15 August 2023

In The Gambia, Government ownership makes all the difference


  • The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) funding has allowed The Gambia to pioneer the nexus between trade and climate change. The Government is developing its first Aid for Trade project to access trade-related climate finance, bringing The Gambia's Trade and Climate Ministers together to form a 2024-2030 trade policy update with a green focus. 
  • The EIF's projects with The Gambia provide an excellent example of government participation and coordination. Although its EIF projects are relatively small, the Government is actively involved right down to the beneficiary level. 
  • The Gambia is one of the few countries where the EIF has supported a trade-related infrastructure project, the Banjul International Airport cargo complex. 

The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa with a population of 2.4 million and is heavily reliant on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihoods. Completely surrounded by Senegal, except for a 60 km Atlantic coastline, the country occupies a long narrow strip of land along the length of the Gambia River and has a high population density. With high vulnerability to coastal and river flooding and water shortages, it is highly impacted by climate change. It is in this context that a partnership established between The Gambia and the EIF allowed the Government to set its own trade‑for‑development agenda, based on its priorities, constraints and opportunities, and which would reap sustainable trade benefits.

The partnership between The Gambia and the EIF began with country-led evidence‑based research and analysis to identify its pro-poor trade priorities. The resulting policy-guiding document – the 2007 Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) – identified diversification and domestic production of goods and services in the areas of tourism, groundnuts and other agriculture products and fishing as sectors with the potential to spur sustainable development. It also sought to improve the business climate; implement sector-specific reforms; establish a more sustainable foundation for the country's position as a gateway to the region by improving the transport system; and reinforce trade facilitation services. 

Catalytic support from the EIF to The Gambia has since covered various Government priority areas, including air freight cargo infrastructure; support to strengthening the nexus between trade and climate change; assessment of the trade and digital economy; and productive capacity and export support to women entrepreneurs and agribusiness. 

An ambitious and decisive climate and trade strategy

The Gambia has been identified by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as one of the worst climate-affected countries globally. According to Lamin Dampha, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and EIF Focal Point, climate change is for instance affecting quality and quantity of agricultural production due to erratic rainfall and flooding that leads to submerged farmlands, which in turn forces villagers to migrate and affects transport to markets. 

At the same time, in 2021, the country was named one of the world's climate resilience leaders for its ambitious and decisive strategy for tackling the impacts of rising sea levels and temperatures and of soil degradation. In early 2023, it is also one of only three least developed countries participating in current structured discussions at the World Trade Organization on trade and environmental sustainability.

The Gambia's pioneering trade and climate change nexus initiative, with EIF support, is strengthening the country's ability to access trade-related climate finance. It brought together the Trade and Environment and Climate Change Ministries to better coordinate trade-related climate change issues and to develop climate financing proposals, as well as to inform the 2024-2030 National Trade Policy update with a green focus. EIF facilitation of high-level dialogues and mobilization of experts and financial resources has had significant impact, including new financing from other donors for the tourism and information and communications technology sectors. Some of the support from the initiative is now going towards The Gambia's tourism sector – the country's top net foreign exchange earner – which generates as much as all other exports combined and is a major contributor to employment. 

Boosting productive capacities and competitiveness in international markets

Diversification of the horticulture, fisheries, tourism and niche manufacturing sectors, considered as having the potential to help The Gambia become competitive in regional and global markets and to improve livelihoods, were prioritized by the Government for EIF funding support. In 2018, The Gambian Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Dr Isatou Touray, stated that with 30% of The Gambia's gross domestic product (GDP) in agriculture and 70% of the population employed in this sector, greater efforts would be made to improve its value. The focus was placed on cashew, sesame and groundnuts. Among DTIS recommendations to ready these crops for export were the need to produce enough for export, improve quality, reduce post-harvest losses and ensure proper storage. 

The EIF responded by supporting the Government's work with farmers to improve seed selection and the use of fertilizer and to ensure water availability, correct plant density and better handling of harvests, processing and storage. Cashew farmers were trained on improving their supply chain techniques, enabling them to access the European Union (EU) market with higher-quality standards. The Government–EIF initiative also formed partnerships with private sector enterprises to help smallholder businesses. An example is The Gambia Bureau of Standards, which is helping businesses achieve better quality standards and certification. Before the demand-led EIF interventions, the small scale of raw and processed agricultural products meant that they were limited to informal and semi-formal exports.

The fisheries sector, another key sector that is vital to the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people and with women making up 80% of processors, received climate adaptation- and mitigation-aligned support. This provided for "climate smart" fish‑smoking facilities; insulated ice boxes for traders to help prolong shelf life; and training to raise post-harvest hygiene standards for the EU market. The Gambia's most recent trade policy review identified priority areas for investment, including aquaculture, fish and shrimp farming and industrial-scale fish processing. According to the Department of Fisheries, although fish remains a small part of overall GDP, fish and fish products account for more than 15% of merchandise export earnings. The goal is to increase the amount of product available; improve standards and value addition, thereby raising export earnings, employment and income for Gambians; and increase the fishing sector's share of GDP.

