Republic of the Gambia: Millennium Development Goals Needs Assesment for Poverty Reduction in the Gambia: 2007 - 2011

This paper discusses Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) 2007–11 for The Gambia. PRSP II builds on the long-term development Vision 2020 of The Gambia. It also takes cognizance of the fact that implementation of PRSP I suffered from revenue shortfalls as the IMF suspended its program with the Gambia. Consequently, PRSP II attempts to include interventions that were planned for PRSP I. PRSP II contains interventions and actions that have been well synchronized to ensure complimentarily, and the institutional and operational structures will also be streamlined to avoid duplication.


This paper discusses Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) 2007–11 for The Gambia. PRSP II builds on the long-term development Vision 2020 of The Gambia. It also takes cognizance of the fact that implementation of PRSP I suffered from revenue shortfalls as the IMF suspended its program with the Gambia. Consequently, PRSP II attempts to include interventions that were planned for PRSP I. PRSP II contains interventions and actions that have been well synchronized to ensure complimentarily, and the institutional and operational structures will also be streamlined to avoid duplication.

1. Introduction

In terms of human development the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2005 ranked The Gambia 155 out of 177 Countries. In the same year, an estimated 61% of the population of The Gambia fell below the poverty line of US$1 a day. The Gambia could miss most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets, unless major interventions are done.

This assessment of needs is for the five years period of the country’s PRSP II that run from 2007 to 2011. The objective is to assess what The Gambia requires during that period so as to keep the country on track in terms of meeting the MDG targets by the year 2015. The assessment is done on Millennium Development Goals basis, further broken down to sector level. It includes an assessment of the current development situation in view of the MDGs, setting development targets for 2011 that are in line with reaching the MDG targets by 2015, and outlining the needs in terms of human and non-human resources.

The needs assessment includes estimating in financial terms the cost of implementing PRSP II programmes, what The Gambia as a country can finance, and what financing gap remains for which The Gambia will need assistance from her development partners. The assessment starts by looking at poverty. It assesses needs for good economic management and the productive sectors including infrastructure and other sectors that have a bearing on poverty reduction.

The assessment of education goes beyond universal primary education to cover the entire education sector. Gender follows - again going beyond addressing gender parity in primary school enrolment to women empowerment. The assessment of health follows to capture MDG 4, 5, and 6. That is followed by an assessment of needs for environmental issues (MDG 7). Other interventions that directly or indirectly contribute to reaching some MDGs come last.


The Government of The Gambia prepared its first Strategy for Poverty Alleviation (SPA I) in 1994 with a view to reducing poverty that impacted on an estimated 58% of the population. However, many of the interventions proposed in SPA I were project oriented without firm links to pro-poor growth and macro economic processes. Furthermore, the change of Government in 1994 could not permit effective implementation of SPA I because of a severe shortfall in donor financing for the planned projects. Although SPA I was implemented from 1995 to 1999, due in large part to the factors identified above, the results were less than expected.

The Gambia renewed its commitment to poverty reduction in 1996 through the preparation of Vision 20/20. The goal for Vision 20/20 was “to transform The Gambia into a financial centre, a tourist paradise, a trading export oriented agricultural and manufacturing nation, thriving on free market policies and a vibrant private sector, sustained by a well educated, skilled, healthy, self-reliant and enterprising population, guaranteeing a well balanced ecosystem and a descent standard of living for all, under a system of government based on the consent of the citizenry”. The Gambia planned to realize these goals through a series of five-year development plans. The Gambia’s commitments to poverty reduction notwithstanding, the Medium Term Plans (MTP) were not well linked to the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) that are prerequisites to sustainable economic growth and reduction of poverty.

The advent of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) in 1999 as a requirement by the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) to get The Gambia onto a programme with the IMF necessitated preparation of the second Strategy for Poverty Alleviation (SPA II), which was the country’s first PRSP. SPA II, which was the country’s first PRSP (PRSP I) was implemented between 2003 and 2005, with less than satisfactory results mainly on account of IMF suspending its programme with The Gambia in 2003. Government borrowing from the banking system led to a build up of inflationary pressures. However, inflation is under control as The Gambia is taking measures to decrease on its fiscal deficit.

Table 1:

Macroeconomic Indicators 2000-2005

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- Projection; Sources: DOSFEA, CBG

However, The Gambia’s good macroeconomic performance during the 1990s was hardly matched by significant improvement in human development indicators in general and poverty reduction in particular. Paucity of data notwithstanding, inequality is reported to have increased, as there was higher income per capita growth in urban areas compared to rural areas. Youth unemployment especially in urban areas increased suggesting inadequate private sector investment to absorb the increasing labour. Consequently poverty rose from 58% in 1994 to 61% in 2005.

