The Gambia gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1965 and became the Republic of the Gambia in 1970. Following a coup attempt in 1981, Gambia, which is surrounded by
Senegal, formed a treaty of federation with its surrounding nation in order to ensure its security.
This federation known as Senegambia dissolved in 1989 when Gambia declined
moves towards further union, believing it was at risk of losing its own
identity. A further military coup in 1994 installed Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH as
president and he has been in power since that time.
However the democracy is nominal with Jammeh stating in July 2010, "Whether you like it or not, no coup will end my government, no elections can end my government. By God's grace I will rule this country as long as I wish and choose someone to replace me." He has also commented "Come 2011, whether you vote for me or not, I will win."
He did with 71.54% of the vote.
Despite recent oil discoveries off its coast, Gambia is a poor country. Only
around one sixth of its land is arable and poor soil quality effectively means
its only main crop is peanuts and around 75% of Gambia's population depends on
this crop together with rice, millet, sorghum, corn, sesame, cassava and palm
kernels for subsistence consumption.
Farmers also rear cattle sheep and goats for their livelihood. A nation
depending on one main export is always vulnerable to international price
fluctuations and as such, Gambia is heavily reliant on international aid.
Unemployment and under employment rates in Gambia are also very high.
The population of Gambia is just 1.5 million with a life expectancy of around
55 years. 68% of Gambia's rural population live in poverty, however this drops
to around 40% in urban areas.
Matters have been compounded of late
with drought in the area together with flash flooding making access to safe
water increasingly difficult. Access to education is also a major issue for children in the Gambia, for whilst
secondary education is free, most secondary schools will not accept children who
have not had a primary education, and that is not free and beyond the means of
many Gambian families. This is reflected in its literacy rate, just 50% overall
dropping to just over 40% for females not least because only 39% of children in
the Gambia go to secondary school. For more about the Gambia explore
our information articles above.
Human Development Index for
Gambia 1980 - Present
(Human Development Index) is measured by the UNESCO Institute for
Statistics (UIS) and the World Bank and is based upon the life
expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and living standards of a
Gambia is in 165th place out of 186 countries and
territories in 2013 when ranked in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to
knowledge and the living standards of a country.