Describes how widely e-Commerce is used, the primary sectors that sell through e-commerce, and how much product/service in each sector is sold through e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar retail. Includes what a company needs to know to take advantage of e-commerce in the local market and, reputable, prominent B2B websites.
Last Published: 7/25/2017

Overview:

E-Commerce is almost non-existent in The Gambian market.  Internet access is increasing but is still low (15-19 percent).  Personal computer ownership among individuals is low.  However, the mobile phone penetration rate is very high (exceeding 100 percent in 2015), and offers promising opportunities for e-commerce.  The proportion of mobile phone users with data connection is approximately 14 percent, but has been growing rapidly at an average annual rate of 40 percent for the past 2 years.  The industries that currently make use of mobile technology are the banking and mobile phone sectors.  All the major commercial banks provide some e-banking services, and at least two of the mobile companies (Africell and Qcell) offer mobile money transfer services.  Besides these two sectors, the percentage of products or services sold online is almost zero, due to the lack of electronic check out options.

Several Gambians, based outside the country (principally in the US), have begun setting up online services that sell goods to Gambians.  However, this practice is new, with an unknown market size.  Furthermore, local knowledge about such services is very limited since the existing customer base seems to be other Gambians in the diaspora.

 

Current Market Trends:

No new government laws or regulations affecting online businesses were passed within the past year.  Goods are increasingly being advertised online, but final sale or sales transaction are done in person.  Reduced data charges would significantly boost the number of internet users and hence the number of individuals that can be reached via e-commerce.  Trends to encourage more cashless transactions, such as setting up POS systems at retail shops, might also incentivise more Gambians to opt for online shopping.
 

Domestic eCommerce (B2C):

Mobile money will likely continue to be the area where eCommerce activity is concentrated in The Gambia over the next few years.  Utility payments like energy puchases will also continue to integrate eCommerce infrastracture, given the ability of households to purchase pay-as-you-go energy tickets, locally referred to as the “Cash Power Ticket Syetem”, at ATM points and via mobile money platforms.  In 2017, conventional money transfer systems have also faciliated the purchase of Cash Power tickets overseas by Gambians in the diaspora for family members in The Gambia.  The local authorities have not made any major announcements with regard to ecommerce in The Gambia, but many expect e-governance initiatives to become available online under the new government.
 

Cross-Border eCommerce:

Gambians in the diaspora often sell goods to each other via eCommerce platforms, with relatives in The Gambia being the intended end user.  The United States remains the top country where goods are puchased online via popular platforms such as eBay and Amazon, but personal and up-and-coming websites are also being utilized.  Household items are the most popular items purchased online.  The principal challenge to cross-border eCommerce remains the low internet usage among Gambians.  This creates the need for agents who act as ‘middle men’ in the distrbution of goods and services.  Several Gambians in the diaspora also operate money transfer platforms and provide cross-border eCommerce services.
 

B2B eCommerce:

Business to business transactions are seldom done via eCommerce platforms.  The Gambian market is overwhelmingly characterized by cash transactions.  Tax evasion plays a major role in determining the preference of business parties for engaging in cash transactions over eCommerce. 
 

eCommerce Services:

Many Gambian businesses do not operate with a website and among those that do, even fewer have websites with ‘international standards’.  Among the youth demographic, a few have started developing mobile-based eCommerce platforms, but the majority of these only serve to advertise goods and services online, listing a point of contact with whom buyers can meet to conduct the transaction in person. 
 

eCommerce Intellectual Property Rights:

The Intellectual Property Rights environment is practically non-existent for eCommerce.  The Gambia’s IPR environment is generally weak and characterized by a lack of regulations.  The Gambia Police Force (GPF) is making efforts to establish and enforce regulations which was largely impossible until recently, due to the lack of expertise in the field. 
 

Popular eCommerce Sites:

Due to the infant stages of eCommerce culture in The Gambia, there are currently no known fully functioning eCommerce websites.  The majority of the websites that came into being, are third party websites. 
 

Online Payment:

Online payments are not very common in The Gambia as many ‘eCommerce’ platforms only advertise goods and services that depend on cash payments for final sales. 
 

Mobile ecommerce:

The mobile eCommerce ecosystem is in the early developmental stages.  In 2016, a mobile based eCommerce application was launched, but it was only in use for one year before becoming inactive.  High data costs in The Gambia are a major deterrent to greater eCommerce activity in the country.
 

Digital Marketing:

Digital/online marketing is often conducted using Facebook services.  It is not uncommon for companies to invest in short online campaigns to ensure wider reach for their services.  Instagram usage is also growing, as many people prefer it’s image-based direct advertising over text-based advertising.  Finally, Twitter use is increasing as the platform continues to gain popularlity, though not particularly for digital marketing use.

 

Major Buying Holidays:

The major buying holidays are during the two major Islamic celebrations (Eid Ul Fitr and Eid Ul Adha) and during Christmas (Christian).
 

Social Media:

There is a Social Media presence in The Gambia.  The majority of the activity is concentrated on Facebook, which hosts a fair amount of local advertising. There is a lesser presence on Twitter and other social media platforms such as  Instagram.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Gambia eCommerce Industry Trade Development and Promotion eCommerce