Gambia, officially The Gambia, is the smallest country on the African continent. It is located on Africa’s west coast and surrounded by Senegal on three sides. Gambia is a long and narrow country. Its length, from west to east, is about 325 km and its width, from north to south, varies from 20 to 50 km. The river Gambia is easy to navigate and flows straight across the country from east to west.
Creation of the state Gambia
Gambia is a former British colony. The official language is English. In 1963, the country obtained home rule, after which it became independent in 1965 but continued to be part of the Commonwealth of Nations until 1970 when it became an independent republic. From 1982 to 1989, it was a confederation together with its neighbouring country Senegal. Their focus as a confederation was on merging their respective armies, economies and currency units. Gambia left the confederation in 1989.
Population and infrastructure
According to World Bank data, Gambia’s population is estimated at around 1.5 million. It is a poor country. Many Gambians do not have a paid job. There is not enough work and no proper education. Also, basic facilities such as enough running water and electricity are lacking. The infrastructure of the country is bad which makes travelling a time-consuming affair. There is not a single bridge over the river Gambia, while it has ferry crossings only on two locations. More than a third of the population lives in the coastal areas. This is where the four most important cities are located, including the capital Banjul. The average life expectancy in Gambia is 53 years and 45% of the population is under 14 years of age.
No development aid to Gambia
The Netherlands does not give direct development aid to Gambia, even if Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world and life expectancy is low (53 years on average), child mortality is high (86 in 1,000) and income per capita of the population is low (around USD 290 per year in 2005).
Gambia does not have minerals or other natural resources. 75% of the population lives on agriculture and cattle breeding. Other than that, there is a small industry specialised in the processing of peanuts and fish. Tourism grows quickly: it already provides 25% of the national income. It is mainly concentrated on the coast, south of the river Gambia.
Gambia has a subtropical climate with two main seasons. The dry season lasts from November to the end of May and coincides with the tourist season while the rainy season starts in June and ends in October. All year round, the temperature is between 28 and 35 degrees Celsius. Inland temperatures can rise to well above 40 degrees Celsius.