COVID-19: Businesses at Standstill in Brikama Market
The business environment is the hardest hit sector by coronavirus pandemic across the world including The Gambia where people who live from hand-to-mouth basis are suffering to survive.
The Gambia has introduced a state of public emergency on several occasions since March when the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed. Following the elapse of the previous 21 days which restricted the full operation of the market amongst others, the Gambian president Adama Barrow has extended the SoPE to another 21 days.
Ousman Dembajang, 55, is a father of thirteen children. He sells second-hand clothes in the Brikama market. Like many businesses, he’s struggling to meet the needs of his family because the sales have dropped significantly.
“My family is suffering. I am not having enough here to feed them. We are not allowed to come in the morning and the business is going down,” he tells The Chronicle.
“How do you expect me to feed my 13 children and two wives at home by coming here only in the afternoon and going home with only a small amount of money?” He rhetorically asked in a sad tone.
As per the new restrictions, the businesses that are dealing with foodstuffs are allowed to operate between 5 am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday while non-food sellers will sell from 3pm to 7pm. And low sales low income for business owners like Ousman.
“If I used to have D100 before, I am now having only D10 daily”, he tells the Chronicle. He lamented the financial burden and pain he is going through during this period due to the lack of flow of businesses caused by the restrictions accompanying the State of Public Emergency.
His only means of survival including to fend for his family is the sale of the used clothes in the market.
“This is the source of my livelihood and I get it from this market but it’s not working. I am running out of cash and I can’t even buy another consignment of second-hand clothes to sell because there is no money. The small amount I would get here daily is what I use to give fish-money to my wives. Coming here only in the afternoon is giving us more pain”, he said.
He’s fearful of falling into bankruptcy that will see his business no longer exist. ” We are all going to die. This is what is going to happen if I close my small business. What my family is going through is more painful than coronavirus”.
A 48-year-old woman, Fatou Bojang selling eggplants and onion at Brikama market said she is struggling in her business.
“We are here struggling to sell”, she said while pointing to her items. Like Ousman, her family is also depending on her daily sale proceeds. She complained of not having anything due to the imposed restrictions.
“All these eggplants are becoming perished. When they are not finished, they become useless because we can’t sell them the following day which means we will incur losses. We cannot sell all these before 2pm. …we are here just to have something to help ourselves and not for any profit because that is not happening.”
Sheriff Bojang is a barber at the same who is also in financial distress due to lack of active business.
Muhammed Lamin Drammeh is a freelance journalist working with The Chronicle. He’s studying political science and English language at the University of The Gambia.