either sectorally or geographically, with possible appropriate support in the structural adjustment process, which The Gambia is currently implementing effectively.

Alan WADDAMS
EEC Delegate to The Gambia