Welcome to the Embassy of the United States of America in Banjul, The Gambia. Located on Kairaba Avenue in the Fajara District of Banjul, the capital city of The Gambia, the U.S. Mission consists of two U.S. Government agencies: the Department of State, with 9 American and 65 locally employed staff, and the Peace Corps, with 3 American staff and 105 volunteers.
The Gambia became independent in 1965. It is a small, poor West African country defined by the Gambia River basin. It is almost completely surrounded by Senegal, a country with which it shares many historical, ethnic, and cultural affinities. However, the British colonized The Gambia, and the French colonized Senegal, giving each country a distinctive colonial language and system of government. Since independence, The Gambia has remained a member of the British Commonwealth. The Gambia is predominantly Muslim and has a population of 1.3 million, of which about half are non-Gambians.
Restoration of democracy. From independence in 1965 until a coup d’état in 1994, The Gambia was one of the few functioning democracies in Africa. Following the coup, the restoration of democratic rule required seven years. In late 2001 and early 2002, The Gambia completed a full cycle of presidential, legislative, and local elections, which international observers deemed generally free and fair, despite some irregularities. President Yahya Jammeh, who had seized power in 1994, was duly elected president in October 2001.
Lifting of bilateral sanctions. In March 2002, the U.S. Government determined that a democratically elected government had assumed office in The Gambia. The U.S. thus lifted the sanctions it had imposed under Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act as a result of the 1994 coup. Modest bilateral development assistance and military assistance has resumed. Even under sanctions, the U.S. had continued humanitarian, democracy-building, and education assistance, as well as a large Peace Corps program.
A weak economy. With an annual per capita income of less than $300 and a GDP of $389 million, The Gambia ranks among the world’s poorest countries. It has a liberal economy based on subsistence agriculture, tourism, and re-exports. The main cash crop is peanuts. It may have untapped oil and gas reserves.
AGOA eligibility. The Gambia qualified for trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in January 2003 and re-qualified in January 2004. It is eager to increase exports to the U.S. market, though it lacks the industrial or agro-industrial basis necessary to produce most exportable products.
Poor public health. Major health problems include malaria, reproductive health care, and HIV/AIDS, although seroprevalence remains low (HIV1 = 1.2%, HIV2 = 0.9%) compared to many other African countries. Despite the government’s focus on public health and education, hospitals and schools continue to be poorly equipped and under funded.
Positive shift in foreign policy. Following the 1994 coup, The Gambia turned toward Libya and other problem states for aid. The U.K., the EU, and, much later, the U.S. renewed their assistance programs. Since 2001, The Gambia has re-oriented its foreign policy in a more positive direction.
War on terrorism. President Jammeh publicly condemns tribalism, terrorism, and religious extremism, including Islamic fundamentalism. The Gambian government has provided steadfast, tangible support for the war on terrorism. Although The Gambia once served as a transit point for illicit arms, conflict diamonds, and narcotics, such trafficking is no longer officially tolerated.