Gambia targets foreign investment and entrepreneurship to create jobs
The Government of The Gambia is aiming to boost foreign direct investment (FDI) and develop entrepreneurship to create jobs and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by implementing UNCTAD’s Investment Policy Review (IPR) of The Gambia as well as a National Entrepreneurship Policy (NEP), both of which were presented in Geneva on Tuesday.
The Gambia shares with other Least Developed Countries several features which hold back economic growth and job creation, such as poor transportation and energy shortages.
The country, where 75% of the population works in agriculture, is also vulnerable to climate-related shocks and price changes for its exports. These features, associated with years of policy uncertainty, have contributed to a weak private sector and declining FDI flows, which turned negative in 2016.
“The services sector has improved, particularly in tourism, financial services and telecommunications, thanks to FDI, notably from neighbouring countries,” UNCTAD’s Director of Investment and Enterprise Division, James Zhan, said at the launch of the report.
“The IPR and NEP will contribute to Government’s efforts to reform the business climate and develop the local capacities to achieve the SDGs, and regional and sub-regional examples from Asia and Africa can also assist in this.”
The IPR assessed The Gambia’s regulatory environment as it affects businesses and set out recommendations for improvement. Among the reforms the report proposes is the clarification of laws affecting investors. The report also recommends the reinforcement of resources for their implementation and the reduction of Government interference in business operations.
Addressing the meeting, Isatou Touray, Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, was optimistic for The Gambia’s prospects.
“This presentation cannot have come at a better time,” she said, adding that “the recommendations highlighted in the reports will indeed be implemented” and “the IPR and NEP will go a long way in re-positioning The Gambia”.
Targeted and proactive measures to attract FDI will be crucial to realizing investment opportunities in three priority sectors: fisheries, groundnuts and cashew manufacturing, the review says, as well as placing emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT) investment.
If the country succeeds at attracting increased FDI and supporting local businesses, it hopes to raise economic growth and provide jobs in emerging sectors, like ICT, for the many Gambians who leave the country each year in search of livelihoods abroad. To fully reap the benefits of FDI, the NEP calls for measures to foster the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
UNCTAD has supported developing countries and economies in transition with a total of 45 investment policy reviews, and provided technical support with implementing recommendations. Studies show the reviews have helped countries to attract and to benefit more from increased FDI and improve the business climate.