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Country Spotlight – The Gambia

In the Country Spotlight segment, we highlight an African nation every week, with interesting facts and figures

This week it’s the turn of….The Gambia!

  • The country’s official name is the Islamic Republic of The Gambia
  • The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa.
  • It is situated on either side of the Gambia River, which flows through the centre of the Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean


  • The name “Gambia” is derived from the Mandinka term Kambra/Kambaa, meaning Gambia river.
  • It is one of only two countries in the world whose self-standing short name begins with the word “The” (the other is The Bahamas)
  • The colours of the flag carry cultural, political, and regional meanings. The blue alludes to the Gambia River, which is the nation’s key feature and is where the country derives its name from. The red evokes the sun, as well as the savanna, while the thin white stripes represents “unity and peace”. The green epitomizes the forest and the agricultural goods that the Gambian people are heavily dependent on, both for exports and their personal use.


  • The coat of arms depicts two lions holding an axe and hoe, supporting a shield that depicts another pair of hoe and axe, crossed. On top of the shield is a helmet and an oil palm as a crest. At the bottom is the national motto: Progress – Peace – Prosperity. The two lions represent the colonial history of The Gambia as part of the British Empire. The crossed axe and hoe represent the importance of agriculture to The Gambia. They are also considered to represent the two major ethnic groups of The Gambia: the Mandinka and the Fulani. The crest, a palm tree, is also a vital national tree\


  • English is the official language of the Gambia. Other languages are Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Serer, Krio, jola and other indigenous vernaculars
  • Without natural barriers, the Gambia has become home to most of the ethnic groups that are present throughout western Africa, with each preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka ethnicity is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, Serahule, Serers, Karoninka, Manjago and the Bianunkas.
  • One of the most prominent historic tourist sites is the Stone Circles of Senegambia. The site consists of four large groups of stone circles that represent an extraordinary concentration of over 1,000 monuments in a band 100 km wide along some 350 km of the River Gambia. Experts have found materials at the sites that suggest dates between 3rd century BC and 16th century AD. Together the stone circles of laterite pillars and their associated burial mounds present a vast sacred landscape created over more than 1,500 years. It reflects a prosperous, highly organized and lasting society.

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  • As in neighboring Senegal, the national and most popular sport in Gambia is wrestling.

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  • Association football and basketball are also popular. The national football team, nicknamed The Scorpions, has never qualified for either the FIFA World Cup or the Africa Cup of Nations finals at senior levels.


  • Common ingredients in Gambian cuisine include fish, rice, peanuts, tomato, black eyed peas, lemon, cassava, cabbage, salt, pepper, onion, chili, and various herbs. Oysters are also a popular food from the River Gambia,
  • Domoda is a type of groundnut stew found in The Gambia. Domoda is prepared using ground peanuts, or peanut butter, meat, onion, tomato, garlic seasonal vegetables and spices. It has been described as one of the national dishes of The Gambia


  • Jollof rice, known as ‘Benachin’ in the Wolof language, it is made with rice, onion, tomato and red pepper and seasoned with ingredients such as nutmeg, ginger root, Scotch bonnet (pepper), cumin and chili peppers. It can include meat, fish and vegetables


  • The music of the Gambia is closely linked musically with that of its neighbor, Senegal. Among its prominent musicians is Foday Musa Suso.


  • Mbalax is a widely known popular dance music of the Gambia and neighbouring Senegal. It fuses popular Western music and dance, with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of the Wolof and Serer people.


  • Sona Jobarteh is the first female professional kora player to come from a Griot family, as well as a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer from the Gambia


That’s it for this edition of Country Spotlight featuring The Gambia!

Join us again next week for our next spotlight

 See you then!

About Arnold Asafu-Adjaye

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