The 12th annual Innovation Africa Digital Summit (IADS) held recently in Gambia in western Africa highlighted the growth of ICT infrastructure and innovative services in the region.
Gambia has the highest teledensity in Africa, and despite its small size, punches above its weight when it comes to ambitions and targets. Industry and government agencies indicated at the conference that the country plans to become an ICT hub in the next 3-5 years.
According to a recent Media Monitor International report, Gambia displays a great enthusiasm towards entrepreneurship, as reflected in its investment in youth, competitions and awards for entrepreneurs. The Children and Community Initiative for Development (CAID) and Africa Youth Panel (AYP) have rolled out a range of capacity building initiatives for youth.
The Gambia Investment Export and Promotion Agency (GIEPA) conducts an annual Business Plan Competition for MSMEs. The ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment has also launched an innovation grant as part of the Social Development Fund, to commercialise local projects. An estimated two-thirds of Gambia’s economy is powered by MSMEs.
MNCs such as Intel and Microsoft have announced initiatives to invest in local startups in Africa. The companies are promoting local app development as well, considering that much of Africa is a ‘mobile first’ economy when it comes to ICTs. Gambian ICT entrepreneurs such as Muhammed Jah have been covered prominently in local and international media such as the BBC. Jah is the founder of QuantumNet, an ICT company with over 300 employees, and was recently estimated to worth around $156 million.
Momodou Drammeh, enterprise director at GIEPA, explains that Gambia is one of the safest countries in Africa, a melting pot of eight different ethnic groups, competitive in its labour force, stable in economy, and speaks English as an official language. Gambia’s membership to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) trading bloc ensures market access to over 300 million people.
International players are also active in Gambia’s entrepreneur movement. Africa Startup, based out of Norway, has launched two projects in Gambia: MyFarm (a one-hectare farm-based educational centre focusing on ‘seed to business’ agri-activities) and MyFarm Produce (to promote better packaging of agricultural produce).
Gambia is already a cultural hub with a unique blend of local and international music, with a range of fresh talent also using digital media for music discovery and promotion. Notable musicians include Jaliba Kuyateh, Foday Musa Suso, Tabou Diop, Jalimadi, Pa Bobo Jobarteh and The Kaira Band, to name just a few
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