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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Gambia has an active private sector and the government has announced its support for encouraging local investment and attracting foreign direct investment. There is a government agency dedicated to attracting foreign investment and promoting exports and it provides guidelines and incentives to all investors whose portfolios qualify for a Special Investment Certificate.

The Gambia has a small economy that relies primarily on agriculture, tourism, and remittances for support. In recent years, the economy was hit by economic shocks in agriculture caused by erratic rainfalls. Gradual reforms in fiscal policies have helped to improve stability and growth in the economy. The Gambian Government initially remained optimistic that growth will be maintained and the current macroeconomic stability will be sustained in the medium to long term. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to have reached 6 percent in 2019 and would have grown by 6.3 percent in 2020. However, following the COVID-19 outbreak, the Minister of Finance projected a loss of $49 million and that growth would be reduced to 3.3 percent in 2020, down from the original 6.3 percent growth forecast. This will also have implications on the budget and net domestic borrowing, negatively impacting the concessionary fiscal stance the government had been undertaking in recent years.

In the medium term, growth is expected to average 5.5 percent in 2020-25, attributed to strong growth in private sector activity, specifically construction and tourism. Imports are expected to increase over this period to support the expansion in private investment, which will widen the current account deficit. The capital and financial account is expected to remain strong, reflecting disbursement of funds for public investment and private capital transfers.

Strides are also expected to be made in the energy sector (oil exploration and exploitation; renewable energies, specifically solar); natural resources (heavy mineral sands); agriculture (rice and cereal production, but also processed foods); tourism; and finally, infrastructure (roads, telecommunications systems, drainage systems, and bridges).

The Gambia is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional economic union of 15 countries located in West Africa.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 96 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 155 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index N/A N/A https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 710 http://data.worldbank.org/
indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Although foreign investment is encouraged in virtually all the sectors of the Gambian economy, through the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), eight areas are also identified as “priority sectors” which attract a Special Investment Certificate (SIC) that provides a number of incentives, including duty waivers and tax holidays. There are no laws or practices in The Gambia that discriminate against foreign investors, including U.S. investors.

The Gambia Investment & Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) is the national agency established responsible for the promotion and facilitation of private sector investments into The Gambia.

In offering investor–facilitation services, the Agency acts as investors’ first point of contact provides information on relevant procedures for setting up a business and helps form the necessary network of contacts in The Gambia for successful business operations.

GIEPA offers the following services:

  • Investment Generation
  • Investment Facilitation
  • Business Development Services
  • Export Development
  • Support to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)
  • Image Building & Branding; and
  • Policy Advocacy

To maintain dialogue with investors, The Gambia Competitiveness Improvement Forum was created as part of the 2015 GIEPA Act, which hosts sector-based forums to maintain dialogue with investors. In 2017, GIEPA hosted the International Agriculture Investment Forum to promote agriculture and market-oriented agricultural production within the farming community.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to own business enterprises and engage in in all forms of remunerative activities in The Gambia. There are no limits on foreign ownership or control of businesses except in the operations of defense industries, which are closed to all private sector participation, irrespective of nationality. Apart from Defense related activities, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements were legally applied to foreign ownership and control.

Foreign investors are not denied national treatment (i.e. the same treatment as domestic firms) or MFN treatment (i.e. the same treatment as the most favored foreign investor) in any sector.

There is no mandatory screening of foreign direct investment, but such screening may be conducted if there is suspicion of money laundering or terrorism financing. Investors subjected to such a screening may be asked for business registration documents and bank statements. As part of the country’s privatization program, foreign investors are treated equal to local investors

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The UNCTAD conducted a fact-finding mission to produce an Investment Policy Review (IPR) for The Gambia. UNCTAD’s 2017 IPR for The Gambia is available on UNCTAD’s website – (UNCTAD Investment Policy Review) .

Business Facilitation

The Gambia Investment and Export Proportion (GIEPA) assists foreign investors to establish businesses in The Gambia. GIEPA is mandated to facilitate the establishment, operation, and development of businesses in The Gambia. According to the World Bank Doing Business indicators, The Gambia is ranked 149 for Starting a Business out of 190 countries.

According to the 2019 Doing Business report, it takes six procedures and, on average, over 1-2 days to start a business in the country. These procedures include registering a unique company name, notarizing company status, obtaining a tax identification number (TIN), registering employees with the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, registering with the Commercial Registry and obtaining an operational license. While this can be done by anyone in theory, a local attorney who is familiar with the system can facilitate the process. In 2010, a Single Window Business Registration Desk was established at the Ministry of Justice. This initiative has reduced the number of days it takes to register a business in the country to one day.