Achievements of The Gambia with respect to laying a foundation for poverty reduction during the period under review were significant public sector investment in transport infrastructure. Government is taking firm measures to reduce poverty through good economic management, focussing on agriculture, trade and tourism, and improving the quality and quantity of social services. However, poverty reduction still remains elusive mainly on account of insufficient funding. The section below captures human and non-human needs from a MDGs perspective for poverty reduction.

3. Needs for keeping The Gambia on track of attainment of MDGs

3.1 MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target 1: Halve, between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than

US$1 a day.

Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

Current situation in The Gambia:

Poverty in The Gambia inflicted about 61% of the population in 2005. The poverty situation in The Gambia hardly improved from 1990 to 2005. The country faces the challenge of accelerating poverty reduction with a view to halving the proportion of people leaving in poverty by the year 2015 from 61% in 2005 in 2005 to 30.5% in 2015. Assuming a straight line decline in poverty, The Gambia should reduce the proportion of people living in poverty from 61% in 2005 to about 46% by the year 2011. The Gambia has set a target of 40% for the year2011.

The ambitious target for poverty reduction calls for investment in key sector particularly the following:

  1. Economic management, widely defined to include management of public finance, civil service reform, and decentralisation

  2. Agriculture

  3. Infrastructure including energy, transport, marine and air infrastructure

  4. Tourism

  5. Justice and Judiciary

  6. Transport infrastructure

  7. Trade and industry.

Assessment of needs for MDG 1

The sectors have prepared action plans that are consistent with the attainment of MDGs by the year 2015. Through a technical and participatory approach of policy staff in every sector, the following were arrived at as the minimum level of expenditure in US$ that would be required to reduce poverty from 61% in 2005 to 40% in 2011. The estimates were arrived at by adding recurrent as well as development expenditure for every sector.

Table 2:

Sector needs for poverty reduction

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3.2 MDG 2: Achieve Universal primary education

Target 3: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Current situation in The Gambia:

3.2.1 Overview

Over the years, the Government of The Gambia (GOTG) has adopted various policies that provide the main direction for the Education Sector Development Programme (ESDP) 2006 - 2015. In addition to the country’s Vision 2020, the Millennium Development Goals, the Education For All (EFA) Action Plan, and The National Education Policy 2004 -2015 guide investment decisions in education.

Programmes in education are geared towards impacting the following indicators as follows by the year 2011:

  • Ensure net enrolment of more that 80%;

  • Ensure a gross enrolment (GER) of more than 100% at basic education level;

  • Ensure that more than 80% of students achieve grade level competence in all subjects;

  • Ensure that more than 20% of students achieve mastery level competence in all subjects;

  • Ensure completion rate of Completion rate of more than 95%;

  • A pupil to teacher ratio (PTR) of 45:1 at the basic level of education.

  • Increase enrolment to Adult and Non-Formal Education (ANFE) by 50%; and

  • Decrease the adult illiteracy rate by 50%.

3.2.2 Education Policy Framework

Overall, as outlined in the National Education Policy 2004-2015, the Gambian education system is premised on non-discriminatory and all-inclusive provision of education, underlining, in particular, gender equity and targeting the poor and the disadvantaged groups. It is grounded in the respect for the rights of the individual, cultural diversity, indigenous languages and knowledge; promotion of ethical norms and values and a culture of peace; and development of science and technology competencies for the desired quantum leap.

3.2.3 Situation Analysis

Paucity of data on literacy, school enrolment, drop out rates, and other relevant education statistic notwithstanding, The Gambia is believed to have made significant achievements during recent years particularly from 1995. The Gambia made tremendous success in expanding access to education. Significant gains were made across all levels of the school system. However, enrolment for boys dropped in some areas at the lower basic school level (Grades 1-6) as focus was put mainly on girls’ education. Access to upper basic education (i.e. grades 7-9) also improved during the period, with an increase of about 25 points in the overall GER. Gender parity was attained at the basic cycle level (i.e., Grades 1-9). At the senior secondary level, the overall GER almost doubled, but the gender gap at that level is still significant. Three major challenges facing the education sector include the following:

  1. Provision of Quality Education

  2. Retention of teachers and other personnel

  3. Inadequate funding - both recurrent and development expenditure

3.2.4 Education Quality

Education quality problems revolve around three issues:

  • Teacher training and support

  • Pedagogy and teaching/learning materials in schools

  • Leadership and management in schools including the participation of parents and the community.

