Delegation of the European Union to The Gambia

The Gambia and the EU

11/05/2016 - 17:01
EU relations with Country

The following is an overview of relations between the European Union (EU) and The Gambia in different areas, including political, economic and trade relations, development cooperation, agriculture and transport.

The partnership between the EU and The Gambia is guided by the principles and objectives found in the Cotonou Agreement, which governs the relationship between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. The Agreement covers areas such as political dialogue, trade and development cooperation.

Key issues addressed in the partnership include poverty eradication in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), democracy, the rule of law, good governance, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Regular political talks between the EU and The Gambia for sharing information and fostering mutual understanding take place under this Agreement and also under the EU's Treaty of Lisbon. The talks aim to promote economic, cultural and social development in The Gambia with a view to promoting stable and democratic political development.

The EU regularly discusses issues related to the political situation in the country and all aspects of governance with both the Government and civil society. The EU recognises the importance of civil society in policy-making, advocacy and promoting accountability, and therefore consults regularly on relevant issues with non-governmental organisations, the media and other interested parties.

Support for human rights defenders is a long-established feature of the EU's external relations policy. The EU Delegation, together with EU countries, provides its support in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

The economy and the National Indicative Programme (NIP)

Economic growth in The Gambia is driven mainly by a strong agricultural sector, with agriculture accounting for about 30 % of GDP and 40 % of total export earnings. However there remains substantial untapped potential in this sector, as less than half of arable land is cultivated, and yields for most crops are well below the global average. Tourism accounts for around 20% of GDP. Manufacturing, which accounts for less than 5% of GDP, is small and uncompetitive, reflecting a limited domestic market and a problematic (albeit slowly improving) business environment.

The real GDP is expected to grow by 3.5% in 2017 and 4.5% in 2018, after contracting in 2016 because of the negative impact of the El Niño weather phenomenon on the key agriculture sector. Inflation is expected to moderate from an estimated 7.4% in 2016 to 6.5% in 2017 helped by better weather conditions, before rising to 6.8% in 2018 because of a potential rebound in global oil prices.

Policy slippages - including a failure to meet fiscal targets and limit domestic borrowing - are continuing to exacerbate The Gambia's economic difficulties. The large financial deficits of public enterprises such as the National Water and Electricity Company (Nawec), as well as the shrinking customer base of the Gambia Telecommunication Company (GAMTEL), will keep pressure on the public finances in 2017 - 18 as unpopular corrective action is unlikely to be taken.

Progress with tax reform (including a broadening of the tax base and a reduction in tax exemptions) is likely to be slow, and the reform of parastatals (including Nawec) will take even longer to implement. 2017 budget remains expansionary, with the rapid growth in spending partly driven by a continuing rise in debt interest payments. Much of the budget shortfall will need to be financed through short-term Treasury bills, perpetuating the problem of rollover risk and leading to a further crowding out of private-sector borrowers.

Using the European Development Fund (EDF), the EU provides financial support for development aid, notably under the National Indicative Programme (NIP).. A key focus of the NIP is 'Agriculture for Economic Growth & Food Security/Nutrition', given the importance of agriculture in The Gambia (food security, jobs, trade opportunities, etc.) and its potential to boost the country's economy.

Investment opportunities

To encourage investment and business growth, useful information on investment opportunities and business support can be obtained through the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency and The Gambia Chamber of Commerce. Incentives for both local and foreign investors are outlined in the Gambia Investment Promotion Act and Gambia Free Zones Act.


The Gambia enjoys duty-free and quota-free access to the European market under the Everything But Arms arrangements.The Gambia was ranked 132th out of 189 countries in the World Bank's Doing Business 2016 report. The EU is a significant trading and economic partner to The Gambia. Important importable items of the country are food items (such as rice), fuel, machines and manufacturing. For imports The Gambia depends mainly upon the countries such as China, France, Netherlands, and Senegal. Major exportable items of The Gambia are fish, nuts, and cotton. Its main exports partners are China, India, United Kingdom, France and Spain. Provisional data shows that the value of external trade of The Gambia for the year 2016 amounted to approximately 95 mio € of total exports and 861 mio € of total imports. The trade balance with the rest of the world was -766 mio € in 2016.

The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) project permitted to build the capacity of trade-related institutions to deal effectively and efficiently with trade policy development and implementation, trade integration and facilitation. The project supported Aid for Trade (AfT) programmes, and the implementation of the National Export Strategy (NES) and of the Medium Term Programme (MTP). It also strengthened targeted sectors' competitiveness (cashew nuts, groundnuts and sesame) and logistics infrastructure and services at Banjul International Airport.