Outward Investment

The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) and Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry facilitate foreign investment in The Gambia. Their mandate includes export promotion and support for small and micro enterprise (SME) development. There are no set restrictions to domestic investors investing abroad.

2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties

See Bilateral Investment treaty (BIT) list for The Gambia below. The Gambia is currently not engaged in an FTA negotiation with any countries/economies.

  • Guinea
  • Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Kuwait
  • Libya
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • Qatar
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan Province of China
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom

The Gambia does not have a bilateral taxation treaty with the U.S. The Gambia has bilateral investment agreements with Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. On April 22, 2017 President Barrow announced a reduction on the import duty on flour from 47 percent to 20 percent and a removal of the five per cent excise tax on goods.

The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) collects excise duties on locally manufactured products (per unit). In 2013, Value Added Tax (VAT) was introduced in The Gambia and has remained unchanged at 15 percent.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The GOTG uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis to establish “clear rules of the game.” The Gambia’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms. The Act mandates the Commission to advocate for competition in The Gambia; and to determine and impose penalties or appropriate remedies to ensure businesses comply with prohibited restrictive practices, and monitor compliance, among other things. The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCP) is a commercial watchdog that ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices, and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices.

There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. Rule-making and regulatory authority exists with the President, his cabinet of Ministers, and the committee members under the National Assembly of The Gambia, and various government parastatals. The accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms. Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for commenting through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. This practice is in line with the U.S. federal notice and comment procedures, and applies to investment laws and regulations in The Gambia.

There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. There is no formal stock market such as a stock exchange for trading equity securities; therefore, question on accounting standards is not applicable. The accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms.

Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for commenting through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. A contract was concluded with LexisNexis in 2009 for the publication of the entire country’s legislation; however access is not free of charge. The National Assembly is also in the process of compiling all regulatory actions on its website. There is no centralized online location where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published. There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by other individual agencies or government bodies. There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.

There are two types of courts in The Gambia, the Superior Courts and the Magistrates Court, the Cadi Court, District Tribunals and such lower courts and tribunals as may be established by an Act of the National Assembly. The judicial power of The Gambia is vested in the courts, which exercise this power according to the respective jurisdictions conferred by an Act of the National Assembly. No new regulatory system reforms have been announced since the last ICS report, but regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years are being implemented; The Investment Policy Plan of The Gambia is still in draft stages.

Proposed laws and regulations are made available to all the relevant stakeholders for their review and discussion at validation workshops. During the process of enactment in the National Assembly, deputies are free to suggest changes. Regulations are not reviewed based on scientific or data-driven assessments. There are no known scientific studies or quantitative analysis conducted on the impact of regulations made publicly available for comment, but there is a public agency, The Gambia Bureau of Statistics, that does develop data based on enacted legislation. Public comments received by regulators are not made public. Only limited information on debt obligation are made available. Documents lack complete information on natural resource revenues as well as financial earnings from state-owned enterprises.

International Regulatory Considerations

The Gambia is a member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and as such, is signatory to the 1975 ECOWAS Treaty, which harmonizes investment rules.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) first introduced competition legislation in 2008, including a prohibition on anticompetitive mergers.

The Gambia has its own regulatory system, which it designs with stakeholders from the international community of NGOs, but international norms or standards referenced or incorporated into the country’s regulatory system are often based on the UK system of regulations. The international norms and standards of the United Kingdom are referenced and incorporated into The Gambia’s regulatory system.

The Gambia is a member of the WTO. The government does not notify the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations. However, draft technical regulations are available to relevant stakeholders like the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), if requested.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The country’s legal system is based on English common law and there are effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights. The Gambia has a written and consistently applied commercial law, which is found in the Companies Act. Monetary judgments can be made in both the investor’s currency and local currency. The Gambia does not have a written commercial and/or contractual law as its legal system is based on Common Law. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and although the courts are not totally free from influence of the executive branch, they have demonstrated their independence on occasion. The Supreme Court, presided over by a chief justice, has both civil and criminal jurisdiction. Appeals against decisions of district tribunals (or the industrial tribunal in the case of labor disputes) may be lodged with the lower courts, the High Court and the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of appeal in the country.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The investment laws and regulations of The Gambia apply equally to local and foreign investors. These include unclear provisions of some of the laws related to investment, such as competition, labor and corruption, and, in some instances, regulations do not exist to implement the laws effectively. For information on the laws, rules, procedures and reporting required, foreign investors can visit the website of the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA): GIEPA . GIEPA is a government agency set up to promote investment, export, and entrepreneurship development, and provides a one-stop-shop for investors and is responsible for attracting foreign direct investment.

