The Status of Entrepreneurship in The Gambia
The Gambian economy has performed steadily well registering a rate of 4.7% growth in
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 (CBG, 2015), primarily driven by developments
in tourism, inflow of remittances and re-exports. Despite this growth, the Gambia
remains one of the poorest countries in the world with over 60% of the population living
below the poverty line. At a Human Development Index of 0.441, The Gambia’s position
on the index is 175 out of the 188 countries and territories measured (HDI, 2015). The
narrow range of industries able to attract either foreign or domestic investment causes
economic and social imbalances.
With limited employment available in the public sector, coupled with weather-related
shocks in the productive sectors such as agriculture, a growing number of Gambians are
turning to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) sector for employment
and livelihood opportunities. For the majority of rural and urban dwellers with no formal
paid employment the drive into self-employment is more a matter of survival than of
choice. Increasingly MSMEs could play a very important role in the economy of The
Gambia, not just as a source of gainful employment but also as a major contributor to
economic growth, diversification and transformation. Entrepreneurship, harnessed more
strategically can become a powerful driving force of innovation and productive domestic
investment over the long term.
The Gambian economy currently thrives on the MSME sector, contributing an estimated
20% to GDP (Emanic, 2014).The MSME sector employs the largest share (60%) of the
active labour force (15 to 64 years) of which 70% are self-employed.
In 2014, a mapping study counted 88,940 MSMEs, 70% of them unregistered and the
majority described as micro and small enterprises operating in the informal sector, the
main source of income for the urban and rural poor, with typically weak compliance to
labour legislation (Emanic, 2014).
In terms of spatial distribution, the Brikama Local Government Area (LGA) has the
largest share of enterprises, (32,665) accounting for 37%. Kanifing Municipality (GBA)
is the next largest local government area with 29,390 enterprises (33%). Jangjangbureh
has the lowest estimated number of enterprises (2%).
By official classification, the size of an enterprise in The Gambia is determined by the
number of persons employed and size of investment: Micro enterprises have average
investment of less than GMD 75,000 and are typically self-employed. Enterprises
classified as small employ up to five workers and have an average investment of below
GMD 150,000. Medium-sized enterprises employ more than five workers, with an
average investment of more than GMD 150,000.
The study (Emanic, 2014) showed that 70% of operational MSMEs are Gambian-owned.
Overall, citizens of ECOWAS own 15% of MSMEs, with Guineans playing a relatively
prominent role (11%). Enterprises countrywide are predominantly (66%) owned by men,
whilst female owners account for 34%. Moreoever, the largest age distribution of MSME
owners (41%) is within the age bracket of 18-35 years, followed by 38% in the middle
age population (36-54 years). Yet despite the predominantly youthful and middle-aged
segments of population actively engaged in entrepreneurial activity, the study found that
only 34.4% of enterprise owners had some formal business training. Of these, only 4 %
employed between 5-50 workers, 17.9% had 1-4 paid employees, whilst 12.5% had no
employees (Emanic, 2014). According to the survey, 93% enterprises do not belong to
any business association. Therefore, the opportunity for learning through participation in
business networks is also constrained.
Finally. almost 89% (46,092) of MSMEs are sole proprietorships, a form of ownership
which tends to be vulnerable to governance and succession risks. Only 6% of the
enterprises mapped in the study are household/family-owned businesses.
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