The Gambia may be behind regional leaders Senegal and Mauritania with their major energy developments coming online next year, but strategic reforms to its tourism sector led by the Director-General of The Gambia Tourism Board, Abubacarr Camara, are set to kickstart new developments. In an interview this week, Camara flagged a government eager to drive sustainable socioeconomic development and growth through both combined foreign investment and local incentives.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Gambia received 100,000 visitors per year, representing the second highest sector earner of foreign revenue for the nation’s $1.9 billion GDP. The majority of these tourists came from the UK, with others arriving from across Europe including Germany, Norway and Sweden. With COVID-19 imposed movement restrictions, the sector was understandably hard-hit, and many Gambians were consequently left jobless. However, the government’s newly announced post-pandemic approach stands not only to get the sector back on track but to see its growth continue to accelerate.

The strategy is twofold: to promote domestic tourism while simultaneously improving The Gambia’s attractiveness to international visitors. In a project backed by the Spanish Red Cross with EU funding, the government intends to establish a credit union for tourism and hospitality employees and has started construction on a road network feeding into a freshly inaugurated Tourist Development Area – an attractive strip of coastline 800 meters wide and earmarked as a hub for future tourist development operations.

Alongside these nine arterial roads, new streetlights are being added and tree planting activities are being undertaken to further beautify the area. A craft market at Palma Rima is in the construction phase and the Tourism Security Unit has been brought in as a partner in legislative enforcement against illegal activities and for added safety and security for all.

So, what does this mean for The Gambia’s energy sector? Initially, a thriving, resilient economy building on from 5.2% real GDP growth last year, and subsequently, improved transport infrastructure facilitating more agile supply for infrastructure development and fuel distribution; enhanced European ties for project development finance; security for interested international oil companies; and better relations with the nations from where these megafirms originate, namely, Norway’s Petronor, Britain’s bp, Ireland’s Tullow Oil, and even Australia’s FAR and America’s Kosmos Energy, all in their early stages of works in the country.

Foreign investment and expertise from these firms feed directly back into The Gambia’s people and communities with the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) taking a 10% stake in production and exploration activities, but also pioneering a regionally leading system of local content accountability targets in Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production Licenses, refreshed this year.

It is a truly ‘glocal’ model combining the best of global resources from multinationals with local knowledge, staff and SMEs for holistic development across the country’s integrated value chains. Now, with the tourism sector positively affirming The Gambian government’s confidence in such models, the energy industry can surely expect to see increased emphasis on this across the nation’s eight active licenses and from more to come.

The MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power conference hosted by Senegal this September in the world-renowned CICAD venue will serve as west Africa’s leading platform for dialogues on energy futures, security, local content and the promotion of foreign investment with finance delegations flocking to the event from across Africa, Europe, Asia, America, Australia and the Middle East.

Energy Capital & Power is proud to partner with the GNPC to promote and catalyze further developments within The Gambia’s energy sector on this stage, welcoming Yaya Barrow, GNPC’s Managing Director as a speaker to address 1,000 senior delegates and key stakeholders from bp, Kosmos, FAR and Petronor, collaboratively discussing west Africa’s energy future through domestic, regional and international policy, investment and reform.