Gambia, The : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
60 years
Primary enrolment: 

1,776,000 (2011); 57% lives in urban areas; growth 2.9% p.a. 1990-2011; birth rate 38 per 1,000 people (49 in 1970); life expectancy 58 years (36 in 1970). Mandinka people constitute 42% of total population, followed (in descending order of population) by Fula (18%), Wolof (16%), Jola (10%) and Sarahuli (9%, 2003 census). There is also a community of Akus (Creoles), descended mainly from Africans freed from slavery in the early 19th century.


English is the official language. Local languages are Mandinka (widely spoken in the provinces), Fula, Wolof (widely spoken in Banjul), Jola and Sarahuli.


Muslims about 90%, the rest mostly Christians. Traditional animist religions are often practised alongside both of these religions


Public spending on health was 5% of GDP in 2014. The country relies partially on expatriate doctors: when Chinese doctors working in the country were recalled in 1995, Cuban doctors replaced them. There are hospitals at Banjul, Bansang and a new one at Farafenni opened in 1998. In addition there are health centres and dispensaries. Traditional healers and midwives are well established in rural areas. There is a leprosy control programme. 89% of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 68% have adequate sanitation facilities (2010). Infant mortality was 58 per 1,000 live births in 2011 (207 in 1960). In 2011, 1.5% of people aged 15-49 were HIV positive.


Public spending on education was 3.9% of GDP in 2011. There are nine years of primary education – comprising cycles of six and three years – and five years of secondary – three and two years. Some 61% of pupils complete primary school (2009). The school year starts in September.

Technical and vocational training are provided at Gambia Technical Training Institute, which opened in 1983, and higher education at University of The Gambia. Literacy among people aged 15-24 is 67% (2010).


Newspapers are in English and include Daily Observer, Foroyaa, The Independent and The Point (daily).

The national radio station, Radio Gambia, broadcasts in English and Gambian languages. Gambia Television is the public television station. Privately-owned radio stations and satellite TV compete with the public services.

Some 12% of households have TV sets (2006). There are 35 personal computers per 1,000 people (2007).


Country code 220; internet domain ‘.gm’. Mobile phone coverage is patchy in the rural areas. Main towns have internet cafes and post offices.

There are 28 main telephone lines, 789 mobile phone subscriptions and 109 internet users per 1,000 people (2011).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, Independence Day (18 February), Labour Day (1 May), Revolution Day (22 July). Assumption (15 August) and Christmas Day.

Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Prophet’s Birthday, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Koriteh (End of Ramadan), Tabaski (Feast of the Sacrifice) and Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year).