The Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment in collaboration with the Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) of UNDEA, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Monday, 14th December, 2020 convened a one-day high level policy implementation forum on supporting Micro Small and Medium Size Enterprises (MSMEs) in The Post COVID-19 Era, Promoting MSME Formalization.

The high-level convergence is currently ongoing at Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre.

The objectives of the forum are to bring together the key decision makers in Government, The Private Sector and MSME Umbrella Organisations, Civil Society Organisations and Development Partners to discuss and agree on the way forward for addressing some of the priority issues affecting MSMEs in the Post COVID-19 era, taking into account the possible opportunities offered by the AfCFTA.

In delivering the keynote speech, The Vice President of The Gambia, Dr Isatou Touray said In the Gambia MSMEs contribute approximately 20% of our GDP; thus, as a government we recognize the significant contribution and untapped potential of MSMEs to our country. Therefore, to unleash this potential the MSMEs must be given special attention for their growth and sustainability.

“The MSME sector has been particularly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Recent assessment have shown a significant drop of revenue for these enterprises and some have closed altogether, especially the sole proprietorships” VP stated.

VP Touray noted that is why this forum is important, whilst the Government has taken some measures, it is important that we take sustained actions to get the MSMEs back on track, which is a must if the Gambian economy is to rebound.

She added: “The Government is steadfastly working on developing and consolidating the MSME Eco-System. The formalization of the MSME sub-sector is key in this regard”.

Seedy Keita, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment noted The Nationwide MSME Mapping Study conducted in 2018 gives an estimated total number of 115,680 MSMEs in the country; of which over 90% operate as sole proprietorships. Over 77% of the said sole proprietors are unregistered making them informal and largely invisible. The same MSME Mapping 2018 estimates that formal MSMEs contribute up to 26% of total employment and up to 20% of GDP; the numbers would surely increase when MSMEs in the informal sector are included.

Minister Seedy Keita added: “I am reasonably convinced that we must all recognise the need to create the enabling environment to support MSMEs formalisation for a sustainable economic growth and development. As government continues to embark on the reforms to enhance their competitiveness with the support of UNDESA, we are reviewing the institutional and regulatory environment to ensure their optimum output”.

Amason Sinda, Under- Secretary, UNDESA pointed out that MSMEs can contribute to economic growth and stabilize growth.

“Coherent policy is need to formalized MSMEs formalization in the country. The impact of COVID-19 in the economy is severe, adding that It is also imperative that policy promoting MSMEs should also be digitalized and as well as knowledge sharing in the sub-sector”.

Edrissa Mass Jobe, President, Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) said MSMEs are not only as agents for development and they are also the key beneficiaries of inclusive development. In the Gambia they are the main drivers of employment, facilitating income generation, poverty eradication and reduction of inequality for the majority of the population and including disadvantaged groups.