The Gambia has a liberal, market-based economy characterised by traditional subsistence agriculture, a historic reliance on groundnuts for export earnings, a re-export trade built up around its ocean port, low import duties, minimal administrative procedures, a fluctuating exchange rate with no exchange controls, and a significant tourism industry.
The World Bank pegged Gambian GDP for 2011 at US$898M; the International Monetary Fund put it at US$977M for 2011.
From 2006 to 2012, the Gambian economy grew annually at a pace of 5–6% of GDP.
Agriculture accounts for roughly 30% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 70% of the labour force. Within agriculture, peanut production accounts for 6.9% of GDP, other crops 8.3%, livestock 5.3%, fishing 1.8%, and forestry 0.5%.
Industry accounts for about 8% of GDP and services around 58%. The limited amount of manufacturing is primarily agricultural-based (e.g., peanut processing, bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other manufacturing activities include soap, soft drinks, and clothing.
Previously, the United Kingdom and other EU countries constituted the major Gambian domestic export markets. However, in recent years Senegal, the United States, and Japan have become significant trade partners of the Gambia.
In Africa, Senegal represented the biggest trade partner of the Gambia in 2007, which is a defining contrast to previous years that had Guinea-Bissau and Ghana as equally important trade partners.
Globally, Denmark, the United States, and China have become important source countries for Gambian imports. The UK, Germany, Ivory Coast, and the Netherlands also provide a fair share of Gambian imports. The Gambian trade deficit for 2007 was $331 million.
In May 2009, 12 commercial banks existed in the Gambia, including one Islamic bank. The oldest of these, Standard Chartered Bank, dates its presence back to the entry in 1894 of what shortly thereafter became Bank of British West Africa.
In 2005, the Swiss-based banking group International Commercial Bank established a subsidiary and now has four branches in the country. In 2007, Nigeria’s Access Bank established a subsidiary that now has four branches in the country, in addition to its head office; the bank has pledged to open four more.