By Musa Krubally
Gambia – No Problem? Where do I even begin?
Gambia isn’t without problems. In fact, there are plenty!
The issues kick in right from the airport, the nation’s first impression hub. Queue etiquette is nowhere to be found. Faces familiar to security get VIP treatment, creating new queues to favour friends while others watch in confusion.
And then there is the inconvenient security fee issue. Who takes responsibility for the frustrating $20 cash fee upon entering and leaving the country? I recall this question posed to the vice president and foreign minister during their meeting with the Gambian diaspora in the UK last year. This fee, while not hefty for a solo traveller, picture the struggle for a family. Why insist on cash? People are moving away from carrying cash for safety reasons, therefore, if the fee is really for safety/airport security purposes, I will suggest an alternative payment method is offered. To make it worse, if you pay with a £20 note, good luck getting your change!
I recently visited home and during the plane journey, I observed that 90% of the people on my flight were Gambians. Great for diaspora return, but a red flag for declining international tourists especially in a tourism season. A couple of weeks ago I overheard from a conversation that the country lacks tourists. ‘Why’, you may think? There may be numerous contributing factors, but I’ll highlight two probable reasons:
1. The $20 landing and exit fees.
2. Road conditions/traffic (I assume).
If we want to know how to fix these, look no further. Start by folding the $20 into airline charges; they already charge hefty fares. Negotiate, they can afford it. And then, fix the roads!
Ongoing roadworks for the last 3 to 4 years make Senegambia a chaos zone. The traffic congestion coupled with the unhealthy dust is a definite tourist deterrent. If this carries on, I can confidently write that non-Gambians won’t be back next year.
Please, sort out the non-existent traffic rules too. Approximately 2% of motorists follow traffic rules. Not sure whether drivers don’t know the rules or just completely ignore them. This makes me wonder how most of the drivers on these roads got their driving licenses.
This brings me to the perilous roundabouts, or ‘turntables,’ as they are referred to in the country. Many drivers have no clue about rules or safety when approaching roundabouts. It is utter chaos at these roundabouts.
Honestly, the traffic chaos needs urgent attention. NO RULES are being followed at all!”