Some sections of Gambia’s business community had a different feeling as far as India’s relations with Banjul is concerned. One of them is Ebrima Madikay Faal, AKA Sheikh Faal. He is the owner of the Sebena Trading Enterprise. Faal used to operate a business in Raleigh, North Carolina, in the United States before his home return. He also owns businesses in neighboring Senegal. He returned home to invest. Faal says that Indian businesses have outperform Gambian businesses in the country. He blames the government for what he calls the lack of fair business opportunity and treatment. He says Gambian businesses are often sidelined by the government.
“Gambia being such a small market; the market is easily saturated and these Indians, they have gone to the point where they are almost forming a mafia group, where they can gang up against anybody that they want to pullout of the market. They have controlled sectors of the business community and they are boasting about it on Facebook,” Faal remarked in an interview with this medium.
Faal went on to explain the sectors of businesses controlled by the Indians.
“If you come to the business of building materials, it is controlled by Indians; if you come to the business of mini markets; supermarkets; they are also in full control; when it comes to the cashew business also; instead of importing or buying from Gambians; they come in and settle here and controlling their own market. It is difficult,” he added.
Faal also says lack of access to bank loans has frustrated Gambian businesses. He called on the Gambian government to ensure that banks provide Gambians flexible and reasonable loan agreements.
“Our financial sectors are what is holding us back. We can’t compete with them. They get financing from the Exim banks that are very low interest rates and flexibility to give a chance and buildup and grow their businesses, but ours is different,” he says, adding that Gambian businesses are often denied access to loan facilities by the local banks.
According to Faal, corruption is another problem facing Gambia’s business sector. He says foreign business owners are often taxed less than their Gambian colleagues.
“The corrupt practices also holding us back. I have voiced it out a lot. They will give the Indians the sweetheart deals (low or no taxes) and give the Gambians the cutthroat deals; what they want to do is to prove to Gambians that they are doing their job; being tough on us; making it difficult for us, but with the Indians they do some very dubious stuff,” he lamented.
Faal says some Indian business owners have started exporting labor into The Gambia. He says the Indians hire their own people to run their businesses. He also says they do not pay decent salaries to local Gambian workers.
Faal was also engaged in gas business while residing in the United States. He once complained to the US authorities when the Excise tax for cigarette was increased by the government.
Gambia’s Trade Ministry says the government is committed to establishing the appropriate setting for private sector development. It also promises to facilitate trade, investment and employment in the country.