GCCPC is the body primarily responsible for the promotion of competition and the protection of consumers mandated by three acts, namely: The Competition Act 2007, The Consumer Protection Act 2014, and The Essential Commodities Act 2015. No major investment related laws/ regulations, and judicial decisions came out within the past year.

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) is a commercial watchdog that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns and ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices, and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Constitution of The Gambia provides the legal framework for the protection of private ownership of property and only provides for compulsory acquisition by the state if this is found to be necessary for defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning. During President Jammeh’s 22 years in office, state paramilitary officials were known to arrive unannounced on private property and tear down any standing structures on the property in question. Claimants alleged a lack of due process and compensation stemming from these incidents under President Jammeh.

Dispute Settlement

The Gambia is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), but there is no specific legislation providing for enforcement of ICSID awards. The Gambia is not a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Gambia is a signatory to the 1975 ECOWAS Treaty that was revised in 1993 toward the establishment of a Community Investment Code to harmonize investment rules. The Gambia does not have any BITs or FTAs with the United States.

The local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government; however, due to executive interference during the Jammeh regime, local courts were not in a position to enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government.

In June 2013, the government announced a ban on the importation of frozen poultry parts, which constituted the largest U.S. export to The Gambia, worth over USD 7 million a year.

The ban was lifted in November 2013, but a statement issued by the Ministry of Trade imposed a new condition that all shipments of poultry products entering the country required Society Générale de Surveillance (SGS) certification that they are hormone-free. A U.S. financial group purchased a banking group with bank locations in several West African countries in 2016, including in The Gambia. However, the previous owner of the bank refused to acknowledge the new ownership and the U.S. financial group has been involved in lengthy litigation in Gambian courts since 2017. As of this moment, no final resolution has been reached, despite numerous engagements by U.S. officials with Gambian officials on this matter.

A groundnut processing plant at Denton Bridge is the biggest industrial complex in the country, and its hostile takeover by the government in 1999 sparked a protracted legal battle. The last major dispute with foreign investors was with a Swiss group over the assets of The Gambia Groundnut Corporation in 1998.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Gambia is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), but there is no specific legislation providing for enforcement of ICSID awards.

However, there is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism as a means for settling disputes between private parties.

Arbitration is governed by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2005, and is generally based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, with some provisions adapted from the UNCITRAL Rules. The Gambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is currently engaged in setting up a Dispute Resolution Center. Local courts recognize, and can enforce foreign arbitral awards; however executive directives and interference prevented them from ably enforcing those awards in the past. There have been reports of complaints about the court processes during former President Jammeh’s regime, when rulings tended to overwhelmingly favor the GOTG.

In the past one year, Gambian SOE’s have not been involved in investment disputes that were determined by any domestic courts.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Bankruptcy is covered by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of 1992. Creditors, equity shareholders, and holders of other financial contracts may file for both liquidation and reorganization.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

With a minimum investment threshold of US$100,000 and US$250,000, the following incentives are offered to domestic investors and foreign investors respectively:

Tax Holiday: A newly established investment enterprise that falls within any priority investment category is granted a tax holiday with respect to its corporate or turnover tax and depreciation allowance.

Tariff and Import VAT Incentives: A newly established investment enterprise that falls within any priority investment category is granted an import VAT waiver on imported specific goods as per the agreed list of items.

Export Promotion Incentives: An investment enterprise located outside the export processing zone that exports at least 30% of its output is entitled to the following: 10% corporate or turnover tax concession for 5 years.

  • 10% corporate or turnover tax concession for 5 years.
  • Financial planning services and advice.
  • Participation in training courses, seminars, and workshops.
  • Export market research.
  • Advertisement and publicity campaigns in foreign markets.
  • Product design and consultancy

Zone Investor Incentives: An investor operating in an Export Processing Zone and exports at least 80% of its outputs is exempt from payment of numerous duties and taxes, including import VAT waiver on imported goods/items, excise duty, import duty on capital equipment, corporate or turnover tax, municipal tax and depreciation allocation.

