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Gambia, The

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The GOTG uses transparent policies and effective laws to foster competition on a non-discriminatory basis to establish “clear rules of the game.” The Gambia’s legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms. The Act mandates the Commission to advocate for competition in The Gambia; and to determine and impose penalties or appropriate remedies to ensure businesses comply with prohibited restrictive practices, and monitor compliance, among other things. The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCP) is a commercial watchdog that ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices, and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices.

There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.  Rule-making and regulatory authority exists with the President, his cabinet of Ministers, and the committee members under the National Assembly of The Gambia, and various government parastatals. The accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms.  Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for commenting through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups. This practice is in line with the U.S. federal notice and comment procedures, and applies to investment laws and regulations in The Gambia.

There are no informal regulatory processes that are managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations.

There is no formal stock market such as a stock exchange for trading equity securities. The accounting, legal, and regulatory procedural systems of The Gambia are consistent with international norms.

Draft bills or regulations are made available to the public for commenting through public meetings and targeted outreach to stakeholders, such as business associations or other groups.

A contract was concluded with LexisNexis in 2009 for the publication of the entire country’s legislation; however access is not free of charge. The National Assembly is also in the process of compiling all regulatory actions on its website. There is no centralized online location where key regulatory actions or their summaries are published.

There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impact assessments conducted by government agencies.

  • What are the general implications of these reforms to the country and economy as a whole?

It creates a market-friendly regulatory business environment, which has a positive impact on economic and financial outcomes. These reforms tend to strengthen investor rights.

The Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) is a multi-sector regulator established by an Act of the National Assembly of The Gambia. Under The Gambia Public Utilities Authority Act of 2001 (The PURA Act), which came into force at the latter part of 2003, the National Assembly (Parliament) set up PURA as a multi-sector regulator. Under the PURA Act, PURA is mandated to regulate the following sectors:

  • Broadcasting
  • Electricity
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation
  • Water and Sewage Sectors
  • Other Public Utilities

There are two main types of courts in The Gambia – the Superior Court and the Magistrates Court, while other courts, such as the Cadi Court, District Tribunals and other lower courts and tribunals may be established by an Act of the National Assembly. The judicial power of The Gambia is vested in the courts, which exercise this power according to the respective jurisdictions conferred by an Act of the National Assembly. No new regulatory system reforms have been announced since the last ICS report, but regulatory reform efforts announced in prior years are being implemented; The Investment Policy Plan of The Gambia is still in draft stages.

Proposed laws and regulations are made available to all the relevant stakeholders for their review and discussion at validation workshops. During the process of enactment in the National Assembly, deputies are free to suggest changes. Yes, the process is legally reviewable on the Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Act 2001.

Regulations are not reviewed based on scientific or data-driven assessments.  There are no known scientific studies or quantitative analysis conducted on the impact of regulations made publicly available for comment. However, The Gambia Bureau of Statistics develops data based on enacted legislation.  Public comments received by regulators are not made public.

Only limited information on debt obligation are made available. Documents lack complete information on natural resource revenues as well as financial earnings from state-owned enterprises.

International Regulatory Considerations

The Gambia is a member of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and as such, is signatory to the 1975 ECOWAS Treaty, which harmonizes investment rules.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) first introduced competition legislation in 2008, including a prohibition on anticompetitive mergers. In April 2019, The Gambia became the 22nd African country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), meaning the bill now has the minimum number of ratifications needed to come into effect. The agreement, signed by 49 of the 55 African Union nations in March 2018, will dodge a patchwork of trade regulations and tariffs that make intra-African commerce costly, time-consuming and cumbersome. The trade bloc, spanning 49 countries with a combined GDP of $3trillion, will facilitate inter-regional trade, boost growth and help to alleviate poverty, its supporters say.

The Gambia has its own regulatory system, which it designs with stakeholders from the international community of NGOs, but international norms or standards referenced or incorporated into the country’s regulatory system are often based on the United Kingdom system of regulations.

The Gambia is a member of the WTO.  The government does not notify the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations.  However, draft technical regulations are available to relevant stakeholders like the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), if requested.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The country’s legal system is based on English common law and there are effective means for enforcing property and contractual rights. The Gambia has a written and consistently applied commercial law, which is found in the Companies Act. Monetary judgments can be made in both the investor’s currency and local currency.