  • Basic Education proper (grade 1-9)

  • Adult and Non-formal Education (ANFE)

3.2.5 Assessment of needs for MDG 2

The major challenge The Gambia faces in education is provision of key inputs particularly teachers and classrooms. Realistic projections were made of teacher and classroom requirements based on estimates of the number of pupils every year. Unit cost approach was applied to get to the cost requirements for each year from 2007 to 2011.

Table 3:

Needs for the education sector

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3.3 MDG 3: Promote Gender Equality and Women Empowerment

Target 4: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education not later than 2015

Major aspects of gender in respect to poverty reduction include the following:

  1. Parity between females and males in access to education

  2. Parity between females and males in terms of access to opportunities especially jobs

  3. Parity between females and males in terms of participation in politics

Although access to education is the major driving factor that would reduce gender disparities in terms of empowerment, there are specific needs that must be met to cater for the cross-cutting nature of gender. The PRSP gives more details in this regard and points to such issues like awareness creation, capacity building, women participation in politics, and enforcement of women’s rights. The estimates were arrived at by adding recurrent as well as development expenditure for the Women Bureau activities scheduled for the period 2007 to 2011.

Assessment of needs for MDG 3

Table 4:

Needs for gender sub-sector

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3.4 MDGs 4, 5 and 6: Health

3.4.1 MDG 4 - Reduce Child mortality

Target 5: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

Current situation in The Gambia:

Available statistics indicate improvements in infant mortality rate from 84 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 79 per 1,000 live births in 2006. Under-five mortality rate also decreased from 129 live births in 1990 to 99 per 1,000 live births in 2006 (see table.. below). The improvement was mainly on account of significant achievements that have been registered with regard to immunisation services. DPT3 coverage was almost 90% in 2005. The country was declared polio-free in 2005. Malaria, diarrhoeal, and respiratory infection are the major causes of infant mortality. Malnutrition is reported to contribute to infant and under-five mortality.

Table 5:

Selected health indicators and targets

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Malaria and Tuberculosis are still endemic and major killer diseases in the Gambia. Malaria is the leading cause of mortality particularly among children under the age of 5 years. Nationally, malaria causes about 4% of deaths in infants and 25% of deaths in children. Malaria mainly affects pregnant women and children under five years old. HIV/AIDS heightens the health challenge through opportunistic diseases.

3.4.2 Improve maternal health

Target 6: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio

Current situation in The Gambia:

Maternal mortality in The Gambia as of 2006 was reported to be 730 per 500,000, which is far above the 2015 target of 150 (see tale 5 above). Clearly The Gambia still has a long way to go as regards reaching the MDG on maternal health. Unavailability of health workers in health units especially in rural areas is most probably one of the major reasons for the poor maternal health situation in The Gambia. The health sector plan gives details of sector interventions and the challenges facing the health sector from which assessment of the needs have been made.

3.4.3 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Target 7: Have halted and began to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Target 8: Have halted by 2015 and began to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

Current situation in The Gambia:

Whilst the HIV/AIDS prevalence in The Gambia is categorized as low, at 2.1% for HIV1 and 0.8% for HIV2 among women 15-49 years old attending antenatal clinic, all signs are that the epidemic is on the increase (see 1 figure below). Like in most of sub-Saharan Africa heterosexual intercourse is the main mode of HIV transmission.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

HIV/AIDS trends

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2007, 308; 10.5089/9781451815580.002.A003

Source: NAS, The Gambia UNGASS Draft1 Report 2005

The National AIDS Secretariat was established in 2001 to lead and coordinate the multi-sectoral national response to the fight against HIV/AIDS in The Gambia. The national response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic was swift though initially health focused. A National AIDS Control Program (NACP) was established in 1986/7 and a National AIDS Committee formed in 1987 all under the aegis of the Ministry of Health. The NACP made efforts to address the HIV/AIDS issue from a multi-sectoral approach and had included religious and community leaders, and other government sectors and NGOs, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS. In March 1995 the HIV/AIDS national policy framework, Policies and Guidelines on HIV/AIDS, was finalized. The focus of intervention is on sensitizing and educating the population on the modes of IV/AIDS transmission, emphasizing the sexual route and mode of prevention.

Assessment of needs for MDs 4, 5, and 6

Table 6:

Needs for the health sector

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The estimates were arrived at by considering recurrent as well as development expenditures for the health sector

3.5 MDG 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Target 9: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources

Target 10: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation

Target 11: Have achieved by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers

3.5.1 Current situation in The Gambia

Access to safe water and adequate sanitation is critical for basic survival. The 2005 UNDP HDR indicates that 62% of households in The Gambia have sustainable access to an improved water source although access to sanitation is much lower. Water supply in the Greater Banjul Area has declined compared to demand. There is a need for major public investment in the water supply and sanitation infrastructure in the Greater Banjul Area and in growth centres such as Farafenni, in order to increase access, satisfy demand and improve quality.