SME Support: SMEs are entitled to the following facilities:

  • Support for research and development.
  • Income tax deposit waiver.
  • Matching grants.
  • Market survey and research support.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

The GIEPA Act provides for Export Processing Zones (EPZ) to be established in separate selected areas to which special customs territory status shall be conferred as well as for the establishment of single factory EPZs for which GIEPA will be the regulator.

An investor operating within an export processing zone that exports at least eighty percent of its output is exempted from the payment of:

  • Import or excise duty and sales tax on goods produced within or imported into an export processing zone unless the goods are entered for consumption into the customs territory;
  • Import duty on capital equipment;
  • Corporate or turnover tax; and
  • Municipal tax.

An investment enterprise located outside an export-processing zone that exports at least thirty percent of its output is entitled to the following incentives: a ten percent corporate or turnover tax concession for five years;

  • a ten percent corporate or turnover tax concession for five years;
  • participation in training courses, symposia, seminars and workshops on export promotion;
  • financial planning services and advice;
  • export market research;
  • advertisement and publicity campaigns in foreign markets; and
  • product design and consultancy.

Incentives for investors in the EPZ are valid for maximum period of ten years. Foreign-owned firms have the same investment opportunities as local companies.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government mandates local employment. There is no legislation that applies this scheme to senior management and boards of directors. Foreigners can only represent up to 20 percent of the total number of employees of a company, with no distinction between management personnel and workers.

It is not difficult to obtain visas, residence and work permits or other requirements inhibiting mobility of foreign investors and their employees. The recruitment of foreigners is subject to annually renewed applications and payment of an expatriate quota tax, which varies for West African and non-West African employees. The Government of The Gambia restricts the ability of foreigners to invest in The Gambia to the extent that the GIEPA Act states that “a person shall not invest in or operate an investment enterprise which is prejudicial to national security, detrimental to the natural environment, public health, or public morality, or which contravenes the laws of The Gambia.”

There is no known legislation in the investment policy of The Gambia that follows “forced localization” production methods. There are no enforcement procedures for performance requirements. The Consumer Protection Act of 2014 prevents companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside The Gambia.

There are no known laws that require foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to encryption to the local government. As mandated by the Competition Act of 2007 and the Consumer Protection Act of 2014, the GCCPC is the agency responsible for the enforcement of rules on local data storage within the country/economy. It also undertakes critical review of the Competition Act; subsidiary legislation and the GCCPC guidelines; performs all in-house legal advisory work required in the execution of GCCPC’s functions and represents GCCPC in all court and appeal proceedings. The GCCPC Enforcement Committee provides the agency with all the legal and enforcement expertise necessary for it to fulfill its mission of championing competition for growth and choice. Specifically, the Legal Committee Division takes the lead in enforcement action and applies rigorous legal analysis in all investigations and notifications under the Competition Act.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Property rights and interests exist and are clearly protected under the laws of The Gambia.

The Department of Lands and Regional Government issues title deeds, which are reliable. Property rights and interests, though clearly protected under the laws, were not enforced under the old regime. However, the new administration has vowed to uphold the laws going forward. Mortgages and liens exist but are largely unused. The Department of Lands and Regional Government issues title deeds which are reliable. There are specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors. In 2007, the Lands Commission Act was established by the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government. The Gambia ranks 132 on the 2018 World Bank Rankings for Registering Property and 21 for Dealing with Construction Permits.

There are specific regulations regarding land lease or acquisition by foreign and/or non-resident investors. In 2007, the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government established the Lands Commission Act:

Section 14 of the act provides for the following functions: “A “The Commission shall:

(a) advise the Secretary of State on political matters relating to land administration to ensure strict adherence to those policies and transparency in land allocations; (b) investigate disputes on land ownership and occupation in any area in The Gambia;

(b) investigate disputes on land ownership and occupation in any area in The Gambia; (c) assess land rent and premium for properties within any area in The Gambia;

(c) assess land rent and premium for properties within any area in The Gambia; (d) monitor the registration of properties and inspect land registers and records;

(d) monitor the registration of properties and inspect land registers and records; (e) be responsible for all matters relating to national boundaries, including monitoring and reporting to the Secretary of State; and (f) perform such other functions as the Secretary of State may assign.

