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Gambia, The

Region: 
Did you know: 

A Gambian citizen, Abdoulie Janneh, was the Regional Director for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme 2000–05, and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa 2005–12. The country hosts a national chapter of the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
1965; left 2013; rejoined 2018
Population: 
2,038,501 (2016)
GDP: 
p.c. growth: 0.9% p.a. 1990–2011
UN HDI: 
world ranking 173
Official language: 
English
Timezone: 
GMT
Currency: 
Dalasi (D)

Geography

Area: 
11,295 sq km
Coastline: 
80km
Capital city: 
Banjul
Population density (per sq. km): 

176

The Republic of The Gambia is the smallest country in West Africa. Apart from a stretch of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, it is entirely surrounded by Senegal.

Main towns: 

Banjul (capital, pop. 32,900 in 2010), Serekunda (391,100), Brikama (94,800), Bakau (64,500), Lamin (34,900), Nema Kunku (32,200), Farafenni (28,900), Brufut (28,300), Gunjur (25,200), Basse Santa-Su (17,500) and Sukuta (17,100)

Transport: 

There are 3,740km of roads, 19% paved. Roads in and around Banjul are mostly bituminised; unsealed roads can be impassable in the rainy season. There is no railway.

The River Gambia extends, east-west, the entire length of the country, providing a vital communications link for cargo and passengers. The river is navigable by ocean-going vessels up to Kuntaur (240km upstream) and by shallow draught vessels up to Basse Santa Su (418km). Exports (mostly groundnuts) are carried down the river to Banjul. The principal port is at Banjul, serving the international and river trade.

Banjul International Airport is situated at Yundum, 29km southwest of the city.

International relations: 

The Gambia is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography: 

The Gambia consists of a long narrow ribbon of land on either side of the River Gambia, one of the major African waterways. At the estuary, the northern and southern boundaries are 45km apart, but the belt of land narrows to about 20km inland. The terrain is generally flat and low-lying; the island capital Banjul (formerly Bathurst) is situated only one metre above sea level. Away from the coast the country rises to a low plateau with flat-topped hills in a few places. From Georgetown to the eastern boundary the area is enclosed by rocky hills. The coast has sand cliffs and 50km of unspoilt silver-sand beaches.

Climate: 

The climate is tropical with distinct dry and rainy seasons. The dry season at the coast, coinciding with the cooler weather, runs from mid-November to mid-May; the hot rainy season is June to October. The weather is hot and humid inland, with mid-day temperatures up to 38°C in March-June. The harmattan blows from the Sahara in January-March, bringing dust and haze

Environment: 

The most significant environmental issues are deforestation, desertification, and the prevalence of water-borne diseases. Erosion of the coastal sand cliffs, caused both by the sea and by sand mining for the construction industry, is a dangerous possibility.

Vegetation: 

There are mangrove swamps along the river and its creeks. Tropical forest and bamboo grow on the red ironstone banks of the lower river. Away from the river there is savannah; mahogany, rosewood, oil palm and rubber cover large areas. Forest covers 48% of the land area, having increased at 0.4% p.a. 1990-2010. Arable land comprises 40% of the total land area.

Wildlife: 

The Gambian wildlife is rich and impressive, including hippos, small game and many small mammals. Concern for wildlife led to the Banjul Declaration of 1977 which aims to conserve and protect as wide a spectrum as possible of the remaining fauna and flora. The Gambia also has an exotic and varied birdlife and the country is becoming an increasingly popular paradise for birdwatchers. There are more than 280 different species, including the rare Egyptian plover. With the River Gambia a dominant feature of the country, fish are plentiful.

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