Egyptian-Gambian Relations
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Egyptian-Gambian Relations

The fields of relations between Egypt and The Gambia may not be broad in scope, but they are of a great value for both countries as well as for peace and stability, particularly in the West of Africa Region, where The Gambia occupies, albeit its small area, a strategic location.

A broader future in the relations between the two countries is looming on the horizon given the potentials and possible opportunities for cooperation in the fields of investment, industries, development, trade and tourism, particularly in light of the political will uttered by H.E. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and H.E. President Adama Barrow of The Gambia during the latter’s visit to Egypt in December 2018 to participate in the “Africa 2018 Forum” held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

In fact, Egypt and The Gambia are bound by several historical ties and mutual interests that can be broadened and upgraded in favor of the peoples in the two countries.

During his meeting with President Adama Barrow on December 10, 2018, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said: “Egypt hails the political developments in The Gambia and we are ready to support The Gambia in different continental and international forums within Egypt’s keenness to promote the pillars of security and stability and boost the path of development in The Gambia since President Adama Barrow has won the presidential elections. Egypt is keen on promoting cooperation with The Gambia in different fields, particularly towards developing infrastructure and providing technical support, capacity-building and training.”

During his meeting with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on December 10, 2018, President Adama Barrow said: “The Gambia is keen on promoting continued development of bilateral relations with Egypt whose leader and people are worthy of appreciation; that is why I was keen on participating in the “Africa 2018 Forum” that has become a landmark on the economic and investment arena in Africa.” There are lots of broad prospects for developing those relations and pushing forward the frameworks of cooperation between The Gambia and Egypt at different levels.”

The first communication between the peoples of Egypt and The Gambia dates back to the time of the Islamic empires in the West of Africa which The Gambia was part of, particularly the Empire of Mali, where the convoys of pilgrims from the West of Africa used to cross the Egyptian territories on their route to the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina.

Those convoys used to settle for some time in Egypt for trade, and they were influenced by the Egyptian clergymen and scholars and some Sufi groups.

In the modern time, Egypt, under late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, closely followed up the peaceful efforts by the people of The Gambia, led by Dawda Jawara, the national leader of The Gambia, for getting independence from Britain. Egypt was, therefore, one of the first countries that recognized The Gambia as an independent state in 1956, within Egypt’s leadership of the efforts of African liberation at that time.

Egypt, then, established a diplomatic representation with The Gambia, non-resident, as the Egyptian Ambassador in Senegal is a non-resident ambassador to The Gambia.

On March 3, 1976, Dawda Jawara, late President of The Gambia, paid a significant visit to Egypt and held talks with late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. President Sadat hailed the position of The Gambia in support of the Arab and Palestinian rights, particularly during the October 1973 War and the two countries voiced their interest in promoting bilateral relations, particularly in the fields of development and economy.

Then, the relations between the two countries have continued, in different forms, the most important of which is bilateral cooperation with a focus on technical aspects and capacity-building, particularly through the Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation with Africa (now the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development EAPD), affiliated to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the last few years, the EAPD has paid a special attention to cooperation with The Gambia. In addition, the relations between the two countries continue through their membership in such organizations as the African Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (founded in 1969 under the name of Organization of the Islamic Conference OLC); in fact, Egypt is a founding member of this Organization and The Gambia is a member as well.

There is also communication between the two countries through the ECOWAS, where The Gambia is a member and Egypt enjoys an observer status. Egypt also plays a role in coordinating stances among different regional blocs in Africa, including the ECOWAS.

In more than an occasion, Egypt has expressed keenness on stability and security in the sisterly nation of The Gambia. This happened in 1994 when some events led to a change of power in The Gambia; and then in March 2006 when the Gambian authorities foiled a coup attempt led by former chief of staff colonel Nudre Cham. In January 2015, Egypt issued a statement in which it reaffirmed keenness on peace and stability in The Gambia, after an attack on the presidential palace, before security forces foiled a coup attempt by the end of December 2014.

