A moment of truth is a rare opportunity to reconsider the course, the fundamentals of the journey. This is The Gambia’s moment of truth, to continue the path that possibly leads to nowhere, or embrace a truly fabulous destination presentd in this section. Because when it comes to a most fabulous future, nobody has conducted the exercise presented in this manuscript for all Gambians to discover, discuss and possibly embrace.
In the 1980s I was growing up in southeastern Spain. A commercial in which a saleswoman sold detergent ended with the saleswoman reminding customers of the important principle “search, compare, and if you find something better buy it”. I like Avril Lavigne’s song Girlfriend in which she sings “I do not like your girlfriend, I think you need a new one”. I remind all Gambians in this very moment of truth, they must carefully search and compare governance alternatives made up of exceptional teams coupled with fantastic action plans, then stick to one and buy it. I do not like The Gambia’s politics; I think Gambians need a new governance, as the fantastic Canadian singer repeats.
Because the fundamentals of The Gambia do not possibly show through projection a most wonderful future. Let’s recapitaluate, beginning with a per-capita income that has barely increased from PPP $2,484 in 2010 to $2,612 in 2018, making of The Gambia an even poorer nation than the Comoros archipielago in the Mozambique channel. The Gambia’s population of 2.4 million in 2020 will increase to 8 million. A small English speaking nation in this geography so close to Europe could prove to become an engine of growth for Europeans willing to learn English well, a more affordable alternative than Dublin, London or the United States.
The Gambia is also surrounded by Senegal, much larger, more populous and richer. It will be difficult to compete unless The Gambia finds a niche strategy, a complementary model of economic growth beginning with offering Senegal the skill most wanted in 2020: English proficiency. According to EF English Proficiency Index 2019, French-speaking nations in North Africa have low or very low proficiency levels, including Tunisia #65 (low proficiency), Morocco #76 (very low), Algeria #90 and Ivory Coast #96 out of 100 nations. Nigeria ranked #29 has high proficiency. Gambians’ competitive advantage is that they speak native English as mother tongue.
Then inequality and unemployment: The Gambia’s inequality index was 0.502 in 1998 according to Central Intelligence Agency, which has decreased significantly to 0.359 in 2015. According to World Bank data unemployment stood at 8.9 percent and youth unemployment at 12.3 percent in 2019. But in spite of having competitive unemployment rates, informality remains high at 68 percent in non-agricultural labour force, a data point from 2012.
According to Webometrics, The Gambia has three universities the best of which is the University of The Gambia ranked #10,269, well below Senegal’s best ranked Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar #2,922. A nation with a bad educational sector typically has a poor labour market and is not competitive. These two facts are confirmed by Insead’s Global Talent Competitivess Index 2019 in which The Gambia ranks #93 out of 125 nations, and by the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2019 in which The Gambia ranks #124 out of 141. The Gambia’s competitiveness subindicators the following are particularly poor: macroeconomic stability #125, health #122, market size #138 and business dynamism #138. In macroeconomic stability, The Gambia’s inflation ranks #122. In health The Gambia’s health life expectancy ranks #121.
The underlying factors why business dynamism is miserable must be explored: first transparency and corruption in which according to Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index The Gambia ranks 96/180 behind Senegal 66/180 having however improved gradually between 2015 and 2019. In the World Bank cost of doing business rankings 2019 The Gambia ranks #149 out of 190 nations, with subrankings particularly poor in the categories starting a business #169, getting electricity #160, paying taxes #169.
When looking more in details to Insead’s Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019 for The Gambia, the small nation’s government effectiveness is one of the World’s worst at #113, ease of doing business is also bad at #113. The Gambia’s ability to retain talent is ranked #101, including poor standings in lifestyle #111, environmental performance #113, physician density #109 and sanitation #110. In regards to global knowledge skills The Gambia ranks the World’s fourth worst nation with the following standings: high-level skills #122, workforce with tertiary education #116, senior officials and managers #118, availability of scientists and engineers #110, talent impact #121, workforce with tertiary education #121 or last. Only 0.67 percent of the workforce in The Gambia has completed tertiary education, compared with 65 percent in Canada, 52 percent in Ukraine, 51 percent in Singapore and Russia and 48 percent in Japan, 45 percent in Israel and 45 percent in Korea.
All of which make of The Gambia one of the World’s unhappiest nations, according to World Happiness Report 2019 The Gambia ranks #120 unhappiest among 156 nations behind Senegal #71.
JAIME P. MONFORT