GEAP I was implemented between 1993 and 1998 to restore and maintain ecological processes resulting from degradation. Prior to the formulation of the GEAP, the Government took decisive but piecemeal action to protect the environment such as the Banjul Declaration of 1977, the creation of the Environment Unit in 1981 and the formulation of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) in 1987. GEAP I established the legal and regulatory framework for environmental management. The Action Plan aims to strengthen national capacity to enforce the provisions of the Conventions on Desertification Control, Climate Change, Biodiversity, the Basel and Bamako Convention on Hazardous Waste, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.

3.5.2 Weaknesses in Environmental Protection

Despite some modest successes, environmental protection facese a number of serious weaknesses. Limited data exists on the different aspects of environment and natural resources managemant making planning and implementation of interventions less than optimal. This also makes community sensitization and information dissemination to the public problematic. The inadequacy of information and its management culminates in limited awareness and even results in low sensitization and poor public attitudes towards the protection of the environment and management of natural resources, in a sustainable matter.

A number of agencies including the Department of Parks and Wildlife, the National Environment Agency, The Department of Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock all have mandates related to the environment and natural resources management. This sometimes results in difficulties in the coordination of interventions. The inadequate legal framework on management and utilization of the fauna and floral resources contributes to the confusion in terms of mandate and dileanation of responsibilities.

Implementation of the policy, regulatory, legal, and institutional reforms necessary to improve the existing environmental management climate in The Gambia will principally involve the National Environment Agency, the Departments of State for: Finance and Economic Affairs; Fisheries and Water Resources, Environment Forestry and Parks and Wildlife; Agriculture; Justice; Trade, Industry & Employment; Local Government, Lands and Religious Affairs; and Health and Social Welfare, the Private Sector, non-governmental organisations and Civil Society at large.

Implementation of interventions in industry and other sector will principally involve representatives of NEA and other actors in the natural resource sector. NEA and Natural Resources Management personnel will continue to maintain close working relations with a range of representatives of the Gambian community through the numerous Working Groups and Task Forces.

Major limitations exist in the inadequacy of policy, comprehension and negotiation skills as it relates to the environment and natural resources. There was difficulty in trying to mainstream issues related to the environment into the macro-economic framework of the country, particularly the policy and regulatory aspects. For example, the fiscal policies to control importation of environmentally un-friendly products (such as inferior quality batteries, plastics, etc.) elaborated in GEAP Phase I, were not enforced as required.

However, the development of an environmental policy through GEAP was one of the most participatory processes in The Gambia, the level of participation of local communities and other stakeholders in the implementation process remains inadequate. In an effort to secure positive action on the ground, the following measures are being focused on for the environmental protection.

Closer collaboration will be encouraged between the institutions that are charged with implementing the three different Conventions (on desertification, Biological Diversity and Climate Change). In addition to that, capacities will be built/strengthened at various levels of the national and local institutions for effective (further) development and implementation of GEAP Phase II, in the context of the various National Action Programs which contribute active ingredients to sustainable natural resources and environmental management.

At the central level, the capacity for policy analysis will be enhanced at the various Departments of State and their sectoral departments to ensure that informed choices are made in development programming. Furthermore, the scope of the State of the Environment Report will be expanded to include analyses of trends and provide decision-makers in government various scenarios of possible environmental impact from different patterns of development.

At the divisional level, the Area Environment Committees (including the Provincial Area Environment Committees, the Kanifing Municipal Area Environment Committee, and the Banjul Environment Committee) will be formalized as provided for in the NEMA 1994 and the Local Government Act 1991. The committees will be provided with technical assistance and training to assist them in their main functions including: (I) integrating environmental considerations into all plans, projects, and strategies of the Area, the Municipal or the City Council, as the case may be; and (ii) co-ordinating the activities relating to the management of the environment and natural resources within their jurisdiction. Specifically, they will also be assisted to prepare, implement and monitor the respective local environment plans.

At the village level, the Village Environment Committees and the Ward Environment Committees will be assisted to develop mechanisms to execute their functions, including: (I) carrying out public education campaigns and encouraging the public to participate in making decisions about the environment; and (ii) mobilizing the people within their jurisdiction on the basis of voluntary self-help to identify and restore degraded resources, as they may be specified with the LEAP and other National Action Programs.