After the January Revolution in Egypt in 2011, The Gambia sided with the position of the African Union in supporting the choices of the Egyptian people, keeping an eye on the developments unfolding in the country at the time. After the June 30 Revolution in Egypt in 2013, in which the people of Egypt got rid of an authoritarian fascist group that ran the country under the name of religion, The Gambia quickly understood, like other member states of the African Union, the truth behind the events in Egypt.

The Gambia dispatched a high-level delegation to participate in the inauguration ceremony of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as a president in June 2014, after he won the presidential elections held in May 2014.

The delegation of The Gambia included “Mumdo Sabali” then Minister of Presidential Affairs, in addition to the then ministers of the interior and foreign affairs.

After the participation of the Gambian delegation in the inauguration ceremony, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi received Minister Mumdo Sabali in Cairo on June 17, 2014. According to the Egyptian Presidency, President El-Sisi was handed a written letter from then President of The Gambia Yehia Jammeh on promoting bilateral relations between the two countries. Minister Sabali conveyed greetings from the President of The Gambia to President El-Sisi, wishing Egypt progress and prosperity and looking forward to bolstering bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

On his part, President El-Sisi asked the visiting Gambian delegation to convey a message of gratitude to the president and the people of The Gambia, citing the importance of elevating bilateral relations between the two countries, particularly as Egypt took steps for much openness towards Africa, being one of the most important circles of Egypt’s foreign policy. Hence, it is a must to re-activate Egyptian-African relations at all levels, particularly in the economic and developmental spheres.

The Gambian Minister asserted, on his part, that his country cherished relations with Egypt, reiterating support for the will of the Egyptian people and welcoming Egypt’s return to resume activities at the African Union. He also reaffirmed that his country looked forward to Egypt’s comeback to assume its leading and indispensable role in the continent.

At the first AU Summit attended by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014, the President held a meeting with the then President of The Gambia, at the sidelines of the AU Summit. The two leaders discussed means of promoting bilateral relations in all fields and other African issues on the agenda of the Summit, in addition to the situation in West Africa.

Presidential elections were held in The Gambia on December 2, 2016; the Gambian Independent Electoral Commission declared Mr. Adama Barrow, the opposition candidate, a winner; and initially Yehia Jammeh, the former President, conceded defeat, but he backtracked, which led to the emergence of a severe political crisis that could have turned into an armed one.

Egypt closely followed up the situation and the efforts led by the ECOWAS and mediation efforts by The Gambia’s neighbors, particularly Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal, Liberia and Nigeria.

In addition, the AU Peace and Security Council issued a statement in session No. 647 on January 1, 2017 and refrained as of January 19, 2017 to recognize the outgoing president Yehia Jammeh as a legitimate president of The Gambia.

Egypt’s contributions towards settling this crisis came through its membership at the UN Security Council; Egypt was a non-permanent member at the Council in 2016 and 2017 and participated in the discussions on the crisis in The Gambia. Egypt also backed and voted in favor of the UN Security Council resolution No. 2337 issued on January 19, 2017. The resolution firmly denounced the rejection of outgoing president Yehia Jammeh to the official results made by the Gambian Independent Electoral Commission and the subsequent takeover by the Gambian military of the offices of the Independent Electoral Commission. The UN Security Council also denounced Jammeh’s attempt to obstruct the transfer of power to the president-elect Adama Barrow.

The UN Security Council resolution called on all parties to respect the will of the Gambian people and the results of elections that recognized Mr. Adama Barrow as a president-elect.

The resolution called on the former president to put into effect an orderly and peaceful transfer of power to the president-elect, in accordance with the constitution. This directly happened after the UN Security Council issued the above resolution; and Egypt was among the first countries that recognized the newly president-elect of The Gambia Mr. Adama Barrow.

