Gambians will be going to an electoral cycle starting from December 2016 to April 2018 to elect a President, their Members of Parliaments, local and municipal elections. The first stage of this cycle took place on December 1st, 2016, and Gambians voted for a political transition that ends 22 years of the reign of President Jammeh who conceded defeat to Mr. Barrow the leader of a coalition of eight opposition parties.
The pre-electoral climate was marked by political tensions and demonstrations from the oppositions demanding for electoral and political reforms, which resulted in the arrest of protestors who have been sentenced to prison. A situation that confirms the negative developments under President Jammeh regime in relation to human rights violations in a country whose economy relies primarily on tourism, agriculture, and is vulnerable to external disruptions, as during the Ebola crisis that struck West Africa.
The December 2016 presidential elections have put The Gambia into the limelight. The incumbent president who was known for his autocratic regime and the arrival of a new government can give the country another opportunity for more investors to come in. However, the newly elected president is unknown to the Gambians, Mr. Barrow “stands as a transitional president” who is going to form a Coalition Government of National Unity to last for three years. A government that will have to put in place every formality before separation of the different parties in 2019.
It’s clear that the only strong program the coalition has is to end President Jammeh’s long reign, a “need for change in order to promote and consolidate Democracy, Rule of Law, Good Governance and respect for the Human Rights of Gambians”. They have also promised to end unemployment and create more jobs without going into details.
Thus, investors interested in the outcome of the election and its impact on international investments, will always have to keep these things in perspective that the Gambia is among the poorest countries of the world, and with an undiversified economy highly opened one as measured by (re)-export and import ratio. So, the economic challenges facing the new president are related to the country homogeneous economy, limited access to resources, fast population growth and lack of skills necessary to build effective institutions, lack of private sector job creation to name a few.
However, the President-elect and his coming coalition government have promised amongst other things to enhance Industrial Growth, to improve infrastructure, to make utilities such as electricity and water supply accessible and affordable, that Technology energy generation and mining will become major industrial activities in The Gambia.
Other priorities incorporate the revival of the economy and the end of human rights abuses. There will be more freedom of the press, and the civil society will have the capacity to hold the Government accountable to the Public. The President elected also promised to continue the work where President Jammeh has stopped it. Consequently, the new government will consolidate and build on the gains that have international implications, whilst undoing some of the controversial moves, for example; to take the country back to the Commonwealth and the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.
So, without denying the political rhetoric, the election outcomes may present investment opportunities. However, those opportunities may develop slowly, and investors will have to pay attention to the transition period and the outcomes of the cycle of elections to come.
Dr. Bassène is a MA 2 candidates lecturer at UCAD, in History of International and Strategic Relations (HIRIS) – Former coordinator, MA programs in History and Political Sciences at the University of The Gambia.