(e) be responsible for all matters relating to national boundaries, including monitoring and reporting to the Secretary of State; and (f) perform such other functions as the Secretary of State may assign.

In 2013, the Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF) was launched in The Gambia to assess the number of lands without clear title, but to date, the LGAF implementation has been practically non-existent. Legal owners normally allow squatters to occupy empty lands until they are ready to begin construction, at which time disputes often result in the squatters and “other owners” being evicted.

Intellectual Property Rights

The Gambia is a signatory to both the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. However, due to a lack of intellectual property rights (IPR) experts, the legal structure for IPR protection is weak overall. Thus, there has been a history of IPR infringement in The Gambia, and according to the Gambia Police Force (GPF), few IPR crimes have been reported.

No new IPR-related laws or regulations have been enacted in The Gambia in the past year. There are also no reform bills pending in parliament. The Cabinet approved the Intellectual Property Policy 2018-2023 in 2019, and the implementation process is ongoing. The policy is the basis for The Gambia acceding to all relevant international intellectual property agreements and the enactment of the Intellectual Property Act of 2020. The National Assembly ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which has intellectual property components. Since there is no history of IPR prosecution in The Gambia, the extent to which the Act would affect the protection of IPR rights is unknown, but the introduction of legislation is expected to promote greater competition in the economy.

The GPF established an Anti-Intellectual Property Crime Unit at the Police Headquarters in Banjul. The Gambia does keep track of seizures of counterfeit goods. However, there have been no recent reports of the government seizing counterfeit goods, despite the prevalence of counterfeit goods such as pirated movies, music CDs, toothpaste, and cigarettes imported from China. The Gambia does not prosecute IPR violations.

The Gambia is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 report, nor is it listed in the Notorious Market List.

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Banks and policymakers alike would like to see the exposure ratio return to the long-run average over time, if the emergence of lending opportunities, both large-scale investment projects and retail credit, can be supported by the banks without compromising their financial soundness and overall financial stability. Gambian banks are trying to return to a more balanced portfolio structure in the medium run following the secular decline in private sector lending relative to investment in government securities. CBG staff contends that the decline in the ratio was delayed by foreign banks entering the local market with an aggressive lending strategy to capture market share.

The country does not have its own stock market. Sufficient liquidity does not exist in the markets to enter and exit sizeable positions. There is no effective regulatory system to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment, or policies to facilitate the free flow of financial resources into the products and factor markets. Credit is allocated on market terms. Foreign investors are able to get credit on the local market. The private sector has access to a variety of credit instruments. The Government respects the IMF Article obligations for member countries, including refraining from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions.

Money and Banking System

According to the financial soundness indicators, the banking sector remains fundamentally sound. Total assets of the industry expanded by 15.3 percent to D43.6 billion ($879.8 million) as at end-December 2018. The asset quality has improved significantly with the non-performing loan ratio of 3.3 percent, lower than 7.2 percent a year ago.

The banking system had been adequately capitalized, liquid and profitable with a capital adequacy ratio of 31.5 percent in December 2019, the ratio of liquid assets to total assets at 61.1 percent and the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans low at 4.6 percent. According to the IMF Article IV consultations, the basic multi-factor financial stress scenario implied by the fiscal stress indicates that a relatively modest level of capital would be required to have all the banks meet statutory requirements. At the last Monetary Policy Committee Meeting in February 2020, amid fears of the impact of COVID-19, the Central Bank reduced the policy rate to 12 percent. With the policy rate falling, this will also lead to a fall in savings rates which banks rely on to acquire customers and drive deposits. The impact of the Fiscal Stress Test reduces the commercial banks’ level of capital and their ability to meet increased daily cash withdrawals.

As at end of December 2019, the country’s total assets of the banking industry was D50.88 billion ($997 million), 16.59 percent higher than 2018. Net foreign assets of the banking system stood at D16.8 billion ($329 million) in December 2019 compared with D10.4 billion ($204 million) in 2018. Net domestic assets of the banking system stood at D26.1 billion ($512 million) in December 2019 representing an increase of 11.8 percent from last year.

The country has a central bank system. Foreign banks or branches are allowed to establish operations in The Gambia. They are subject to the banking regulations of The Gambia. No correspondent banking relationships were lost in the past three years. There are no restrictions on foreigners opening a bank account.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no restrictions on foreign investors converting or repatriating funds in The Gambia.

Funds associated with any form of investment can be freely converted into any world currency.