  • On December 10, 2018, President Adama Barrow visited Egypt and held talks with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with the attendance of delegations from both countries; Egypt’s delegation included the minister of foreign affairs and the chief of national intelligence.
  • According to the Egyptian Presidency, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi applauded the distinguished bilateral relations binding Egypt with its sisterly nation of The Gambia. He also reiterated Egypt’s keenness on working towards promoting cooperation between the two countries in different fields, particularly infrastructure, capacity-building and training.
  • For his part, President Adama Barrow lauded the continued development seen in the bilateral relations between the two countries, expressing his country’s appreciation for Egypt’s leader and people. He also said he was keen on participating in the “Africa 2018 Forum” which became a landmark on the investment and economic arena in Africa. He also said there were lots of broad prospects for developing relations between Egypt and The Gambia and pushing forward the frameworks of cooperation between the two nations at different levels.
  • President El-Sisi and President Barrow also held talks on the latest situation in The Gambia; President El-Sisi hailed the political developments seen in The Gambia under President Adama Barrow. He expressed Egypt’s willingness to support The Gambia in different continental and international forums within Egypt’s keenness to promote the pillars of security and stability and boost the path of development in The Gambia.
  • The talks also touched on the regional developments, as Egypt and The Gambia agreed on continuing consultations on regional issues of interest to both nations, particularly the situation in the West of Africa Region, in light of Egypt’s presidency of the African Union.

Despite the good political relations binding Egypt and The Gambia, the volume of trade between the two countries is still by far limited and is confined only to medicine and other commodity goods. This happens despite the fact that there are lots of Egyptian products that the Gambian market is in need of, and, on the other hand, there are many Gambian products that Egypt may import instead of importing from other countries in the world.

In fact, the development of bilateral relations in economic fields, trade and investment hinges on governments and the private sector as well.

The governments of Egypt and The Gambia have signed several bilateral agreements on the export of Egyptian medicine into The Gambia. They also signed memos of understanding for cooperation in the agricultural field, administrative development and training.

In addition, there are regional blocs that gather the two countries such as the ECOWAS and the African Union with its different bodies as well as other forums of economic nature, particularly the “Africa Forum” held in Egypt annually which serves as a continental and international platform aimed at boosting investment, development and trade in the African countries. In December 2018, The Gambia participated in the “Africa 2018 Forum” with a high-level delegation led by President Adama Barrow.

Moreover, the private sector needs to embrace lots of investment opportunities in both countries, particularly in agricultural industrialization and development, and tourism among others. Despite the growing importance of tourism as a vital sector in both countries, cooperation whether at the level of individual tourism or investment in the sector is still limited.

Here are the most important economic developments between the two countries:

