By Pap Saine
BANJUL, Sept 17 (Reuters) – Gambia’s economic growth rate may fall to 2% in 2020 versus a forecast 6% due to the coronavirus, President Adama Barrow said on Thursday, as he relaxed a nighttime curfew but kept other lockdown restrictions in place.
The gross domestic product of mainland Africa’s smallest country grew 6% in 2019 despite a sharp drop in agricultural output and the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook, the travel operator that brought around 40% of annual visitors.
Its economy, however, has not been able to weather the fallout from the global pandemic, which led authorities to ban public gatherings among a string of lockdown measures imposed after they declared a state of emergency in March.
“Based on the current situation, an estimated 20% of expected revenue will be lost,” Barrow said in a speech to the nation.
Gambia’s forecast drop in growth is in line with other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, whose combined gross domestic product was seen shrinking by 1.6% this year – its worst performance on record, according to an April forecast from the International Monetary Fund.
With the state of emergency expiring at midnight on Thursday, Barrow said the dawn-to-dusk curfew would be relaxed and shops, supermarkets and non-essential vendors would be allowed to resume normal business hours. But non-essential public places must remain closed and public gatherings are still banned.
Over 52,000 people, or 2.6%, of Gambia’s 2 million population, have lost their jobs as a result of the lockdown, Barrow said.
Gambia has reported 3,473 cases since the outbreak in March, and 107 deaths. The daily reported cases were relatively low until mid-July.
(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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