SheTrades – to the benefit of everyone

Ensuring inclusive development that guarantees the participation of women and recognizes women's contribution is a priority for The Gambia. The Ministry of Agriculture in particular has made targeted efforts to boost the skills and raise the incomes of women horticulture producers. The Ministry of Agriculture has mainstreamed gender equality into its work and the Government budget, at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability by promoting local organic food and cotton produced by women. 

The SheTrades project, implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) with support from the EIF, supported training for more than 1,500 women entrepreneurs in the horticulture and textiles industries over three years. The goal was to strengthen women's effective participation in trade by improving their competitiveness and market linkages under a supportive business environment. Fashion industry entrepreneurs received training in business planning, fashion merchandising and value-addition and were able to grow their markets by participating in international trade fairs. The catalytic project successfully linked over 140 women-owned businesses to buyers abroad and transnational value chains and supported their participation in national and international trade fairs. The Government's continued direct training for women entrepreneurs as a continuation of the EIF/ITC intervention is an example of the positive effect of EIF catalytic support on sustainability. 

The EIF and ITC provided additional support with the onset of COVID-19 to mitigate its effects on women horticulture enterprises. More than 500 women horticultural producers, mainly onion farmers, were assisted under the Jokkalante Market Platform project. The project – implemented by the Ministries of Trade, Industry and Employment and Agriculture, with regional marketing federations as partners – provides direct support to women farmers, increasing coordination and efficiency in production, storage and distribution. A phone-operated platform connects buyers, farmers and transporters in The Gambia. The prototype, developed by a Gambian information technology company, is currently being trialled by users. It uses voice command options to enable accessibility for illiterate farmers. The project is delivering well and has already improved market access opportunities and productive capacity techniques. According to ITC, in 2022, the women sold more than 6,000 bags of onions worth over USD 49,000. Without access to markets and storage facilities, the producers would have sold their onions at the lowest price or experienced spoilage. 

All set to fly to international markets

Demands for efficient facilities to transport the growing volume of export products led the Government of The Gambia to prioritize EIF financing for the upgrade of an air cargo complex near Banjul International Airport. Mr Dampha describes the EIF's trade support interventions as one of a kind: "The cargo complex", he said, "was a capital investment that other partners were unwilling to take on". 

Inaugurated in February 2018, the air cargo complex is working towards increasing trade and opening small enterprises' access to global markets. It is currently generating approximately USD 54,000 per year in customs fees, up from USD 18,000 per year before COVID-19. Improved infrastructure, packaging standards, better trained airport staff and increased services to small- and medium-sized enterprises have reduced handling times by as much as 40%. This in turn is expected to increase the number of airlines accepting cargo from The Gambia. According to Mr Dampha:

We are looking to see how to increase the number of cargo flights coming in and to enhance agricultural productivity to be able to export. If we enhance production, we can optimize use of the complex.

Small is beautiful

The EIF's investment of just over USD 7.5 million, from the DTIS to completed and ongoing projects between 2010 to 2023, has contributed to building The Gambia's trade capacity and improving livelihoods. This was largely achieved through the Government setting an excellent example of coordination and active involvement right down to the beneficiary level – despite the relatively small size of the projects.

The projects implemented have successfully demonstrated their ability to catalyse further support from other funding partners. For example, the issues identified by the trade and digital economy assessment have now been mainstreamed into projects through the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, which have received support from the World Bank. As observed by Peter Donelan, EIF Coordinator:

They are relatively small projects, but they are catalytic. When governments better understand the market needs of the private sector through direct engagement and partnership, this can lead to better policy decisions that can stimulate growth. Showcasing project successes can lead to scaling up with the support of other development partners and the financial sector, too.




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As the second phase of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) comes to an end in 2024, the objective is to produce a catalogue of impact stories showcasing the efforts of the EIF partnership in the least developed countries (LDCs) and recently graduated LDCs where it has been actively engaged. This impact story makes up one of the stories in the catalogue. Essential input and reviews were received from the country‑based EIF National Implementation Units (NIUs) and the wider EIF team. 

The primary objective of each impact story, as well as the entire catalogue, is to adopt a journalistic approach in recounting the EIF's engagement in the LDCs during both Phase One and Two. The aim is to offer valuable insights and to document outcomes and impacts, as well as some lessons learned from the work of the EIF partnership in the LDCs. These stories do not provide a comprehensive overview of every aspect of EIF partnership engagement such as precise timelines or the exact extent of involvement (i.e., financial contributions). Instead, they serve as one of several means of information about the work of the EIF partnership. Interested readers are encouraged to supplement these impact stories by consulting other sources, including EIF Annual Reports, Trade for Development News articles, EIF social media channels, and, where applicable, the NIUs in the LDCs as well as the EIF Executive Secretariat.

It is essential to acknowledge that the information provided is neither exhaustive (e.g., it is based on the latest available data at the time of writing in 2023) nor evaluative in nature. 

Lastly, while each impact story adheres to a similar structure, the diverse range of countries, contexts, and EIF engagements means that each story is unique.

Any views and opinions expressed on Trade for Development News are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect those of EIF.