Protracted border closure strangulating small businesses

By Mustapha Jallow

The protracted closure of Gambia-Senegal border since 16 February 2016 continues to negatively impact on operations of many Trucks with merchandise queuingsmall and medium size businesses as revealed by numerous stranded vehicles loaded with perishable goods destined for the respective countries.

Visiting the official Amdalai-Karang border crossing on Saturday, 7 May 2016, this reporter saw a long queue of vehicles at both sides loaded with goods including perishable food products such as butter which needs refrigeration and could not withstand the high temperature under the scorching sun.

Ali Mbye, a Senegalese businessman, who bought can drinks to transport to Senegal, explained how he was stuck at border for a long time and eventually forced to sell off his goods to some of the shopkeepers around the area.

He revealed that he has been doing this type of business of buying goods from the Gambia and selling them in Senegal for more than six years now and has never encountered such a protracted closure.

“When I arrived at the border I was denied entry with my goods into Senegal by the Senegalese border officials,” he said.

Mr. Mbye said this situation at the border is hurting traders from both countries who rely on this cross border trade.

He called on the two governments to sit down and resolve this issue as a matter of urgency to save their businesses from collapse.

Alpha Barry, a Gambian businessman, said when he and his Senegalese truck driver arrived at Karang on the Senegalese side of the border they were not allowed to unload his goods to another vehicle on the Gambian side.

“I brought butter in containers from Senegal but was not allowed to transfer it to another vehicle as I expected and this has resulted in some of it melting because of the heat which causes a great financial loss to me,” he revealed.

Mr.  Jim Kebbeh, a Senegalese truck driver, said he loaded goods from Dakar to bring to the Gambia for more than a month ago but is still stuck at the border.

“I can tell you that we have no money left with us now and are suffering a lot here as the advance payment that was given to me has now been exhausted on our upkeep while still waiting for clearance to enter the Gambia to avail,” he disclosed.

A similar negative impact is also affecting small businesses of petty traders or women stall owners who sell fruits and nuts on wayside and are also getting fewer customers now as the movement of travellers has drastically reduced due to the prolonged border closure.

Salimatou, fruits and cashew nut seller, said the impasse is hitting her very hard as she does much sales to enable her to suatain the livelihood and education of her kids.

“We sit here the whole day making very little sales as not many people are now crossing from both sides of the border,” she revealed.

A senior security personnel stationed at Amdalai, who prefers anonymity, said they have received directives that the Gambian side should not be closed, adding that all vehicles are allowed to freely enter and leave the Gambia.

Another senior custom officer of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) also confirmed that the charges that were introduced for the Senegalese registered truck has since been withdrawn.

When a Senegalese custom officer was approached to shed light on the issue, he referred this reporter to senior officials who could not be reached at the time.