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Sneak peek: A Gambian market without buyers and sellers

A new market that was opened in a relatively swanky Gambian suburb three years ago is still struggling to attract not only buyers but also vendors and hawkers who prefer to conduct business elsewhere.The carefully landscaped site officially called The Gambia Women’s Federation Market located on the outskirts of the new town of Brusubi, 23 km south of the capital Banjul is empty of people on any given day, save three sellers and a few mother hens and their chickens, sheep and goats scavenging for pickings inside the gated facility.

Binta Kujabi and Fatou Jeju, both women vendors look forlorn as they gape over their wares of condiments which had not attracted buyers for days on end.

“Business here is not doing well” they lamented to the African Press Agency, saying as few as ten people come to buy from the desolate market on a daily basis. 

But another fact looks even stranger than fiction.

Fatou and Binta are two of only three women who sell at the market regularly.

The rest is just emptiness, spaces and stalls unoccupied because no other vendor wants them.

Displaying their commodities next to each other’s stalls, Fatou and Binta say the trouble with the market is that construction work on it has been incomplete despite its formal opening in 2016, causing many potential sellers and buyers to stay away despite its easy accessibly thanks to a very good road network on which it perfectly nestles.  

“The government should intervene and finish the construction work so that other vendors could join us” Fatou Kujabi says as she wipes beads of sweat from her brow caused by the sweltering summer heat.

The land on which the market was built was purchased by The Gambia Women’s Federation in partnership with women entrepreneurs as the rural settlement opened up to the rest of a sprawling urban metropolis in the early 2000s.

The market when completed will have over 350 stalls, 12 toilets, concrete tables and chairs, a mall, running water, storage facilities, an ice plant, electricity, paved concrete internal pathways, security post and more.  

Officials of the Brikama Area Council (BAC) under whose purview the market falls were indisposed to shed light on its history and why it is bereft of both buyers and sellers, years after it was opened for business.

Shortly after its inauguration, vendors at the Brusubi roundabout were ordered by the BAC to relocate to the new facility. 

They complied but only for a short while before eventually returning to their previous spot.

Prospective buyers were simply not attracted to the new market.

Construction work on it started some 20 years ago when women vendors at the site decided to individually contribute to build a new market.

The Women’s Bureau and The Gambia Women’s Federation donated handsomely to the project. 

Although the first two phases have been completed, due to ongoing Phase Three construction work and lack of complete running facilities, the market remains permanently deserted by buyers and sellers. 

Musa Sillah, one of the few masons still working on the site, blames construction work for the lack of occupancy in the market. 

He says despite this cheerless beginning, the new Brusubi market will be one of the best buying and selling points within the Greater Banjul Area, thanks to the fact that it’s neatly demarcated, with internal paved roads and all modern facilities that any market worth its weight in gold will hope for. 

“If it roars into full life it would serve as a huge source of revenue for the government and the Brikama Area Council” Sillah predicts. 

According to him, the current phase of construction is at the plastering, plumbing, electric wiring and roofing stages. 

Mamadou Jallow alias (MJ) who has been general supervisor of construction work on the site since inception says women cutting their teeth in entrepreneurship pioneered the market through individual contributions and proceeds, monies used to build new stalls to rent out and women’s organsations complemented their efforts. 

 Jallow says his role as general supervisor is to demarcate, award contracts, hire for labor and the few vendors had paid for these services.  

However, the new government of Adama Barrow has intervened to pay their wages.

For both Fatou and Binta, even if construction work on the market is completed, the big question is how this modern facility will attract vendors and hawkers who still prefer to display their wares along the Brusubi roundabout just a few hundred metres away.

Published on 28.04.2020

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