The Gambia does not have a written commercial and/or contractual law as its legal system is based on Common Law.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and although the courts are not totally free from influence of the executive branch, they have demonstrated their independence on occasion. The Supreme Court, presided over by a chief justice, has both civil and criminal jurisdiction.

Appeals against decisions of district tribunals (or the industrial tribunal in the case of labor disputes) may be lodged with the lower courts, the High Court and the Supreme Court, which is the highest court of appeal in the country.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The investment laws and regulations of The Gambia apply equally to local and foreign investors.

These include unclear provisions of some of the laws related to investment, such as competition, labor and corruption, and, in some instances, regulations do not exist to implement the laws effectively.

 For information on the laws, rules, procedures and reporting required, foreign investors can visit the website of the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) at http://www.giepa.gm/   .  GIEPA is a government agency set up to promote investment, export, and entrepreneurship development.

The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCPC) is the body primarily responsible for the promotion of competition and the protection of consumers mandated by three acts, namely: The Competition Act 2007, The Consumer Protection Act 2014, and The Essential Commodities Act 2015.

No major investment related laws/ regulations, and judicial decisions came out within the past year.

The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) provides a one-stop-shop for investors and is responsible for attracting foreign direct investment. This can be found at GIEPA’s website at http://www.giepa.gm/

Competition and Anti-Trust Laws

The Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (GCCP) is a commercial watchdog that reviews transactions for competition-related concerns and ensures the protection of consumers from unfair and misleading market practices, and administers the prohibition of illegal business practices.

Expropriation and Compensation

The Constitution of The Gambia provides the legal framework for the protection of private ownership of property and only provides for compulsory acquisition by the state if this is found to be necessary for defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning.

The Gambia has a history of expropriation, which, however, has ceased since the new President took power in 2017.

During President Jammeh’s 22 years in office, state paramilitary officials were known to arrive unannounced on private property and tear down any standing structures on the property in question. The claimant was not offered any compensation at the time of expropriation.

In these case of expropriations, claimants alleged a lack of due process and compensation.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

The Gambia is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), but there is no specific legislation providing for enforcement of ICSID awards.

The Gambia is not a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

The Gambia is a signatory to the 1975 ECOWAS Treaty that was revised in 1993 toward the establishment of a Community Investment Code to harmonize investment rules.

The Gambia does not have any BITs or FTAs with the United States.

In June 2013, the government announced a ban on the importation of frozen poultry parts, which constituted the largest U.S. export to The Gambia, worth over USD 7 million a year.

The ban was lifted in November 2013, but a statement issued by the Ministry of Trade imposed a new condition that all shipments of poultry products entering the country required Society Générale de Surveillance (SGS) certification that they are hormone-free.

An arbitral award, irrespective of the country in which it was made is recognized as binding and, on application in writing to the High Court, must be enforced by entry as a judgment in terms of the award, or by action. This takes between two and six months.

Although The Gambia is not a signatory to the New York Convention, it has domesticated all of the provisions of the New York Convention, which are set out in Schedule 2 of the Act. These domesticated provisions will apply to any award made in any New York Convention Contracting State, provided that the Contracting State has reciprocal legislation recognizing the enforcement of arbitral awards made in The Gambia in accordance with the provisions of the New York Convention and the difference arises out of a legal relationship that is contractual. Although article 11 of the New York Convention refers to “a legal relationship, whether contractual or not”, the Act refers to a contractual relationship only.

This groundnut processing plant at Denton Bridge is the biggest industrial complex in the country, and its hostile takeover by the government in 1999 sparked a protracted legal battle.

The last major dispute with foreign investors was with the Swiss group Alimenta over the assets of The Gambia Groundnut Corporation in 1998.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The Gambia is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), but there is no specific legislation providing for enforcement of ICSID awards.

However, there is an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism as a means for settling disputes between private parties.

Arbitration is governed by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2005, and is generally based on the UNCITRAL Model Law, with some provisions adapted from the UNCITRAL Rules. The Gambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) is currently engaged in setting up a Dispute Resolution Center.

The local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards and judgments of foreign courts  upon registration in the High Court.

There have been reports of complaints about the court processes during former President Jammeh’s regime, when rulings tended to overwhelmingly favor the GOTG.

