Facts about Gambia

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GambiaThe Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965. Geographically surrounded by Senegal, it formed a short-lived federation of Senegambia between 1982 and 1989. In 1991 the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty, but tensions have flared up intermittently since then. Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH led a military coup in 1994 that overthrew the president and banned political activity. A new constitution and presidential elections in 1996, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, completed a nominal return to civilian rule. JAMMEH has been elected president in all subsequent elections, including most recently in late 2006.

Geography of The Gambia

Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal
13 28 N, 16 34 W
total: 11,300 sq km
land: 10,000 sq km
water: 1,300 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of Delaware
Land boundaries:
total: 740 km
border countries: Senegal 740 km
80 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 18 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: not specified
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM
tropical; hot, rainy season (June to November); cooler, dry season (November to May)
flood plain of the Gambia River flanked by some low hills
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 53 m
Natural resources:
Natural hazards:
drought (rainfall has dropped by 30% in the last 30 years)
Environment current issues:
deforestation; desertification; water-borne diseases prevalent
Geography - note:
almost an enclave of Senegal; smallest country on the continent of Africa

Population of The Gambia

1,735,464 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 44.3% (male 365,157/female 361,821)
15-64 years: 53% (male 431,627/female 438,159)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 22,889/female 21,911)
Median age:
17.7 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
71.58 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 54.14 years
male: 52.3 years
female: 56.03 years
Fertility rate:
5.3 children born/woman
noun: Gambian(s)
adjective: Gambian
Ethnic groups:
African 99% (Mandinka 42%, Fula 18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Serahuli 9%, other 4%), non-African 1%
Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, indigenous beliefs 1%
English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 40.1%
male: 47.8%
female: 32.8% 


Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of The Gambia
Government type:
republic under multiparty democratic rule
Administrative divisions:
5 divisions and 1 city*; Banjul*, Central River, Lower River, North Bank, Upper River, Western
18 February 1965 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 18 February (1965)
24 April 1970; suspended July 1994; rewritten and approved by national referendum 8 August 1996; reestablished January 1997
Legal system:
based on a composite of English common law, Koranic law, and customary law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH (since 18 October 1996); note - from 1994 to 1996 he was chairman of the Junta; Vice President Isatou NJIE-SAIDY (since 20 March 1997); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH (since 18 October 1996); Vice President Isatou NJIE-SAIDY (since 20 March 1997)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); election last held 22 September 2006 (next to be held in 2011).
Legislative branch:
unicameral National Assembly (53 seats; 48 elected by popular vote, 5 appointed by the president; members serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court


The Gambia has no confirmed mineral or natural resource deposits and has a limited agricultural base. About 75% of the population depends on crops and livestock for its livelihood. Small-scale manufacturing activity features the processing of peanuts, fish, and hides. Reexport trade normally constitutes a major segment of economic activity, but a 1999 government-imposed preshipment inspection plan, and instability of the Gambian dalasi (currency) have drawn some of the reexport trade away from The Gambia. The Gambia's natural beauty and proximity to Europe has made it one of the larger markets for tourism in West Africa. The government's 1998 seizure of the private peanut firm Alimenta eliminated the largest purchaser of Gambian groundnuts. Despite an announced program to begin privatizing key parastatals, no plans have been made public that would indicate that the government intends to follow through on its promises. Unemployment and underemployment rates remain extremely high; short-run economic progress depends on sustained bilateral and multilateral aid, on responsible government economic management, on continued technical assistance from the IMF and bilateral donors, and on expected growth in the construction sector.

$2.061 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 30.8%
industry: 14.2%
services: 54.9%
Inflation rate:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 75%, industry, commerce, and services 19%, government 6%
revenues: $46.63 million
expenditures: $62.66 million
processing peanuts, fish, and hides; tourism; beverages; agricultural machinery assembly, woodworking, metalworking; clothing
rice, millet, sorghum, peanuts, corn, sesame, cassava (tapioca), palm kernels; cattle, sheep, goats
peanut products, fish, cotton lint, palm kernels, re-exports
Export partners:
India 37.7%, UK 18.8%, Malaysia 6.6%, France 5.6%, Belgium 5.3% 
foodstuffs, manufactures, fuel, machinery and transport equipment
Import partners:
China 20.3%, Senegal 11.7%, Cote d'Ivoire 8%, Brazil 6%, US 5%, UK 4.9% 
dalasi (GMD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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