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“Policies are geared towards creating a conducive environment for profitable investments,” Says H.E. Ms. Jainaba Jagne

by H.E. Ms. Jainaba Jagne - 8 April, 2020, 12:00 958 Views 0 Comment

INTRODUCTION 

The Gambia, one of the smallest and most peaceful countries in the world, also known as the “smiling coast of Africa”, is situated on the west coast of Africa with an area of about 12 thousand square kilometres and a population of approximately 1.9 million people. It is an investors’ paradise with all the key business requirements such as a stable political climate and a growing vibrant economy based on a liberalised business environment and untapped opportunities in many sectors. One such, being agriculture as we are discussing today. 

The agricultural sector contributes about 30% of the gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for 60% of the country’s foreign exchange earnings, and employs about 70% of the active, non-formally educated, labour force (which consists mainly women and youth).  Agriculture is one of the priority sectors in the National Development Plan (NDP 2018-2021) of the Gambian Government, thus policies are geared towards creating a conducive environment for profitable investments.  

The goal for agriculture under the NDP is “To transform the sector into a sustainable, modernized, diversified production and export-oriented sector, which will contribute to improved food security, farmers’ livelihood and overall economic growth.” 

WHY THE GAMBIA 

The Gambia is one of the smallest countries with a population of less than 2 million, however, we provide a doorway to markets both domestic and currently in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  

For the information of potential investors, we have: 

•    Rich soil conducive for cultivation – an estimated 54% of the land is good quality and arable. 

•    Reliable water supply and great potential for irrigation from the River Gambia (navigable up to 390km upstream). 

•    Favourable climatic conditions (temperatures ranging between 16 to 34 degrees celsius and an average annual rainfall of 1096mm).  

•    Access to the abundant and cheap labour force  

•    Tax holidays (corporate/turnover for a period ranging between 5 to 8yers) 

•    Exemption on import sales tax on direct inputs for projects 

•    Well-developed transportation options (the River Gambia can be navigated up to 300miles inland by seagoing vessels and the port of Banjul is just 26 nautical mile from the Atlantic ocean 

•    The Gambia Investment & Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) a one-stop-shop for current and potential investors responsible for promoting, coordinating and facilitating investments. 

•    Friendly people and relatively low cost of living 

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES 

The sector offers a wide range of investment opportunities in agriculture (crops, livestock and poultry, research and development and other agricultural services). There are also investment opportunities in forestry, fisheries and wildlife, but to save on time I shall mention just a few in the agriculture sector.  

Horticulture: 

Currently, horticultural crops are grown in small plots by smallholder farmers on an individual basis and through communal gardens mainly managed by women and they include; 

•    Fruits: mangoes, citrus, bananas, avocadoes, guava etc. 

•    Vegetables: onions, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, mushrooms, cowpeas, beans, etc. 

•    Flowers: chrysanthemum, orchids, roses, etc. 

•    Cereal grains: rice, maize, sorghum, wheat, etc. 

•    Grain legumes: groundnuts, soya beans, sesame seeds, etc. 

•    Root crops: cassava, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots 

•    Oil trees: cashew, oil palm and coconuts. 

Animal Production 

•    Cattle: For meat and dairy.  

•    Small ruminants: like sheep, goat, pigs and rabbits 

•    Draft animals: horses and donkeys 

•    Poultry: fowls, ducks, turkeys for eggs and white meat 

Agricultural Mechanisation 

•    Land preparation: tractors, harrows, seeders, etc. 

•    Irrigation: solar panels, pumps and piping, etc. 

•    Post-harvest machinery: harvesters, threshers, milling machines, etc. 

•    Plant protection equipment: sprayers 

•    Storage and packing materials: cold storage, grain silos, poultry and meatpacking materials, grain and flour packing materials. 

Agro industries 

•    Animal feed plants – poultry and fish (aquaculture) feeds 

•    Agro pharmaceuticals: veterinary drugs for the animal industry 

•    Pesticides and fertilizer plants 

•    Vegetable and fruit processing plants 

•    Grain processing and packing machinery 

•    Modernisation of abattoirs  

•    Oil mills: modern mills to groundnuts and sesame. 

•    Tanneries: leather from animals after slaughter is generally wasted. hoofs, intestines and bone could be transformed into other uses for sale 

Agribusiness: 

The supply and distribution of agricultural inputs; marketing of agricultural produce; trade fairs, etc. 

Food Processing 

With a growing urban population and a large tourism industry, The Gambia currently imports large quantities of processed food and drink products, which could be supplied using local materials.  

•    Processing and packaging of out of season and exotic fruit and vegetables, 

•    Freezing, canning and drying of fruit and vegetables for the export market.  

•    Processing and packaging fruit and vegetables for the urban population. 

•    Supply of fruit and vegetables for the hotel and restaurant trade. 

•    Processing and packaging of high-quality nuts and dried fruit for the tourist and export markets. 

•    Processing and packaging of fruit juices for the domestic and export markets. 

•    Production of soft drinks for the domestic and regional markets. 

CHALLENGES 

Though agriculture is considered the major driver of the country’s economy, the country is classified as a low-income food-deficit country as it produces only about 50% of its food consumption needs due to several factors such as;  

•    Food insecurity, largely due to structural issues such as a weak agriculture sector consisting primarily of smallholder subsistence farmers, limited access to resources, exposure to food price fluctuations and climate shocks like droughts, floods etc.  

•    Massive rural-urban drift and the increasing number of illegal migration of able-bodied young men to Europe and other parts of the world has negatively impacted the sector.  

•    Post-harvest loss caused by a lack of storage and processing facility and limited added value and processing plants. 

•    Inadequate market information and low level of organization among producers and traders limit the efficiency of the trade. 

•    The country has abundant and diverse fresh and saltwater resources but it is believed to be underexploited.  

CONCLUSION 

India is doing extremely well and is near food sufficient and this is mainly because it has been able to bring in adequate capacity building as well as science and technology into the sector. The Gambia would benefit immensely from collaborating and partnering with the relevant institutions/ companies/industries in India and requires assistance and support in the following areas: 

•    Support in mechanization such as appropriate irrigation techniques for smallholder farmers 

•    Support in farm inputs such as fertilizers and high yield seeds 

•    Support in value addition along the rice and vegetable chains such as processing and packaging techniques/ equipment 

•    Support in the livestock sub-sector with focus on goat production and dairy 

•    Capacity building for institution building/ training of farmers   

•    Technical assistance on revitalization of farmers’ cooperatives.  

The government through the nodal ministry will readily give all necessary support and incentives to investors who want to invest and operate in the sector and support its efforts to develop the sector.  

Finally, whether you are that visitor seeking an exotic holiday or a seasoned traveller yearning for out of the way encounter or that savvy investor and businessman, “The Gambia is yours to Discover!  

H.E. Ms. Jainaba Jagne
H.E. Ms. Jainaba Jagne
Author is High Commissioner of Gambia to India.
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