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Gambia, US urged to deepen business ties

Published date:
Tuesday, 02 March 2010

Textile vendors have called for the deepening of ties between The Gambia and the United States so that there could be direct benefits to The Gambia’s business sector. Speaking in an interview with TODAY Newspaper at the conclusion of a two day apparel export training workshop jointly organized by the US embassy and the West Africa Trade Hub (WATH), held at the Sheraton Hotel in Brufut, Mariama Demba, a tie & dye specialist and craft vendor at the Sunbeach craft market said the strengthening of bilateral relationship between Banjul and Washington would create opportunities for businesses in The Gambia to grow stronger.

According to her, there is the need for trade between the two countries, as there are potentials for markets in one another’s shores, thus creating opportunities for business people to play active roles in ensuring that products meet acceptable international standards. She said training on how to achieve this, as well as on how to access the US market is important for Gambian textile makers, as it would familiarize them with industry opportunities.

Speaking further, Mrs. Demba said lack of funds and access to financial support is crippling the textile industry, noting that bank interest rates are high most times, collaterals are beyond their capacities and they could not afford running the risk. The support of both governmental and non governmental institutions is thus necessary to make businesses more viable.

“We find it hard to acquire loans from banks because the interest they ask for is too much. Many of us also find it hard to meet the criteria set to get loans, as they many times request for compound title, or vehicle title, which we cannot afford to tender. We can’t blame them because they are also doing their business,” she said.

She thanked the American embassy for empowering Gambian women. According to her, the US embassy has been very supportive to Gambian women, especially those engaged artistic works and trades. She noted that since The Gambia became eligible for the American Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2003 and granted the Apparel and Textile Visa in 2008, the textile and apparel business sector has seen tremendous impact. “Since this development, to be frank those established in the sector have made huge returns from their investments, and we also hope to generate enough financial resources that we can use to support our families,” she said.

For Sheikh Tijan Secka, production manager of Salam Batik, the AGOA training organized by the US embassy has helped improve him as a production manager of a batik company. He observed that the training serve as a tool to link the business operators with the US and the international market. “It is a big plus to our business if we succeed in tapping the US and international market opportunity.’

According to him, the AGOA trainings have influenced their concept of producing batik works to a higher standard. This includes more advanced technology that now position them to produce high quality products for both the local and international market. “Now our aim is to start loading containers and exporting to developed countries like the US, China, Hong Kong, you name them.”

He said with AGOA, finance is not a challenge. “After tabbing a client in the US that want to do business with you, you can go back to the US embassy in Banjul and seek their assistance, as they have promised to stand for that. The fund to export goods to the US is not a problem as far as the Embassy is concerned. The problem here now is how to tab for clients as a starter in the US market.”

There are still challenges however as they must make their products standard in terms of packaging, advertisement, fliers and catalogues in order to make their products popular brands among the people. According to him, there is still the need to receive training on how to professionally introduce their businesses to clients in international markets.

He said there are huge responsibilities for the government in this direction, as it must actively support Gambian business operators. He said if it is possible that the government support individuals in the sector directly, then it should link the individuals with the right people which would help them achieve their objectives.

Also speaking with TODAY, Amie Njie, assistant treasurer of The Gambia Women Empowerment a sub division of The Gambian Women in Business, said her group has been a regular participant at the US Embassy-organised AGOA training and it has helped a lot in their operations. Speaking on behalf of the organization, Mrs Njie said: “We Gambian women are really fond of doing things on our own. We hardly interact as women and do things together. But since this AGOA training started, we have seen Gambian women coming together to complement each other’s efforts. We must unite to export our goods. Together we stand, divided we fall.” She said they have realized that it may be hard to achieve dreams if they are not united.

She said the global financial crisis is taking its toll on businesses, and it is only in cooperation that women could make significant headway in the export industry.

For Mbakeh Gaye of Sanneh Investment Tailoring Shop, the fashion and tailoring business in the country is one of those that give the highest return. He said the deepening of ties between The Gambia and the United States would have positive consequences for their operations, thus he called upon the government to explore this. As he said, all forms of support to the business sector would also contribute immensely to the socioeconomic development of the country.

Fatou Sosseh, a craft art businesswoman, told TODAY that building the capacity of people in different business sectors will help them to apply modern methods in their production. She said the training would help her make a transition from making ordinary batik works to more standard batik works. “I live from my batik, pay my children’s school fee and meet up to my daily needs,” she said.

Fatou Sosseh’s dream is to export her art works to developed countries like the United States, China, and Dubai among other developed countries, she said, adding that despite her current financial incapacity to start producing enough batik work for exportation, she still believes that the training and the interaction with professional in the business sector will pave way for her to start making enough batik works and give her the credit to start exporting her art works.

She further appealed to government, private sector and established business tycoons to support them both technically and financially so that their dreams might come true. “May God help us to expand our businesses to a level where we would be able to export our goods to any country of our choice,” she prayed.

Others who spoke to TODAY thanked the US embassy in Banjul for giving them the opportunity to be part of such training. They also thanked The Gambia government for encouraging various business opportunities.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of The Gambia's bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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