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You are in:  Nations > Africa > Gambia
The Gambia*The Gambia flag
Basic facts
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The country 
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Capital: Banjul
Area: 11,295 sq km; 4,361 sq miles
Population: 1,381,496 (2000 Estimate)
Urbanisation: Urban 31 per cent (1998 Estimate); Rural 69 per cent (1998 Estimate)
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Economy

Exports: Peanuts and peanut products, fish, cotton lint, palm kernels

Industry: Peanut processing, tourism, beverages, agricultural machinery assembly, woodworking, metalworking, clothing

Agriculture: Imports one-third of food requirements; peanuts, millet, sorghum, rice, maize, cassava, palm kernels; livestock: cattle, sheep, goats

Currency: 1 dalasi (D), consisting of 100 bututs

Natural resources: Fish

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The people

Ethnic: Mandinka 42 per cent, Fulani 18 per cent, Wolof 16 per cent, Jola 10 per cent, Serahuli 9 per cent, Other 5 per cent

Language: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fulfulde, French, other indigenous vernaculars. Although English is the official language, most Gambians speak Mandinka or Wolof. Other local languages include Fula, Creole, Jola, Serere and Serrehule. None of these languages is written, although members of the religious elite sometimes use Arabic characters to write in Wolof or Mandinka. Official business and school instruction are conducted in English. Most Gambians who have attended school speak English and Gambians with contacts in Senegal also speak French. The study of French is encouraged in the secondary school curriculum.

Religion: Muslim 90 per cent, Christian 9 per cent, Indigenous beliefs 1 per cent. About 85 per cent of Gambians are Muslim, 13 per cent are Christian and the remaining 2 per cent have animist beliefs. Religious differences are not emphasized and religious freedom is guaranteed. Most Christians live in Banjul, Bakau and Serrekunda. Muslims pray five times daily, give alms to the poor and try to make a pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah), Saudi Arabia, at least once in their lifetime. Muslims also fast each year during the month of Ramadan (Werikorr in Wolof), going without food or drink from sunrise to sunset each day.

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The history

Independence: 18 February 1965 (from the United Kingdom).

Government: The army seized power in 1994 and Yahya Jammeh declared himself head of state but a new 1996 constitution and presidential elections, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, have completed a nominal return to civilian rule. The country has five political and administrative divisions (Lower River Division, MacCarthy Island, North Bank Division, Upper River Division and Western) in addition to the city of Banjul.

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