The Dalasi (GMD) has a floating exchange rate that is determined by market forces.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies in The Gambia. There are no time limitations on remittances. There are no plans to tighten access to foreign exchange for investment remittances. Investors may repatriate profits and dividends through commercial banks or licensed money transfer agencies at prevailing exchange rates.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Neither the host government nor a government-affiliate maintains a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations, such as licenses and supplies. State-owned enterprises are active in tourism, aviation, maritime services, public transport, power generation, telecommunications, road building, and housing. There is no publicly available published list of SOEs.

By using the Guidelines to form an integral part in organizing good practices among their state-owned enterprise sectors, promoting the implementation of the Guidelines in establishing their ownership practices, defining a framework for corporate governance of state-owned enterprises, and disseminating this Recommendation of the Guidelines among Ministries. Additionally, the GOTG is open to a review by the Working Party on State Ownership and Privatization Practices and for follow up on the implementation of the OECD Council on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises’ Recommendations.

Privatization Program

The Government of The Gambia is currently not engaged in any forms of privatization programs.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The notion of corporate social responsibility is not well known in The Gambia and only some state-owned enterprises and some private companies, such as banks and mobile phone companies, adopt Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) as a policy.

Gambian laws generally contain a provision that ensures social and environmental protection of its citizens, regardless of activity and its potential for income for the country. There have been no recent high profile, controversial instances of private sector impact on human rights or resolution of such cases in the past year. Currently no national action plan on RBC has been enacted. Agencies that promote or enforce RBC include the Public Utilities Regulatory Agency (PURA), The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC), The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), the Standards Bureau, and the Gambia Revenue Authority. In 2015, the Director General of The Standards Bureau established the first Technical Committee (TC) on food which reviewed and adopted ten (10) standards on food and related matters in The Gambia.

Any project with potential environmental impact is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by the National Environment Agency (NEA) before a license or permit is granted. These projects include hotels, roads, bridges, mining, large-scale agricultural projects, processing and manufacturing industries, fish processing, waste disposal, installation of electrical lines, etc. Despite its efforts to enforce domestic laws, the NEA is heavily underfunded and short of resources to implement adequate environmental protections. The Gambia has adopted several measures to support environmental protection and reducing the impact of environmental damage.

According to the GIEPA Act, “The Government shall take all necessary measures to protect investments and the property of investors in accordance with the laws of The Gambia and the bilateral investment Treaties.” (Section 41). In most cases, the understanding of RBC is limited to the allocation of funds to charitable causes such as supporting schools and health projects, disaster relief, and environment enhancement. However, the banks and mobile phone companies often use such donations for publicity and marketing reasons. The Gambian public often views these firms favorably. In most cases, the understanding of RBC is limited to the allocation of funds to charitable causes such as supporting schools and health projects, disaster relief, and environment enhancement.

Foreign and local enterprises are encouraged to follow RBC principles such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Areas where natural resources are extracted are not subject to conflict; GOTG does not specifically promote the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. The Gambia does have a budding extractives industry, but GOTG does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Standards or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. There are no domestic transparency measures requiring the disclosure of payments made to government and/or of RBC/BHR policies or practices.

9. Corruption

There are laws in place to combat corruption by public officials in The Gambia. These laws are largely ineffective because the committees, which are commissioned to enforce them, are yet to be fully established. In cases when trials are conducted, they are conducted in a non-discriminatory manner. The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia extend to family members of officials and political parties alike. The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia contain laws or regulations that counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

The Gambian Government encourages private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. The constitution of The Gambia calls for internal codes of conduct (Section 222), as do the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance to which The Gambia is a signatory. Private companies use internal controls and other programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Private companies use internal controls and other programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.

The Gambia has signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences, but has not ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. In May 2014, The Gambia ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention. During former President Jammeh’s rule, the GOTG did not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. However, such protections are likely as part of the new administration’s pledge to take action regarding the African Union convention on preventing and combatting corruption.

At least one U.S. firm complained in 2016 of corruption as an obstacle to FDI. This was reported in the water resource management sector and involved a commercial dispute between the GOTG and a U.S. firm. The firm has since indicated that the new administration is taking steps to resolve the matter.

Resources to Report Corruption

Commanding Officer, Fraud & Commercial Crime Unit
Gambia Police Force
Police Headquarters,
ECOWAS Avenue,
Banjul,
The Gambia (+220) 4223015 / 4222307

No international, regional, or local NGO operating as “watchdog” organizations monitoring corruption are known to exist in the country.

