The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1965. It is entirely surrounded by Senegal except for its coastline on the Atlantic Ocean at its western end. The Gambia river has not only given the small country its name, but also defined its geographical shape.
The country has around 2 million inhabitants (census 2016) comprising various ethnic groups who live together peacefully.
Around 45 % of the population is under 14 years old and the infant mortality rate is 71.6 deaths per 1000 births, which is very high compared to Europe (0.4 %). According to UNICEF, illiteracy among young adults (15–24 years) is equally high at 72.6 % (men) and 63.6 % (women), and only just over 60 % of children attend a primary school.
About one third of the Gambian population lives below the poverty line as defined by the Worldbank, surviving on less than $ 1.25 a day per person to cover sufficient nutrition and life’s daily necessities.
As a tourist there are many great places to discover (e.g. the beautiful birds to watch and pristine beaches to enjoy), wonderful people to meet, great food to eat and unforgettable moments to experience.
As a Gambian it’s hard to survive: A qualified teacher earns approx. 3’500 Dalasi (approx. CHF 74), an trainee teacher makes approx. 2’500 Dalasi (approx. CHF 53) a month. A waiter at a restaurant in the touristic areas earns approx. 3’000 Dalasi (approx. CHF 63) and a gardener or cleaner at a hotel receives approx. 2’000 Dalasi (approx. 42). From these salaries about one third is being paid for transportation fees for the daily commuting. In the end there’s not much left for the living and the family. Such as the yearly school fees which come to approx. 1’200 Dalasi for the government, 2’500 Dalasi for the books and 800 Dalasi for the uniforms. This makes approx. 375 Dalasi per month per child.
With no natural resources for economic exploitation, agriculture, tourism and fishing represent the main industries of the country. Especially relevant for agriculturethe country provides a fertile soil and thanks to the Gambia River and the anual rainy season (July until September) there is plenty of water.Fishing on the other side has become a real challenge for the country in recent time: There are more than 70 Chinese trawlers fishing in Gambian waters delivering fish to three new built Chinese fish factories in Sanyang, Gunjur and Kartong.Rather sooner than later this overfishing will result in empty fish. Let’s hope the new government will find a way to end this economical and ecological disaster.
In the past The Gambia had an impact on the world’s history several times due to its geographic location: The shortest distance to cross the Atlantic Ocean leads from The Gambia to Brazil and the Caribbean Islands. The country’s sadest period was during the slave: Between the years of 1500 and 1867 some incredible 755’000 captives departed from The Gambiua for the Americas. Between 1940 and 1947 a war time facility was constructed to enable the British and Allied Forces fighting Hitler.
Today The Gambia represents one of the main African countries from where refugees originate; every fourth to fifth refugee who manags to cross the Mediterranean to Europe comes from The Gambia. These refugees are usually between 18 and 30 years old and move from their rural homes to the areas around the capital of Banjul, in the hope of an onward journeyto Europe. The reasons are widespread, predominately poverty, high unem-ployment and a lack of any prospects. With this exodus the small country looses a whole generation of young work forces that should lead the country into its future.