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Gambia’s Startup Boom

Starting a new business in The Gambia can be challenging, exhausting and pretty messy. However, startups are booming, creating jobs and positively impacting on the national economy.

We meet some of the Gambia’s young up-and-coming entrepreneurs to discuss their startups.

Abdoulie Fadera is quickly becoming a success story after setting up a startup business producing body soap, body butter cream and lip balm from local products.

In 2015, he attended a business skills training in Nema Kunku where he met young business owners and business enthusiasts. Through his network, he secured apprenticeship with My Firm African StartUp, a platform that promotes entrepreneurship. As part of his apprenticeship he’d go to work every Wednesday for training on soap making, and on the other days, he’d pick soap and other products from the office to sell them.

Abdoulie Fadera the soap maker

Abdoulie used the profit he made from the sales to venture into his own business. The process, including registering the business as a single window at the Brikama Area Council, was tedious and long for him. But he was determined, and after completing the process, he set up his business (from his house) and employed a marketing officer.

“Starting up a business in the Gambia is not easy because you face so many challenges. As a young person, people will try to discourage you, but with passion and dedication you succeed in whatever you are doing. I face marketing challenges as market space is a problem for me and many Gambians do not value Gambian made products. They rather go for imported products,” he says.

Abdoulie uses ingredients such as honey to make soap and coconut oil and olive oil for lip balm. Though his business in growing, he struggles to lure young people into him.

Abdoulie Fadera at work

“I often approach young people to give them opportunities, to work with them but they always turn down my offer. They do not understand that not everyone can sit in an office to work.”

Abdoulie hires his siblings and other family members as sales staff to distribute his products to clients.

Haddijatou Jah, the founder of Jain’s Creation specializes in African outfits for kids, a business she started in 2018.

She registered the business as a single window with the Ministry of Justice, with an amount of five hundred dalasis which to her was reasonable for a starter. She wasn’t certified by any institution or college she was trained at a local tailoring shop as an apprentice till she got qualified and then decided to start up her own business.

Haddijatou started with just D2000 and a single sewing machine. Today the business is growing and thanks to the growth, she’s able to hire tailors and increase her production and income.

Her products were displayed at the 2018 National Trade Fair organized by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Haddija’s long term plan is to open a skills training center to train young people about sewing and boost their changes of employment.

One of Haddijatou Jah’s products

Another Startup making its mark is AJ Shoes Collection, founded by Alhaji Jammeh. A Grade 12 graduate, he registered the business with the Gambia Youth Chamber of Commerce in December last year to manufacture shoes. He was trained in Senegal where he spent 7 years after school as an apprentice to a friend who had his own shoe shop in Dakar.

Alhaji returned to The Gambia with D10,000  which he used to start AJ Shoes Collection. The amount wasn’t enough to get enable him to start with a bang, but he managed with it. Today’s his brand is growing, though slowly.

Alhaji Jammeh the shoe maker
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