The African Economic Outlook report 2017 has decried the low level of industrialisation of The Gambia, which stands at 5.2%, as compared to the neighbouring Senegal’s 13.5%.
Citing the 2010 report on The Gambia by the UN Industrial Development Organisation, the Outlook said such a “fairly low” level of industrialisation has been exemplified by the level of manufacturing value added (MVA) per capita.
“Constraints on MVA per capita include a lack of technological innovation, difficult market access, the absence of reliable and cheap energy, and sub-optimal infrastructure,” the report outlined, which was launched on Thursday by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Regional Integration, Dr Isatou Touray.
“We have inherited a very difficult situation, due to the 22 years of dictatorship where institutions failed, technical competence unrecognised and everything was being done on executive order. Of course, it is natural that the panacea for failure was there,” Minister Touray said.
Speaking at the event, Touray said the report provides evidence and analytic support to policy- makers in Africa, and has arrived at the right time for her ministry and the country at large.
“Now that we had a democratically-elected government, our mandate calls for institutional reforms, building the pillars of democracy and respect for human rights through which we can institute sound governance and economic development all over the country,” she said.
The Outlook report singled out The Gambia’s industrial policy development process needs to be viewed in conjunction with the National Policy for MSMEs (2014 -2018), the Mapping Study of MSMEs (2013) undertaken by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Employment, the Private Sector Development Strategy (2015 -2019) and the National Entrepreneurship Promotions Strategy (2014 – 2018).
It said the country’s industrial strategy targets two areas: value addition, mainly in light agro- processing, and renewable energy and energy security. The strategy involves a multitude of actors, including MOTIE, the Standards Bureau, the Food Quality and Safety Agency, the Investments and Exports Promotions Agency (GIEPA) and private enterprises through the chamber of commerce. While the strategy encompasses most of the relevant actors, it still lacks coordination, the report added.
It also noted that while mining and quarrying grew from 1.5% of GDP in 2004 to 3.2% in 2013, intermittent production of industrial minerals were registered (e.g. clay and silica sand).
“Manufacturing remained in the range of 4.7% to 6.6% of GDP over same period, while agriculture accounted for 22% of GDP in 2013 and services 57%.”
The report argues that Africa’s industrialisation strategies would be different from the rest of the world.
“This is because it does not have to rely solely on manufacturing sector, but also incorporate additional sectors with high growth potential, such as agro-processing and services with high value addition,” Trade Minister Touray said.
“The model must also rely on the solid growth of our private sector and the booming entrepreneurs in our continent. About 80% of entrepreneurs (majority youths) view entrepreneurship as a good career opportunity, which presents a good opportunity for the continent,” she said, noting that this interest should be redirected to sectors with higher growth potential with a view to generating quality jobs.
Dr Touray said the situation is not going to be a quick fix; rather it has to follow processes and procedures to get there.
“Industrialisation is key and so is addressing youth unemployment and empowering communities; having participatory approaches and policies in place will mean we know where we are moving,” she said.
The Gambia is also working with UNCTAD to develop a new industrial policy and trade strategy that will leverage opportunities presented by regional integration and multilateral trading systems, the minister said, adding that this includes the democratic dividend presented by the youthful population.
UNDP Country Representative in Banjul, Ade Lekoetje, said the country has witnessed a degree of structural transformation over the last ten years.
However, the country has not significantly increased the industrial sector’s share in the economy, which recorded only 3% increased between 2004 and 2013.