Forgotten World (135): The Gambia

The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa with a size of only 4,361 sq miles and a population of a mere 1.7 million. Unlike many of its West African neighbours, it has enjoyed long spells of stability since independence from Britain in 1965. President Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 as a young army lieutenant and has ruled the country with an iron fist ever since, winning three widely criticised multi-party elections.
However, stability has not translated into prosperity. Despite the presence of the Gambia river, which runs through the middle of the country, only one-sixth of the land is arable and poor soil quality has led to the predominance of one crop – peanuts. This has made The Gambia heavily dependent on peanut exports and a hostage to fluctuations in the production and world prices of the crop. Consequently, the country relies on foreign aid to fill gaps in its balance of payments.


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