  • In March 2009, then Gambian Minister of Foreign Affairs “Omar Touray” visited Egypt and held talks with Egyptian officials on bilateral relations and regional developments of interest to both countries.
  • The Gambian Minister also held talks with Engineer Rasheed Mohamed Rasheed, then Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry. At the time, the Egyptian minister stressed that there were big opportunities for the access of Egyptian goods into the Gambian markets, such as pharmaceuticals, ceramics, agricultural produce, food industries and cars, among others, in addition to promoting technical and technological cooperation in the fields of industry, training and pharmaceuticals. The minister noted that the Egyptian companies could operate in the fields of infrastructure and pharmaceuticals’ manufacturing in The Gambia.
  • The two parties also discussed means of bolstering inter-trade and joint investments between the two countries, stressing the need for paying more visits, whether at the official level or between entrepreneurs in both countries. At the time, Egypt expressed willingness to receive a delegation from The Gambia from bodies concerned with trade and investment to discuss means of enhancing the volume of trade between the two countries.
  • In June 2012, the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce received a letter in which the Gambian Minister of Trade expressed desire to boost the volume of trade between the two countries via opening the door before the Egyptian investors to establish a number of factories in the field of ceramics, building materials, textiles and food industries.
  • The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce welcomed the proposal and asked its branches to meet the demands of brothers in The Gambia.
  • In collaboration with Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), “Made in Egypt” exhibition was held in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia from September 3-13, 2014. Mr. Bala Garba Jahumpa, then Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Gambia, opened the exhibition, stressing the need for the exchange of goods and expertise among the African nations. He also said the exhibition would attract Egyptian investors into The Gambia and promote tourism as well. The Minister added that there would be networking between the Egyptian and Gambian chambers of commerce and this would promote trade and investment in both countries.
  • On December 31, 2018, Egyptian investor and Gambia’s Honorary Consul Hatem Raslan expressed readiness to revive The Gambia’s cotton production and export. During an interview at his office in Serekunda, The Gambia’s largest town and commercial city, Raslan said: “We are ready to expand our activities into agriculture and cotton trade. We have secured land to grow cotton and we will register Gambian cotton in many international markets.” He also said the Egyptian companies would expand its activities in The Gambia and West Africa to include agriculture and food processing. He added that farmers in The Gambia would be provided with good seeds, fertilizers and pest control. The Gambia’s Honorary Consul also said President Adama Barrow “wants the cotton trade to come back” and that the President would support business community to invest in the country.
  • On January 20, 2019, Ousainou Darboe, then Vice-President of The Gambia opened a commercial exhibition for Egyptian industrial products, with the attendance of Speaker of the National Assembly of The Gambia Mariam Jack-Denton, who expressed her interest in enhancing the trade of volume and investment with Egypt. Also, Ibrahim Seila, then Minister of Information of The Gambia, attended the opening of the event and applauded the quality of the Egyptian products.
  • The Saad M. Raslan International Trading, a representative of the Egyptian private sector, participated in organizing the event. Attending the inauguration, Mr. Saad Raslan expressed interest in holding lots of Egyptian exhibitions in the Western African nations. He also spoke of the need to boost the volume of trade and enhance investments in Africa given the huge opportunities in the continent, particularly in the West of Africa Region. He affirmed that the Egyptian President supported much cooperation with African peoples in all fields.
  • A number of Egyptian businessmen, seeking investment opportunities and trade with The Gambia, also participated in the event.
  • For their part, the Gambian officials, who attended the opening of the exhibition, hailed economic and trade cooperation with Egypt. They also applauded the quality of Egyptian products, saying they were looking forward for doubling trade and promoting investment with Egypt. They also said the summit between President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and President Adama Barrow in Cairo December 2018, at the sidelines of the Africa 2018 Forum, gave a momentum for much cooperation between the two countries in all political and economic spheres, in favor of mutual interests of the peoples of The Gambia and Egypt.

Despite the good political relations binding Egypt and The Gambia, the volume of trade between the two countries is still by far limited and is confined only to medicine and other commodity goods. This happens despite the fact that there are lots of Egyptian products that the Gambian market is in need of, and, on the other hand, there are many Gambian products that Egypt may import instead of importing from other countries in the world.

In fact, the development of bilateral relations in economic fields, trade and investment hinges on governments and the private sector as well.

The governments of Egypt and The Gambia have signed several bilateral agreements on the export of Egyptian medicine into The Gambia. They also signed memos of understanding for cooperation in the agricultural field, administrative development and training.

In addition, there are regional blocs that gather the two countries such as the ECOWAS and the African Union with its different bodies as well as other forums of economic nature, particularly the “Africa Forum” held in Egypt annually which serves as a continental and international platform aimed at boosting investment, development and trade in the African countries. In December 2018, The Gambia participated in the “Africa 2018 Forum” with a high-level delegation led by President Adama Barrow.

Moreover, the private sector needs to embrace lots of investment opportunities in both countries, particularly in agricultural industrialization and development, and tourism among others. Despite the growing importance of tourism as a vital sector in both countries, cooperation whether at the level of individual tourism or investment in the sector is still limited.

