Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Gambia's Low Trade Volume Slowing Economic Relations With Turkey

Gambian and Turkish officials meet on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visit to Banjul on Monday (Photo Credit: State House)

The Gambia’s low overall trade volume and a lack of interest from Turkish businessmen and investors means economic relations could not beelevated to a significant level.

The “small fragile” country with a $1 billion economy relies upon rain-dependent agriculture, tourism and remittances, according to the World Bank. Turkey has a $773 billion economy.

In a visit to Banjul on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a press conference his government wants a more balanced trade structure with The Gambia.

“The economic and trade relations is not yet at desired level, but in 2019, the bilateral trade volume between Turkey and Gambia reached $55 million,” Erdoğan said. “We want to carry out our bilateral trade toward a more balanced structure."

Turkey’s trade volume with The Gambia slightly increased to $48.91 million in 2019, with Turkey’s sales to The Gambia reaching $47.51 while its imports stood at a low $1.4 million, according to the Daily Sabah, a Turkish pro-government daily, citing figures from Turkish Statistical Institute.

The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website "poor infrastructure, transportation problems and low-income levels of the [Gambian] population are among the factors that play negative role over the increase of the trade volume with The Gambia.”

It also said there is a “lack of interest from Turkish businessmen and investors”.

Erdoğan said The Gambia presents an opportunity for Turkish firms to invest and contribute to the country’s tourism, energy, and construction industries. “I believe the Gambian government will give more responsibility to our contractors,” he said through an interpreter. “Turkey pursues a ‘just, and a win-win’ affair in its economic relations with Africa.”

President Adama Barrow had on a visit to Turkey in December 2018 invited Turkish investors to the West African country, promising a “conducive environment”.

The Gambia is hopeful interest from Turkish investors and businessmen will increase overtime.

Turkey has a population of 81 million which enjoys higher income levels compared to Gambia’s low-income level population of 2 million of which half are living below 62 dalasi ($1.25) a day, according to the World Bank.

President Barrow said Turkish airline operations in Banjul which started in November 2018 opened “new frontiers” between the two countries.

"The initiation of direct flights between Banjul and Istanbul marks an important point in our bilateral relations which continues to strengthen…," he said. Barrow said various agreements signed between the two countries are a demonstration of “the high level cooperation”.

The two countries bilateral relations, which started in 1965, include cooperation in commerce, education, economic, health and security sectors.

The Gambia is faced with inadequate and sometimes erratic power supply, and this is discouraging already established businesses, and potential investors.

A 2014 Africa Survey stated that more than half of firms in Gambia (54%) said unreliable electricity supply has been the single biggest obstacle to their businesses.

A version of this story first appeared on Mansa Banko Online.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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