Am very worried about the recent signing of a bilateral agreement between The Gambia and our sister Republic of Senegal.
I don’t want to delude the Gambian public because am not an expert in negotiations. Am merely expressing my opinion. Not only because of our close proximity geographically, Gambia is surrounded at three corners by Senegal and having cordial relationship is mutual interest for both nations.
However, having customs union with the sister Republic of Senegal is not in our long-term interest. Customs union operates on the principles of having common tariffs and free movement of good and services.
Also, union members most agree to impose common external tariffs outside the non union member states. The Gambia has a small market and our population can’t support large market and such union will only work in Senegal’s favour considering the huge market they have.
The Gambia is a hub to many sub-regional countries and with low tariffs, we always attract them to use our sea port. This is why countries like Mali, Guinea Bissau etc are using Gambia as a hub. Senegal is geographically in proximity with those nations than Gambia, so why would they use The Gambia over Senegal with common tariffs.
This is our leverage which goes against Senegal’s interest. Senegal with help from France will edge The Gambia in a negotiating table and provide The Gambia with very bad customs union agreement to the detriment of our long-term economic interest.
Our road infrastructure, our technological ability and small market all run counter to The Gambia’s economic interest to enter into such an agreement with our sister Republic of Senegal. By removing custom checks, Gambia can be easily flooded with criminals and contraband products.
Currently, the security capacity of The Gambia can’t sustain such a threat. Infrastructurally, Senegal is far more advance thaan us and we cannot match Senegal in many keys areas. These are facts and Gambians can’t deny that.
I think the Government should not entertain any idea from Senegal for a the formation of a customs union as it will kill our market base and our sea port will be very dormant. Such a customs union will be very difficult to operate under the ECOWAS protocol where free movement of people, goods &and services exists.
We need a good relationship with the sister Republic of Senegal. However, our economic interest must be protected at all cost as a sovereign nation. The Gambia didn’t have expert at the present time, I believe, to enter into such negotiations and our civil servants are not well equipped to hammer best deals for our long term interest.