Here are the most important economic developments between the two countries:

  • In March 2009, then Gambian Minister of Foreign Affairs “Omar Touray” visited Egypt and held talks with Egyptian officials on bilateral relations and regional developments of interest to both countries.
  • The Gambian Minister also held talks with Engineer Rasheed Mohamed Rasheed, then Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry. At the time, the Egyptian minister stressed that there were big opportunities for the access of Egyptian goods into the Gambian markets, such as pharmaceuticals, ceramics, agricultural produce, food industries and cars, among others, in addition to promoting technical and technological cooperation in the fields of industry, training and pharmaceuticals. The minister noted that the Egyptian companies could operate in the fields of infrastructure and pharmaceuticals’ manufacturing in The Gambia.
  • The two parties also discussed means of bolstering inter-trade and joint investments between the two countries, stressing the need for paying more visits, whether at the official level or between entrepreneurs in both countries. At the time, Egypt expressed willingness to receive a delegation from The Gambia from bodies concerned with trade and investment to discuss means of enhancing the volume of trade between the two countries.
  • In June 2012, the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce received a letter in which the Gambian Minister of Trade expressed desire to boost the volume of trade between the two countries via opening the door before the Egyptian investors to establish a number of factories in the field of ceramics, building materials, textiles and food industries.
  • The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce welcomed the proposal and asked its branches to meet the demands of brothers in The Gambia.
  • In collaboration with Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), “Made in Egypt” exhibition was held in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia from September 3-13, 2014. Mr. Bala Garba Jahumpa, then Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Gambia, opened the exhibition, stressing the need for the exchange of goods and expertise among the African nations. He also said the exhibition would attract Egyptian investors into The Gambia and promote tourism as well. The Minister added that there would be networking between the Egyptian and Gambian chambers of commerce and this would promote trade and investment in both countries.
  • On December 31, 2018, Egyptian investor and Gambia’s Honorary Consul Hatem Raslan expressed readiness to revive The Gambia’s cotton production and export. During an interview at his office in Serekunda, The Gambia’s largest town and commercial city, Raslan said: “We are ready to expand our activities into agriculture and cotton trade. We have secured land to grow cotton and we will register Gambian cotton in many international markets.” He also said the Egyptian companies would expand its activities in The Gambia and West Africa to include agriculture and food processing. He added that farmers in The Gambia would be provided with good seeds, fertilizers and pest control. The Gambia’s Honorary Consul also said President Adama Barrow “wants the cotton trade to come back” and that the President would support business community to invest in the country.
  • On January 20, 2019, Ousainou Darboe, then Vice-President of The Gambia opened a commercial exhibition for Egyptian industrial products, with the attendance of Speaker of the National Assembly of The Gambia Mariam Jack-Denton, who expressed her interest in enhancing the trade of volume and investment with Egypt. Also, Ibrahim Seila, then Minister of Information of The Gambia, attended the opening of the event and applauded the quality of the Egyptian products.
  • The Saad M. Raslan International Trading, a representative of the Egyptian private sector, participated in organizing the event. Attending the inauguration, Mr. Saad Raslan expressed interest in holding lots of Egyptian exhibitions in the Western African nations. He also spoke of the need to boost the volume of trade and enhance investments in Africa given the huge opportunities in the continent, particularly in the West of Africa Region. He affirmed that the Egyptian President supported much cooperation with African peoples in all fields.
  • A number of Egyptian businessmen, seeking investment opportunities and trade with The Gambia, also participated in the event.
  • For their part, the Gambian officials, who attended the opening of the exhibition, hailed economic and trade cooperation with Egypt. They also applauded the quality of Egyptian products, saying they were looking forward for doubling trade and promoting investment with Egypt. They also said the summit between President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and President Adama Barrow in Cairo December 2018, at the sidelines of the Africa 2018 Forum, gave a momentum for much cooperation between the two countries in all political and economic spheres, in favor of mutual interests of the peoples of The Gambia and Egypt.

The health sector serves as one of the most prominent fields of cooperation between Egypt and The Gambia, particularly as most of the pharmaceuticals circulated in the Gambian markets are made in Egypt. In addition, the two countries cooperate in the field of preventive medicine, the combat of epidemics and training of doctors. Moreover, Egyptian medical convoys regularly visit The Gambia and many Egyptian doctors are stationed at the Gambian hospitals.