10. Political and Security Environment

Public protests, demonstrations, and strikes rarely occur, and the government requires permits before authorizing such activities. Americans should avoid large political gatherings, as peaceful gatherings can turn violent quickly. In advance of the December 2021 presidential election, political rallies are expected to occur throughout the country, occasionally with senior officials present with additional security. Opposition parties may or may not be issued permits, potentially resulting in unapproved rallies. There have been no examples of damage to projects and/or installations caused by people.

The Gambia will remain politically fragile in 2020-2021 as the transition from authoritarian state to democratic rule inches forward and as political parties prepare for the December 2021 presidential election. Political rallies and protests should be expected, with some possibly turning violent. This will depend significantly on the way the government and police respond to protestors.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

As of 2019 the total labor force in The Gambia stood at 779,341, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. Total labor force comprises people ages 15 and older who meet the International Labor Organization definition of the economically active population: all people who supply labor for the production of goods and services during a specified period. It includes both the employed and the unemployed. While national practices vary in the treatment of such groups as the armed forces and seasonal or part-time workers, in general the labor force includes the armed forces, the unemployed and first-time job seekers, but excludes homemakers and other unpaid caregivers and workers in the informal sector.

In 2019, the labor force participation rate is 60.75%. The Gambia suffers from high unemployment and underemployment, compounded by a shortage of skilled workers and trained professionals. About 59% of the individuals in the labor force have no formal education. Many of the skilled workers in the construction and mechanical industries are foreigners from neighboring countries. However, many Gambians are now taking up these trades and the government has taken extraordinary steps to increase primary and secondary school enrollment.

Several government policies require the hiring of nationals, including The Labor Act of 2007, The Payroll Tax Act of 2008, The Companies Act of 2005, and The Business Registration Act of 2005. The Labor Act of 2007 and its regulations, provide the legal framework for labor relations in The Gambia. The Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment enforces the Act. It covers most conditions of employment, including dismissals, recruitment and hiring, registration and training, protection of wages, registration of trade unions and employees’ organizations, and industrial relations in general. The Act also contains procedures for the settlement of disputes, including an industrial tribunal. Minimum wages and working hours are established through six joint industrial councils: commerce, artisans, transport, port operations, agriculture, and fisheries. Private-sector employees receive between 14 and 30 days of paid annual leave, depending on length of service. There are no additional/different labor law provisions in special economic zones, foreign trade zones or free ports compared to the economy as a whole. No new labor related laws were enacted during the last year, and there are no pending draft bills.

Collective bargaining is especially common in the transportation and ports industry. The Gambia Workers Confederation, formed in 1985, coordinates union activities. Sectoral data on coverage of collective bargaining agreements by sector is not available. The Gambia has a Labor Tribunal which is presided over by a Magistrate and a panel of members appointed by the Chief Justice, on the recommendation of the Secretary of State. The 2007 Labor Act of The Gambia also authorizes an appointed Labor Commissioner to authorize a public officer to assist in conciliation of labor disputes. Within the past year, The Gambia has not experienced any labor strikes and there are no gaps, or occurrences that have posed a reputational or financial risk to investors.

There are no gaps in compliance in law or practice with international labor standards that might pose a reputational risk to investors. However, child sex trafficking has been identified by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as an area where the law or practice thereof, falls short in comparison to international labor standards.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance Programs

There are no U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) programs in The Gambia at the moment. However, in view of the private sector willingness to engage with U S. firms, there is potential for DFC programs. There is potential in the following sectors: Agriculture (Rice, Processing Fruits), Energy (Oil Exploitation, Renewable Energies) Fisheries, Infrastructure (ICT, Light Manufacturing, roads) and Tourism. A DFC investment agreement exists between The Gambia and the United States.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) N/A N/A 2018 $1.63Billion www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source USG or international statistical source USG or internationalSource of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A N/A N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A N/A N/A UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
No data available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
No data available.

14. Contact for More Information

NAME: Samuel J. Sarre
TITLE: Economic and Commercial Specialist
ADDRESS OF MISSION: U.S. Embassy Banjul, Kairaba Avenue, Fajara. P.M.B. 19. Banjul, The Gambia
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +220-438-1325
EMAIL ADDRESS: SarreSJ@state.gov

2020 Investment Climate Statements: Gambia
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