Abdoulie G. Dibba
Gambian and Senegalese traders and drivers at the Kerr Ali/Kerr Ayip are lamenting the continuous closure of the border for almost two months as it is impacting negatively on their earnings.
The closure of the border to all vehicular traffic was as a result of protest by the Senegalese road transport unions against a new tariff of FCFA 400,000 (over D26,000) introduced by Gambian customs on all Senegal registered trucks.
Visiting the said border on Thursday, 21 April 2016, to observe the situation and the impact of this closure on traders and drivers, this reporter met with one Alieu Diop, a Senegalese trader, who normally travels to Banjul to buy goods and take to Senegal.
According to him, he has spent almost 20 years in this cross border trade between the Gambia and Senegal but that this particular border closure has far reaching negative impact than the previous ones. He said the ones before used to last for few weeks but that this one has gone for more than two months now without any solution in sight.
“This is not good for Senegal and the Gambia because the economies of these two countries relied heavily on the informal sector which the border closure is killing,” disclosed Mr Diop.
The Senegalese trader revealed that their businesses are not doing well now because of the increases in the cost of transportation. He explained when they are buying goods from the Gambia they have to hire a vehicle to bring them up to the border from where they are compelled to hire another one to carry their goods into Senegal in order to reach their destination.
“This added cost undermines our profit margins,” he revealed.
Talking to Modou Njie, a driver at Kerr Ali on the Gambian side, he also confirmed that their earnings have drastically reduced since the closure of the border.
Mr Njie explained that when a commercial van or ‘gele-gele’ vehicle comes with a full trip from Senegal, it discharges its passengers at the border and from there the driver arranges with contacts in the Gambia to transport them across to the other side of the Gambia-Senegal border at Senoba.
“It is this type of arrangement that is depriving us of passengers to transport to the ferry crossing and which forces us to sit down the whole day without a single trip to make,” said Mr Njie.
Mr. Njie said he is calling on both the Gambian and Senegalese authorities to engage in a dialogue with a view to resolving the border crisis as a matter of urgency to save their citizens from further economic hardship.
Other traders and drivers also reiterated the same concerns and made a similar appeal for the governments to address the issue once and for all.