How Senegalese CFA Dominates Gambia’s Dalasi in Provincial Town

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By Nelson Manneh 

The Senegalese CFA continues to dominate Gambia’s currency in Farafeeni, one of the busiest towns in provincial Gambia. The supremacy of CFA extends to nearby communities. 

Gambians who have established their businesses in Farefenni have expressed disappointment with the Gambia Government for allowing the Senegalese currency almost out shadow the Dalasi in a Gambian territory.

Most of the shop owners in Farafenni prefer trading in the CFA than utilizing the Gambian Dalasi. Our investigations revealed that some shop owners will ask buyers to go to the roundabouts to change their currency from Dalasi to CFA before making sales to them. At the roundabout in Farafenni, our investigations revealed that there were some people stationed there waiting to change Dalasi to CFA. There are people standing there having Dalasis and CFA in their hands waiting to do conversion. The price of Dalasi, according to our findings, fluctuates while the CFA continues to appreciate.

Farafenni is a regional town in the Gambia lying on the Trans-Gambia Highway in the North Bank Region, a few kilometres away from the Senegalese border. Many businessmen and women both from the Gambia and Senegal gather there to do business as it is a hub for business in the area. The community has a large market and there is usually a weekly market dubbed “Lumo”, which takes place adjacent to the Farafenni Mini Stadium.

The north-south Trans-Gambia highway is frequented by not only Gambian drivers, but by long distance drivers from Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Sierra Leone. This has also boosted the economic activities within the town.

Our inquiry into the matter revealed that the use of CFA in the area is not new as it has been a practice since the Gambia attained independence in 1965. Many people prefer using CFA in their trading. Under the second regime, according to the businessmen and women, the use of CFA was somehow controlled because former President Jammeh used to discourage the practice.

When the new Government came, the dominance of CFA augmented to an extent that it outweighs the Gambian Dalasi. At the Foni borderline, communities prefer using CFA in their trading than the Gambian Dalasi because of the inter-trading between Gambian villages along the border and Senegalese villages. Some of the business owners in Foni who speak to this medium said they accept CFA because the buyers coming from Senegal come with only the Senegalese currency.

One Modou Lamin Dampha, a lorry driver, said former President the Senegalese currency has dominated the Gambian Dalasi in Farafenni in terms of business.

“The Senegalese Currency has dominated our market. We sometimes change our Dalasi to CFA in order to buy goods from certain shops in Farafenni,” Dampha said.

Mr Dampha said the practice is not fair to Gambians and the Gambian economy.

 “It is true that Farafenni is located at the border and many Senegalese cross the border easily to buy basic commodities but that should not prompt the dalasi to lose its value in its own country,” he noted.

Haddy Sarr, a housewife, said the Gambian dalasi is now a secondary currency in Farafenni. She said they used the CFA for their daily financial activities more than the Gambian dalasi.

“For those of us who go to the market to buy vegetables and other basic commodities, sometimes you meet vendors who will be requesting CFA instead of Dalasi. The fishermen and butchers are the worst as most of them request for CFA instead of the Gambian Dalasi,” she said.

This housewife said the economic implication this causes is obvious as even uneducated people know how bad it is to the economy of The Gambia.

“The other thing is the government should control the CFA exchange rates in Farafenni and other border villages. We have many people who are exchanging Dalasi for CFA in Farafenni and they don’t have any fixed rate. The rate fluctuates on a daily basis,” she said.

She alleged that there are some people who cross the border from Senegal with their commodities for sales in Farafenni are the ones requesting for payment in CFA instead of Dalasi.

“Most of the time these are the people who request CFA. The government should come up with measures to discourage this dubious activity,” she said.

Nfarama Ceesay, a farmer in Farafenni said when Tobaski is fast approaching they face a lot of challenges because most of the rams they buy are from Senegal.

“Some of these businessmen during Tobaski will deliberately refuse to sell their rams in Dalasi. They will ask us to change our Dalasi to CFA in order to buy their rams, which is not fair,” he said.

Mr Ceesay said it is the responsibility of the government to put an embargo on such.

“Our Dalasi should be respected and it should have value in the Gambia. We want the authorities to stop the use of CFA as a business currency in Farafenni and in other villages that are close to the borders,” Ceesay said.

This subsistence farmer said exploitation starts with the mindset because allowing for the use of foreign currency is one way of participating in depreciating the Dalasis.

“Looking at the exchange rates it manifests how the Gambian Dalasi is dropping its value. 

The CAF is gaining more value than the Gambian dalasi day by day,” he noted.

Honourable Sankung Dampha, the National Assembly Member for Illiasa Constituency said the use of CFA in Farafenni is not new.

“This trend has been going on for decades. We all know that it has some negative implications to our economy. Farefenni is close to the border, many of the business owners are from Senegal so they prefer to sell their goods using CFA rather than the Gambian Dalasi,” the lawmaker said.

The legislator said Farafenni is one of the busiest towns in his constituency where a lot of economic activities occur on a daily basis.

“The Gambian Dalasi is not totally condemned but CFA has power. Most of the businessmen buy their goods from Senegal and resell them in Farefenni. I think this is part of the reason why CFA is frequently used in Farafenni more than any other borderline town,” he said.

Honourable Dampha said probably it will be very difficult for the use of CFA to be stopped in Farafenni, but if stakeholders work together it can be minimized. He attested that looking at the whole issue it has some negative economic implication to the economy of the Gambia.