Gambians are voting on Saturday but with their attention away from the politics. The West African country had traditionally depended on tourism as its major source of foreign exchange until the pandemic hit, costing the sector hundreds of millions of dollars.
Its currency, the Dalasi has been falling against major international currencies.
The IMF has warned that the country of 2.4 million people also faces a high risk of debt distress. Gambia’s total debt stock stood at more than $706 million in October according to the central bank. Banjul’s GDP is just $1 billion.
Nevertheless, amidst the gloom, remittances stand out. Gambians abroad sent home $657.22 million from January-October this year, nearly thrice what the country earned from tourism in 2019 according to the central bank.
President Adama Barrow who’s seeking re-election has sought to downplay concerns about the economy, which is only expected to see 4% growth in 2021.
Nyang Njie is a consultant economist. He joins the show from Banjul to talk about the tough economic reality that awaits the winner of Saturday’s vote.
Central African countries tighten forex rules
Countries in the Central African Monetary Zone (CEMAC) are heavily dependent on oil and imports.
Since oil prices fell, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic Republic, the bloc’s only non-oil economy, have battled balance of payment deficits and currency shortages.
To shore up their reserves, the region’s bank imposed restrictions on forex transfers in 2019 which severely hurt the operations of oil companies.
In new guidelines which take effect in January, the bank now requires the companies to bring back all their export earnings to the zone.
Building sustainable infrastructure in Africa
The cost of big infrastructure projects in Africa remains high partly because the machinery and the expertise needed have to come from elsewhere.
The projects also have to conform to the continent’s climate goals.
We report on how one Moroccan engineering company views its role in helping Africa build sustainable infrastructure.