The Gambia - Infrastructure, power, and communications

There are over 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles) of road in the Gambia, 35 percent of which are paved. Roads in and around Banjul are mostly sealed. Unsealed roads are impassible in the rainy season. The road network is being improved, particularly north of the river with a view to linking up with routes in Senegal. There are plans to build more roads and bridges across the river, replacing the ferry crossings for freight at Banjul and Fawafeni. In 1996 there were 15 motor vehicles, including 8 passenger cars, per 1,000 people, and 7 motor vehicles per 1 kilometer of road.

The Gambia river runs the entire length of the country east to west, providing a vital communications link for cargo and passengers. It is navigable by ocean-going vessels up to Kuntaar (240 kilometers—149 miles—upstream) and by shallow draught vessels up to Basse Santa Su (418 kilometers or 260 miles). The principal sea port is Banjul, serving the international and river trade, and Gambia's exports, mainly groundnuts, are shipped from there.

Banjul International Airport is situated at Yundum, 29 kilometers (18 miles) southwest of Banjul, and has a new terminal. Gambia Airways is jointly owned by the government and British Airways. Several international airlines provide air links to the country.

There are 2 English daily newspapers: The Gambia and The Daily Observer . There is also a weekly, The Point. There are 3 radio stations (2 of which are private). A national television service (Gambia TV) became operational in 1995. There were 164 radios, 4 TV sets and 2.6 PCs per 1,000 people in 1996-97. The country has an automatic telephone system and a good international connection in the Banjul area via satellite pick-up at Abuko. Telecommunications are run by Gambia Telecom (Gamtel), a private sector company. Fax facilities are available at Gamtel offices in Banjul, some open 24 hours a day. There were 21 main telephone lines and 4 mobile phones per 1,000 people in 1997.

Resources for energy production are extremely limited. Electricity supply is entirely reliant on diesel generators. All petroleum products are imported. Wood is used for domestic fuel supplies, but government policy emphasizes conservation of the forest reserves. Alternative energy sources are being developed. The use of groundnut shells for fuel and solar energy output is expanding. Various donors are assisting with the rehabilitation of electricity-generating stations, and a program of rural electrification began in 1998. Prospecting for offshore oil was active in the early 1990s, and although the exploration is continuing off-shore in Gambian waters, no exploitable oil reserves have yet been found.

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