Following the closure of the Gambia-Senegal borders, including those at Kerr Ali/Kerr Ayip and Soma/Senoba on the busy Trans-Gambia route, for all categories of vehicles for almost two months now, economic activity on both banks of the river Gambia, called Bamba Tenda –Yeli Tenda, is rapidly declining with many shops closed down and ferry traffic reduced.
Visiting the ferry crossing on Monday 4 April, 2016, this reporter observed the absence of the usual long queue of vehicles mostly from Senegal which has been a major source of revenue generation for the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA).
This crossing point used to be very busy with vehicular traffic and teeming with people and goods that are in transit to Senegal or economic operators selling goods or providing services to the travellers or commuters. Most of these trucks, buses and different categories of vehicles carrying goods and people are mainly Senegal bound. This was the time when all the three ferries, namely ‘Soma’, ‘Farafeeni’ and ‘Baddibu’, were busy plying the two banks on a daily basis.
Hence, the closing of the borders to vehicles has negatively impacted not only on the ferry revenues but also some medium and small economic operators that have been thriving in this busy trade route.
Because of the reduced vehicular traffic which is affecting the operation of the ferries that are now making fewer trips, some passengers are instead resorting to the canoes in order to cross.
Talking to Omar Njie, one of the few traders who are still operating shops in the area, he confirmed the rapid decline in their daily sales as they have few customers.
“Our customers are mainly the Senegalese drivers and travelers, but since the closure of the border, they are no longer using the crossing point which has resulted in the significant drop in our daily sales,” said Mr. Njie.
The shopkeeper also revealed that the few drivers who are crossing do not stay long enough to be able to patronise or buy from them.
Muhammadou Jagne, a commuter who emerged from a canoe, said he cannot wait to travel on board the ferry . “I have waited for over an hour at Yeli Tenda but the ferry was not coming as the officials say they cannot move as they are waiting for more passengers and vehicles before crossing,” he said.
Other vendors and commuters who spoke to this reporter have also confirmed the negative impact that the continuous closure of the border is having on them and have called on the two Governments to discuss and resolve the border issue amicably as a matter of urgency.