Gambian businesses welcome end to border blockade

Leader of a Gambian private sector pressure group said Senegal’s border closure has cost both countries huge sum. 

Alieu Secka

Executive director of Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Businessmen in The Gambia have breathed a sigh of relief after the  country has reached an agreement with Senegal, ending their over three months’ border blockade two days ago.

The longest border blockade in the history of the two countries has left a trail of economic damages that runs into millions, Alieu Secka, the executive director of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said.

“The border closure has affected all transactions or shipment going to Dakar or through Senegal to Mali, Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry— almost all cross-border businesses have ceased totally. There was a huge loss on both sides,” Secka told torchongambia.

“It could be difficult to give a figure on the exact economic loss both sides incur but we know that an average of 15 hundred truck load of goods —over 7 thousand containers— would have crossed the border within the three months period.”

Based on conservative estimates, an average of over 28 000 containers worth of goods, in addition to other forms of trade, crosses the Senegalo—Gambia border in a year.

With a land mass of about 10,367sq. km and a population little under 2 million, the small West African nation is surrounded on three sides by Senegal and on the fourth side by the Atlantic Ocean.

The border was shut by the Senegalese Transport Union after the levy they have to pay to cross The Gambia was increased 100 times— from 4 000 CFA per truck to 400,000 CFA ($680).

Since the opening of the border, couple of businesspersons from Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau have arrived in Gambia to attend a Trade Fair organized by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce.

Though the economic impact of the border blockade was felt even on small businesses, especially at border villages and towns on Gambian side, but one of the hardest hit businesses were the trucks that transport goods to Senegal, Guinea, Mali and other sub-regional countries.

Faraba Touray, one of the Gambian truck drivers has told torchongambia that the closure nearly brought their business to a standstill.

“We have seen more than 60% decline in our businesses after the border was closed,” he said.

Barely two weeks ago, Lamin Sanyang, the director of Gambia Ports Authority, was also quoted by a local newspaper as saying that they have also lost millions of dalasi as a result of the blockade.

Though signatories to the regional body’s (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement of goods and services beyond borders, incidents of border closure between Gambia and Senegal nears 8 times in the past 2 decades.

Last week, delegates from the two countries have had discussion over the border closure but it ended without any agreement.

However, the Gambia government later issued a press release explaining that “in a bid to further enhance the bilateral trade relations, the two sides agreed to work on removing all trade barriers between the two countries, and expressed their commitment to work together for the establishment of Bilateral Transit Trade Agreement”.

Prior to the dialogue between the two countries, President Alpha Conde of Guinea and couple of delegates from Economic Community of West African States have visited both countries in a bid to settle their differences.



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