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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Gambia woos foreign investors
Banjul airport
Gambia has upgraded its international airport
Gambia has tried to woo foreign investors after upgrading its infrastructure and clarifying a major renationalisation in the peanut industry.

The ground nut industry and oil mills were privatised by the previous government, and the private agents never really complied with the conditions and it was consequently repossessed by the government.

Musah Sillah
Gambian Trade and Industry Minister
The West African country's economy has been largely reliant on two main industries - agriculture and tourism.

But the government now wants to promote opportunities in other industries.

"In the past five or six years, we've tried to fix the roads and there's been substantial change in infrastructure such as the airport, seaport and in telecommunications," Musah Sillah, minister for trade, industry and employment told the BBC's World Business Report.

The government is even promoting the upgraded international airport near the capital Banjul as an alternative emergency landing site for the US space shuttle.

Privatisation fear

The government's seizure in 1998 of the privatised peanut company Alimenta caused investors some concerns.

It also hurt the economy by eliminating the largest purchaser of Gambian peanuts - also known as ground nuts - which forced prices and sales down of in its largest export industry.

"The ground nut is not just an agricultural issue but also a political one," said Mr Sillah.

"The ground nut industry and oil mills were privatised by the previous government, and the private agents never really complied with the conditions and it was consequently repossessed by the government."

Open market

The government's free market economic policies place no restrictions of foreign ownership that are not applied to domestic investors.

Expansion in the light manufacturing and assembly, energy and communications sectors are key goals.

"Historically Gambia has served as the supermarket of West Africa," Mr Sillah said.

"Most of the neighbouring countries would come to buy manufactured goods to take back home."

But the re-export trade, which has made up a major part of economic activity, has been in decline since 1999.

The fall has been blamed on government pre-shipment inspection policies, the instability of the Gambia's currency, and the political stabilisation of neighbouring Senegal.

A fall in tourism in recent years has also affected economic growth.

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Musa Sillah, Gambian trade and industry minister
"In the past five or six years, we've tried to fix the roads and there's been substantial change in infrastructure ."
See also:

03 May 02 | Africa
18 Oct 01 | Business
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