Hundreds of exhibitors from The Gambia and other parts of the sub-region are gathering at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, West of Banjul for the 12th edition of the annual Gambia International Trade Fair.
Organized by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), the trade fair provides a platform for sharing of trade and services, investment and market information. This edition comes a year after the end of the regime of Yahya Jammeh, accused of waging war against local businesses and monopolizing them.
But with the new political dispensation, local traders and business owners at the trade fair are noticing change of fortunes.
Bori Darboe, the Commercial Sales Director of the Banjul Breweries Company Limited tells Kerr Fatou “if you go to the back of our stalls we sold about 100 crates of drink” just on the first few days of the event.
Banjul Breweries has been exhibiting its products at the trade fair since it started.
For Marie Chorr, a food vendor, the trade fair “creates awareness for people on my sales and what I do. And even after the trade fair, people follow me to my usual spot to buy.”
She was one of the first vendors to take part in the trade fair when it started. Though she complains about difficulty in getting water at the venue for cooking, she expresses delight in business boom this year.
Real estate business has been booming in The Gambia especially in recent years and for the estate agents, this trade fair is a great opportunity to showcase their services. Ebrima Mboge, the Admin Director of Taranga Real Estate, one of the fast growing local companies, says the trade fair gives the company a platform to meet potential clients and raise its profile as a local dealer. “We are expecting more sales by the end of the event”
He however complains that the stalls given to the company to exhibit its work are small, suggesting that a bigger space could have meant more sales.
Consumers are complaining about the cost of items on sale. Kaddy Cham argues that this year’s prices are higher than those of last year, and appeals to vendors to consider selling at discount rates to reflect on the financial abilities of the customers.
Mam Sira Manga, another customer says she bought a watch for D600.00 last year and the same watch is going for D800.00 this year.
But despite these complaints, the organizers are excited that the trade fair, in terms of numbers of participants and space for the venue are bigger this year. Muhammed Sanj, GCCI’s Business Development Officer says “we have occupied space that we didn’t occupy last year, and with new structures and new businesses, so the trade fair is growing.”
“A lot of international businesses coming into the trade fair, which means there is an opportunity for businesses in Gambia and…partnership,” he says.
He added business men and women coming from up country have the opportunity to come in the greater Banjul to showcase their products which will have an impact in their lives.
This year stalls have increased to about 400 from 200 to 300 the previous years.
The Gambia International Trade Fair is more than just shopping and exhibition of businesses and services. It also incorporates entertainment (live concerts), family outing and networking opportunities.
The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the umbrella body for all businesses in the country. Its aim is to use the trade fair as the biggest event that creates jobs for the locals, brings revenue and income and diversifies the economy. This year event will end on Sunday April 15.
By Mammy Saidykhan