In January 2015, a delegation led by the Gambian Health Minister visited Egypt and held talks with the then Egyptian Minister of Health on promoting relations between the two sides in the health sector, particularly medicine, training and the exchange of expertise between the two countries.

The Egyptian Health Minister applauded the visit, reiterating Egypt’s openness policy towards brothers and sisters in Africa. The two parties discussed increasing the number of Egyptian companies operating in the pharmaceutical industry in The Gambia.

For his part, the Gambian Health Minister said Egypt covered a large portion of pharmaceuticals’ supply in the Gambian market. He also called on Egypt to play a bigger role in providing training to the Gambian doctors, particularly in such specializations as gynecology and orthopedics, nursing and other affiliated medical professions. The Gambian Minister proposed to sign a memo of understanding in this respect.

The Gambian Health Minister lauded the Egyptian doctors operating in the Gambian hospitals thanks to the support of the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development, affiliated to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also welcomed more Egyptian doctors into The Gambia to help promote the health system in the country.

In fact, Egypt provided shipment of medical supplies to The Gambia, notably in November 2008, and the then President of The Gambia expressed gratitude and appreciation for the distinguished and amicable relations binding Egypt and The Gambia.

Following The Gambia’s independence, Egypt, under late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, signed an agreement with The Gambia for cultural and technical cooperation and the exchange of expertise, as President Nasser was keen on supporting newly independent African nations and providing them with Egyptian experts.          

At that time, Egypt also signed a similar agreement on cooperation in the fields of youth and the exchange of youth delegations from both countries.

At the present time, there is cooperation between Egypt and The Gambia in the fields of science, culture, information, youth and sports.

The most important aspects of this cooperation come as follows:

Cultural Cooperation

  • Al-Azhar pays a special attention to cooperation with The Gambia, particularly as most of the Gambian people are Muslims who highly value the status of Al-Azhar at both scientific and religious levels.
  • 12 scholars from Al-Azhar are stationed in The Gambia and they raise religious awareness among the people of the country and disseminate the moderate teachings of Islam.
  • Al-Azhar also provides annual scholarships for the Gambian students to study at different colleges and institutes in different specializations.
  • At the same time, a number of Gambian students study at Egyptian universities via joint cooperation and government scholarships.
  • In January 2013, the Council of Graduate Studies and Research of the Suez Canal University in Egypt endorsed a draft of framework agreement proposed by The Gambia to promote cooperation and bilateral relations in the scientific field with Egypt.

Vice- President of the University’s Graduate Studies and Research said the agreement aimed to cooperate in several domains, including science and technology via sharing information in favor of the two countries, training of researchers and establishing research centers and other educational centers.

The agreement also includes holding joint scientific conferences and boosting cooperation among different educational organizations and universities in both countries.

Media Cooperation

  • Egypt regularly hosts journalists from The Gambia for training courses organized by the African Journalists Union in collaboration with the Egyptian Supreme Council for Media Regulation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt. In the 52nd session of the training courses concluded on November 29, 2018, Ms. “Awa Sowe” a journalist from The Gambia delivered a speech on behalf of her colleagues and said they had benefited from the training, and applauded the courses as they handled issues of importance to Africa such as “African Journalism: Problems and Solutions”, “Pillars of Media Role towards Achieving Networking between African Countries”, and “African Culture and its Economic and Social Outcome.” She also added that African journalists were the ones to better understand the African issues and reflect on them and write accurately.
  • In August 2017, a number of Gambian media professionals, drawn from the press, radio and television, participated in similar courses in Cairo.

Sports Cooperation

  • In 2018, during a meeting between the President of Egyptian Football Federation and his counterpart in The Gambia, the two sides agreed on cooperation between the two federations for technical support in addition to hosting national teams from The Gambia for training camps in Egypt.
  • Egypt’s super star Mohamed Salah enjoys the love, appreciation and support of the Gambian people, as Coach of the Gambian football team “Sang Ndong” voted for Mo Salah who won the CAF African Player of the Year Award in 2017, regarding him as one of the fastest players in the world.