Therefore, as the environment and natural resources supports the productive base of the country, and particularly of rural Gambia, it is essential that conservation and management approaches fully involve stakeholders. In the long run the success and sustainability of interventions in conservation and sustainable use of the environment and natural resources will depend heavily on the active involvement of local people. A first step in this direction often takes the form of help in community organization directed towards self-reliance and self-management, including committee formation; conflict management and resolution; marketing of products; eco-tourism guides; and, management training.

To enable communities located near resource base to find new sources of products they can use to generate income without damaging the resources, vegetable gardening, bee keeping, agro-forestry and sustainable harvesting of resources such as thatch grasses and firewood are promoted.

3.5.3 Priorities for the Environment

The goal of the national environmental Program (GEAP II) is to ensure sustainable development. To accomplish this goal, there is the need to develop an effective and financially self-sustaining environmental management system for The Gambia. While increased action is needed in all sectors of the economy, environmental program efforts will be geared primarily towards a broad base sustainable natural resource management, energy and environmental health.

  • Improved and strengthened institutional framework for environmental management in place at all levels

  • Environmental considerations included in policy and planning processes at all levels

  • Strengthened regulatory framework and enforcement of the regulatory codes, and environmental regulations fully enforceable and respected by all sectors

  • Functioning institutional and legal framework in place for sustainable management and protection of the coastal zone and its resources

  • Strengthened advocacy and sensitisation for sustainable development

  • Private sector and parastatals engaged in dialogue for sustainable resource use.

  • Support for Decentralisation and Local Government Reform for Community based Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Development Planning

  • Improving the Performance of Implementing Institutions in Environmental Quality Monitoring and Enforcement and in Solid Waste Management

Table 7:

Needs for environment related issues

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3.6 MDG 8: Develop a global partnership for development

MDG 8 is a shared responsibility between The Gambia and her development partners. Accordingly, only targets that The Gambia has a responsibility to contribute to be commented upon here. The other targets are largely a responsibility of donors. It is in this regard that an estimate for the funding gap for the 5-year PRSP is made with expectation that donors will willingly close it so as to enable The Gambia to keep on track of reaching MDG development targets.

Target 12: Develop further an open, rule based, predictable, non-discriminatory, trading and financial system (includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction- both nationally and internationally)

Target 15: Deal comprehensively with debt problems.

Target 16: Develop and implement strategies for descent and productive work for the youth

Current situation in The Gambia:

In reference to MDG target 12, The Gambia’s economy is open, rule based, and predictable. The trading and financial system is non-discriminatory by international standards. However, national institutions are still too weak to guarantee continued openness of the economy, a rule based and predictable economy, and a trading and financial system that is non-discriminatory.

The Gambia therefore needs assistance from her development partners to strengthen national institutions for economic management. As pointed out elsewhere in the PRSP II, when the IMF suspended its programme with The Gambia in 2003, the subsequent under funding of all government activities that followed adversely affected the economy tremendously. The country resorted to domestic borrowing to keep government running. Currently, domestic debt and external debt serving is taking over 40% of domestic revenue.

Dealing with the debt problem comprehensively is a top priority for The Gambia. However, the country needs donor assistance in this regard to enable it to benefit from HIPC funds.

Regarding target 16 on developing and implementing strategies for descent and productive work for the youth, The Gambia is focussing on private investment - both foreign and domestic investment. The country faces a plethora of constraints to investment that are outlined in this needs assessment. However, the country is on a correct path as regarding removing the investment constraints. The country will however need assistance from donors to remove investment constraints such as inadequate power in the shortest time possible.

4. Financing: 2007-2011

The needs identified were costed for the period 2007 to 2011. The approach was as follows:

  1. Assessment of the development situation at the moment in reference to MDG monitoring indicators. Unfortunately, The Gambia’s statistics is poor, and that made assessment of the situation analysis for some sectors extremely difficult. The assessment for many sectors is in form of identification of development challenges facing each sector.

  2. Following the assessment of the development situation at sector level, targets were set. The targets are in line with meeting MDG targets by the year 2015.

  3. Each sector developed strategies and interventions that would be required to achieve the set development targets.

  4. Identification of inputs - human and non-human that are required for implementation of policies and interventions were done for the education and health sector. For other sectors estimate of recurrent and development cost required to attain targets was used to arrive at the cost estimates.

  5. Estimates were made of the resources The Gambia can raise through domestic revenue. This made it possible to estimate the funding gap for the entire PSRP II period.

Table 8 is a summary table of the financing requirements. Details can be found in the PRSP II implementation action plan.

Table 8:

Summary table of sector funding requirements, 2007-2011

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