In 2018, Gambian SOE’s have not been involved in investment disputes that were determined by any domestic courts.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Bankruptcy is s covered by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act of 1992. Creditors, equity shareholders, and holders of other financial contracts may file for both liquidation and reorganization.

9. Corruption

There are laws in place to combat corruption by public officials in The Gambia.  These laws are largely ineffective because the committees, which are commissioned to enforce them, are yet to be fully established.  In cases when trials are conducted, they are conducted in a non-discriminatory manner.

The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia extend to family members of officials and political parties alike.  The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia contain laws or regulations that counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia contain laws or regulations that counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

The Gambian Government encourages private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials.  The constitution of The Gambia calls for internal codes of conduct (Section 222), as do the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance to which The Gambia is a signatory.  Private companies use internal controls and other programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.

 Private companies use internal controls and other programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials.

The Gambia has signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences, but has not ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  In May 2014, The Gambia ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention.

During former President Jammeh’s rule, the GOTG did not provide protections to NGOs involved in investigating corruption.  However, such protections are likely as part of the new administration’s pledge to take action regarding the African Union convention on preventing and combatting corruption.

At least one U.S. firm complained in 2016 of corruption as an obstacle to FDI.  This was reported in the water resource management sector and involved a commercial dispute between the GOTG and a U.S. firm.  The firm has since indicated that the new administration is taking steps to resolve the matter.

Resources to Report Corruption

Commanding Officer, Fraud & Commercial Crime Unit
Gambia Police Force
Police Headquarters,
ECOWAS Avenue,
Banjul,
The Gambia (+220) 4223015 / 4222307

No international, regional, or local NGO operating as “watchdog” organizations monitoring corruption are known to exist in the country.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

As of 2017 (most recently available data), the total labor force in Gambia was reported at 680,397, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. Total labor force comprises people ages 15 and older who meet the International Labor Organization definition of the economically active population: all people who supply labor for the production of goods and services during a specified period. It includes both the employed and the unemployed. While national practices vary in the treatment of such groups as the armed forces and seasonal or part-time workers, in general the labor force includes the armed forces, the unemployed and first-time job seekers, but excludes homemakers and other unpaid caregivers and workers in the informal sector.

The labor force participation rate is about 74%. The Gambia suffers from high unemployment and underemployment, compounded by a shortage of skilled workers and trained professionals. About 59% of the individuals in the labor force have no education. Many of the skilled workers in the construction and mechanical industries are foreigners from neighboring countries.

The under-mentioned government acts are policies that require the hiring of nationals

  • The Labor Act of 2007
  • The Payroll Tax Act of 2008
  • The Companies Act of 2005
  • The Business Registration Act of 2005

The Labor Act of 2007 and its regulations, provide the legal framework for labor relations in The Gambia. The Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment enforces the Act. It covers most conditions of employment, including dismissals, recruitment and hiring, registration and training, protection of wages, registration of trade unions and employees’ organizations, and industrial relations in general. The Act also contains procedures for the settlement of disputes, including an industrial tribunal. Minimum wages and working hours are established through six joint industrial councils: commerce, artisans, transport, port operations, agriculture, and fisheries. Private-sector employees receive between 14 and 30 days of paid annual leave, depending on length of service.

Labor laws are not waived in order to attract investment.

Collective bargaining is especially common in the transportation and ports industry.  The Gambia Workers Confederation, formed in 1985, coordinates union activities. Sectoral data on coverage of collective bargaining agreements by sector is not available.

The Gambia has a Labor Tribunal, which is presided over by a Magistrate and a panel of members appointed by the Chief Justice, on the recommendation of the Secretary of State.

The 2007 Labor Act of The Gambia also authorizes an appointed Labor Commissioner to authorize a public officer to assist in conciliation of labor disputes.

Within the past year, The Gambia has not experienced any labor strikes and there are no gaps, or occurrences that have posed a reputational or financial risk to investors.

There are no gaps in compliance in law or practice with international labor standards that may pose a reputational risk to investors. However, child sex trafficking has been identified by the ILO as an area where the law or practice thereof, falls short in comparison to international labor standards.

No new labor related laws were enacted during the last year and there are no pending draft bills.

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