Republic of The Gambia
CAPITAL : Banjul (formerly Bathurst)
FLAG : The flag is a tricolor of red, blue, and green horizontal bands, separated by narrow white stripes.
ANTHEM : For The Gambia, Our Homeland .
MONETARY UNIT : In 1971, the dalasi ( D ), a paper currency of 100 butut, replaced the Gambian pound. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 butut and 1 dalasi, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 dalasi. D 1 = $0.0377 (or $1 = D 26.5) as of May 2003.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES : Both British and metric weights and measures are in use.
HOLIDAYS : New Year's Day, 1 January; Confederation Day, 1 February; Independence Day, 18 February; Labor Day, 1 May; Assumption, 15 August; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', and Milad an-Nabi.
TIME : GMT.
The countryside contains many flowers, including yellow cassias and scarlet combretum. The tropical shrub area contains bougainvillea, oleander, and a dozen varieties of hibiscus. Distinctive fauna includes several varieties of monkeys.
Africans comprise 99% of the population in The Gambia. The Mandinka (Malinké), who made up an estimated 42% of the population in 1998, came to The Gambia by the 13th century. Fulani (18%) predominate in the eastern part of the country; other major groups include the Wolof (16%), Jola (10%), Serahuli (9%), and others (1%). Only 1% of the population is non-African, including Syrians, Lebanese, and British.
English is the official language, but there are 21 distinct languages spoken. The principal vernaculars are Wolof, Fula, and Mandinka, the latter spoken by the Mandingo.
There are five administrative divisions, each with a council, the majority of whose members are elected. The divisions—Central River, Lower River, North Bank, Upper River, and Western—are subdivided into 35 districts administered by chiefs with the help of village mayors and councilors. Banjul has a city council.
The Gambia's armed forces had 800 members in 2002, of which the largest contingent was two infantry battalions. The 70-member naval patrol had 3 coastal patrol boats. The Gambia provided observers to two other African nations. Military spending in 2001 was $1.2 million, or 0.3% of GDP.
The livestock population in 2001 was estimated at 323,000 head of cattle, 228,000 goats, 129,000 sheep, and 17,000 hogs. Total production of meat in 2001 was 6,200 tons; cow's milk, 7,600 tons; and eggs, 731 tons.
In 2000, the catch was 29,016 tons, as compared with 4,100 tons in 1967. Bonga shad accounted for about 70% of the 2000 catch. Exports of fish products amounted to $7.5 million that year. A 1982 agreement with Senegal allows nationals of each country to operate fishing companies in the other's waters.
Portions of The Gambia are covered by mangrove forest, open woodland, or savanna with woodland or bush. Wood resources are used for fuel (84%), poles, and rural housing construction. Roundwood removals were estimated at 715,000 cu m (25 million cu ft) in 2000.
All electric power is produced at thermal stations. Installed capacity in 2001 totaled 29,000 kW; production amounted to 75 million kWh in 2000, and in the same year consumption was 69.7 million kWh.
The United Kingdom's Medical Research Council operates a field station (of its Dunn Nutrition Unit Laboratory in Cambridge) at Keneba, West Kiang, and a research laboratory on tropical diseases at Fajara, near Banjul. Gambia College, founded in 1978, has schools of agriculture, nursing and midwifery, and public health. The Gambia Ornithological Society, founded in 1974, is devoted to birdwatching.
Among the insurance companies listed as doing business in The Gambia as of 1995 were the Gambia National Insurance Co., the Great Alliance Insurance Co., and the Senegambia Insurance Co.
Customs duties are assessed by CIF (cost, insurance, and freight) value, as is the 10% national sales tax, from which some imports are exempt. Some commodities may be subject to excise taxes.
A Housing Finance Fund provides low-cost housing and related assistance. As of 2000, 80% of urban and 52% of rural dwellers had access to improved water sources. The government has been looking into the use of alternative building materials to cut housing expenses. In 2001, about 75% of building materials were imported.
The national library in Banjul contains 115,000 volumes. Gambia College in Brikoma has a library of 23,000 volumes. The Yundum College Library at Banjul has 4,000 volumes, and the library of the Gambia Technical Training Institute has 3,880. The Gambia National Museum, founded in 1982, is also in Banjul and features primarily archaeological and historical exhibits.
The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry represents many of the principal Gambian, British, and French firms. A network of cooperative societies functions within the groundnutgrowing region.
The first prime minister of the independent Gambia and the first president of the republic until 1994 was Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara (b.1924). Col. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh (b.1965) seized power from Jawara in a bloodless coup in 1994.
The Gambia has no territories or colonies.
D and B's Export Guide to The Gambia. Parsippany, N.J.: Dun and Bradstreet, 1999.
Ebron, Paulla A. Performing Africa. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Hughes, Arnold and Harry A. Gailey. Historical Dictionary of The Gambia. Rev. ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1999.
Gamble, David P. The Gambia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1988.