Officially the Republic of The Gambia is a country in West Africa that is entirely surrounded by Senegal except for its coastline on the Atlantic Ocean at its western end. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa.
The Gambia is situated on either side of the Gambia River, the nation’s namesake, which flows through the centre of The Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
Its area is 10,689 square kilometres with a population of 1,857,181 as of the April 2013 census. Banjul is the Gambian capital and the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama.
The Gambia shares historical roots with many other West African nations in the slave trade, which was the key factor in the placing and keeping of a colony on the Gambia River, first by the Portuguese, during which era it was known as A Gâmbia.
Later on 25 May 1765, the Gambia was made a part of the British Empire when the government formally assumed control, establishing the Province of Senegambia. In 1965, The Gambia gained independence under the leadership of Dawda Jawara, who ruled until Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless 1994 coup.
Adama Barrow became The Gambia’s third president in January 2017, after defeating Jammeh in December 2016 elections.
Jammeh initially accepted the results, then refused to accept them, which triggered a constitutional crisis and military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States, resulting in his exile.
The Gambia’s economy is dominated by farming, fishing and, especially, tourism. In 2008, about a third of the population lived below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.
The name “Gambia” is derived from the Mandinka term Kambra/Kambaa, meaning Gambia River.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the US Department of State, the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World and the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use, The Gambia is one of only two countries whose self-standing short name for official use should begin with the word “The” (the other one being The Bahamas).
Upon independence in 1965, the country used the name The Gambia. Following the proclamation of a republic in 1970, the long-form name of the country became Republic of The Gambia.
The administration of Yahya Jammeh changed the long-form name to Islamic Republic of The Gambia in December 2015. On 29 January 2017 the new President Adama Barrow said the country’s name will go back to Republic of The Gambia.