The Gambia benefited from numerous "Better Training for Safer Food" (BTSF) training programmes, covering a range of subjects related to the verification of compliance with food and feed law, animal health and welfare and plant health rules. The programme EDES also assisted the fishery sector in The Gambia to comply with the EU import requirements. EDES permitted to improve the performance of sanitary audits/inspections in the fishery sector, in conformity with the relevant international standards, and to prepare a residue control plan for the aquaculture sector and a national environment monitoring plan for fishery products.

The EU is convinced that international trade has a vital role to play in long-term economic growth and development. The EU also believes that The Gambia's economy could benefit from further integration of the Western African economies and from the gradual liberalisation of trade under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) EPA aims to gradually transform the relationship between the region and the EU from one of dependency to one of reciprocity, and to establish a trade relationship compatible with World Trade Organisation rules.

Imports & Exports

The main products imported into The Gambia from the EU include motor cars and vehicles, medicines, edible oil and sugar. The United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain are the primary sources. The main products exported to the EU include groundnuts, fish and fishery products, and animal and vegetable fats and oils, the majority of which goes to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

To help developing countries like The Gambia access the EU market, the European Commission has set up a free, user-friendly online service, the Export Helpdesk, which provides relevant information for exporters interested in supplying the EU market. The Export Helpdesk also provides advice on EU import procedures, VAT rules, and rules on excise duties.

The main source of EU funding for ACP countries is the EDF.

The EU is committed to the principle of ‘ownership’, i.e. that partner countries should be fully involved in the process of developing the strategies and programmes which affect them. The EU’s development assistance aims to be flexible and adaptive, responding to the specific needs of the beneficiary countries, as identified in countries' national development plans. The Gambia's development strategy is based on two plans:

  • Vision 2020 — a long-term strategic plan drafted in 1996, defining development objectives to be attained by The Gambia by 2020;
  • Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) — a medium-term strategic plan to assist The Gambia in its efforts to achieve the MDGs and the goals of Vision 2020.

Other instruments and regional funding

The Gambia benefits from funding under EU thematic initiatives (in addition to the EDF), such as the EU Food Facility and the Global Climate Change Alliance. The Gambia, as a member of ECOWAS, can also benefit from projects and programmes that are identified and implemented by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja and/or the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) Commission in Ouagadougou. Areas of cooperation include: trade and competitiveness development, peace and security, regional infrastructure and transport facilitation.

Agriculture is a key feature of life in The Gambia. The agriculture sector contributes about 30 % of GDP (recent GBOS statistics 2011-2013) and provides employment for 75 % of the country's population. 70 % of those active in the agriculture sector are women engaged in low-productivity subsistence agriculture. External factors, including the global economic downturn, 2011 drought, delayed rains in 2014 and Ebola crisis have severely affected The Gambia's economy, causing considerable hardship, in particular for poor rural households. The country's development efforts therefore concentrate mainly on rural farmers, who make up the majority of the poor.

Agriculture driving economic growth & food security/nutrition

Under the NIP signed in 2016 by the EU and The Gambia, the EU is allocating €28 million (84.8 % of the EDF allocation) to The Gambia to address agricultural issues. The focus is on 'Agriculture for Economic Growth & Food Security/Nutrition'. The EU is notably ready to work alongside the Government and align itself with the objectives of the PAGE, which prioritises agriculture and infrastructure development.

PAGE (Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment)

PAGE aims to significantly increase the welfare of the Gambian population through accelerated and sustained economic growth and employment. This goal is to be achieved through a five-pillar strategy:

  • accelerating and sustaining economic growth;
  • improving and modernising infrastructure; 
  • strengthening human capital stock to enhance employment opportunities;
  • improving governance and fighting corruption;
  • reinforcing social cohesion and cross-cutting interventions.

The EU has played a leading role in supporting the Government's effort in the area of infrastructure and interconnectivity, particularly transport. 70 % of the primary road network is in good condition (most of it financed through the EDF). The National Road Authority (NRA) and the Road Fund have also been operational since 2006, in part due to the EU's support under the 9th and 10th EDF.

The 11th EDF will assist the Government in strengthening governance of the transport sector, building on the work already done. Under the NIP, the EU is allocating €3 million to this strategy, referred to as the 'Exit strategy to the Transport sector'.

The main areas covered are:

  • technical assistance to the NRA;
  • capacity-building of the Road Fund, enabling full implementation of the maintenance programme, under the condition that the Road Fund is progressively fully financed by a reliable and sustainable source of funding as foreseen by the 2006 Road Fund Act;
  • accompanying measures for local small-scale contractors currently not able to undertake maintenance;
  • additional support in implementing ECOWAS' rules on axle load control.
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