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Brief History

The Gambia, officially known as Republic of The Gambia, gained its independence from the United Kingdom on February 18, 1965. On 23 April 1970, after a referendum, The Gambia became a republic with Jawara as the first president, who was re-elected five times. In 1981, Jawara’s era of relative stability was shattered by a coup attempt. After a week of violence which killed hundreds of people, Jawara appealed to Senegal for help, and the Senegalese troops defeated the rebel forces. In 1982, Gambia merged with Senegal to form the federation of Senegambia, which lasted until 1989. A military coup led by Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh in 1994 overthrew the president and banned political activity. Civilian rule returned after a new constitution was put, presidential elections and parliamentary ballots took place in 1996. Until today, President Yahya A. J. J. remains the chief of state.

Geography

Gambia, capital Banjul, is located in Western Africa covering an area of 11,295 square kilometers. The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, bordered to the north, east, and south by Senegal, with a small coast on the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The climate for The Gambia is tropical. From June until November, there is a period of hot weather and a very rainy season. Whereas from November until May, there are cool temperatures and is part of a dry season. The Gambia River is the country's major waterway. It rises in Guinea and follows a twisting path to the sea. Some natural resources that the country has include fish, clay, silica sand, titanium (rutile and ilmenite), tin, and zircon.

People

Gambia has a population of 1,824,158 (2010). A wide variety of ethnic groups live in The Gambia with a minimum of intertribal friction, each preserving its own language and traditions. Africans comprise 99% of the population in The Gambia; the Mandinka tribe is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, and Serahule. The official language is English, and there are other spoken languages such as Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, etc… The literacy rate is 40.1%. Its religions are distributed among 90% Muslims, 8% Christians, and 2% followers of indigenous beliefs. The approximately 3,500 non-African residents include Europeans (mainly Britons) and families of Lebanese origin (roughly 0.23% of the total population).

Government

The government of The Gambia is subject to a republic system. Its legal system is based on a composite of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. The chief of state is President Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH (since 18 October 1996) –the president is both chief of state and head of government. The vice president is Isatou Njie-Saidy (since 20 March 1997). The Gambian Dalasi is the official currency, where 29.25 dalasis are equivalent to US$1.

Economy

Gambia was rated 151st on the Human Development Index in 2003. Its GDP per capita was US$1,400 in 2009.

The Gambia has a liberal, market-based economy characterized by traditional subsistence agriculture, a historic reliance on groundnuts (peanuts) for export earnings, a re-export trade built up around its ocean port, low import duties, minimal administrative procedures, a fluctuating exchange rate with no exchange controls, and a significant tourism industry.

Agriculture employs 75% of the population and accounts for 30% of the Gross Domestic Product. Agricultural products include rice, millet, sorghum, peanuts, corn, sesame, cassava (tapioca), palm kernels, cattle, sheep, and goats. Within agriculture, peanut production accounts for 6.9% of GDP, other crops 8.3%, livestock 5.3%, fishing 1.8%, and forestry 0.5%.

Industry accounts for approximately 8% of GDP and employs 19% of the population, while services accounts for approximately 58% and employs 6% (1996). The limited amount of manufacturing is primarily agricultural-based (e.g., peanut processing, bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other manufacturing activities include soap, soft drinks, and clothing, woodworking, and metalworking.

The Gambia's natural beauty and proximity to Europe has made it one of the larger markets for tourism in West Africa, boosted by government and private sector investments in eco-tourism and upscale facilities. In 2002, tourism accounted for 10–15% of GDP.

In the past few years, the Gambia's re-export trade - traditionally a major segment of economic activity - has declined, but its banking sector has grown rapidly.

Economic progress depends on sustained bilateral and multilateral aid, on responsible government economic management, and on continued technical assistance from multilateral and bilateral donors. In 2003, the government anticipated debt relief under the World Bank/IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative in 2003. The military's takeover of the country in 1994 resulted in a loss of $50 million in aid from the West, equal to about 10% of national income. In the same year, the CFA was devaluated decreasing the competitiveness of Gambian goods in re-export trade.

In 2009, the real GDP growth was 4.5% and its inflation rate was also 4.5% in the same year. Gambia’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is US$393.28 (2010).


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