“Gambia is a tourism economy; everything that is consumed in the sector is imported. We want to interest Nigerian investors to come into the sector so that our import budget can be reduced,” stated Yaya Kassama, chief executive officer of The Gambia Investment Promotion and Free Zones Agency (GIPFZA), after the conclusion of a one-week investment visit to Nigeria.
Most of what is consumed in Gambia’s tourism industry, including orange juice, egg, milk, towel, linen and tissue, are presently imported from Europe. But the agency, which functions include fostering local and foreign direct investment, and promoting the export of local and value added products from the Gambia, wants this to stop.
“We want to attract industries from Nigeria to fill these gaps, instead of us depending on total import. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria helped identify some companies, and we had successful meetings with 15 of these in the last five days.
The general feedback is very positive. I think three quarters of those 15 companies have given us their commitment of visiting the Gambia within the next four to six months,” added Musa Bah, manager, investment promotion and marketing, who accompanied Kassama on the trip.
Mr. Kassama explained further in an interview that the visit was to build on the cordial relationship between the country and Nigerian business men and women. He disclosed that there are 10 Nigerian banks including Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank, Skye Bank, and others operating in the Gambia.
Business relations between both countries, Kassama added, have further been boosted by Air Nigeria and Arik, which now operate regular flights to Gambia. “Lack of regular flights between Nigeria and Gambia used to be a major constraint in dealing with Nigerian investors. They tell us we love Gambia, but there are flight problems. However, that has been taken care of with the airlines, which fly direct or sometimes connect from Freetown,” Kassama stated.
The chief executive also disclosed that GIPFZA has a number of incentives for Nigerian investors. Some of these include the Special Investment Incentives, which has a five-year-duration and which enables investors outside the Free Zones to access attractive tax holidays.
There is the Export Processing Free Zones Incentives, which enables investors to operate within the Free Zones, with ideal infrastructure and special tax incentives, and a five-year exemption from customs duties on approved capital equipment, machinery, appliances, and other materials used by the project.
He explained that the Gambian government is reviewing its two existing acts on foreign investments into a single document to “make it more competitive. The government is also about to approve an incentive that will make companies eligible for exemption from corporate tax. Before, you pay corporate tax of 33 percent, but that that is soon to be changed to zero corporate tax for investment.
“We want to tell the Nigerian investor that the government and people of Gambia are ready to do business with Nigerian business community. We have over the years developed a new set of investment laws; the old investment law has been amended after 10 years, it is being made more investment friendly,” he reiterated.
No to nationalisation
Kassama also assured that unlike what happened in Ghana when some Nigerian shops were shut down and some investors frustrated out, nothing like that will happen in Gambia. “We have a constitutional guarantee that you cannot appropriate somebody’s business, whether it is local or foreign, without informing him.
“If government thinks your business or the service you are providing is better placed in the hands of the government, it doesn’t matter if you are a Nigerian or someone else, you will be compensated at the current market value of your company. We also guarantee you to send out your profits and dividends; there are no restrictions. You can also move your money in and out of the banking system. There are no exchange controls, our money is fully convertible,” Kassama stated.
However, any company that wants to bring more than three Nigerian management staff will have to pay a fee. “The law does not put a limit to the number of people you can bring in as an investor. There is no control on the number of expatriates you can bring in. The only one criteria that is linked to the number of people you can bring in as an ECOWAS citizen, is that there is a fee of 10,000 (about N29, 600) Dalasi you pay to bring in a staff per year.
“We want to encourage the employment of Gambians, we want you to train Gambians but the profit and everything else is yours. I think that’s a reasonable bargain,” he said.
Gambian agency woos Nigerian investors