The construction of the Senegambia Bridge created economic opportunities for the people of the Gambia and Senegal due to the increased flow of goods and services. However, that is not the case for some small-scale traders like Jalima Cham.

Jalima Cham, 33, was a trader operating along the trans-Gambia transport corridor whose livelihood was disrupted due to the construction of the bridge. She was selling cold water, popsicles, and mango at the Yellitenda terminal before the construction of the bridge. Her customers were mostly commuters who had to wait a while before crossing to the other end of the river.

Business at the ferry terminal flourished before the bridge’s construction, according to Jalima. “Business was very good,” she said. Jalima continued, “I sold out almost every day. The market was there for what I was selling. I earned decent income through the business to provide for myself and my family.”

However, business for Jalima slowed after the construction of the bridge. The reduced transit time meant fewer or no customers for her. She said, “Even though the bridge is good for the economy of The Gambia and Senegal, I was devasted when it was constructed because I lost my main source of living.”

All hope was not lost. The European Union-funded Jobs, Skills, and Finance programme implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) would offer her an opportunity that would give her an alternative source of living. In 2021, she applied for a training programme under the project and got accepted.

“What motivated me to apply for the programme was the opportunity it offered and the desire and thirst to sustain and grow my business and gain more knowledge to earn more income.”

The training, according to Jalima, was a life-changing venture as it marked the beginning of growth for herself and her business. “The training was beneficial because it equipped me with in-demand skills at a time I thought I had lost my main source of living. I was able to learn how to process and preserve food.”

Shortly after completing the training programme, she received coaching services thanks to the project. The coach offered all the guidance for her to become a successful entrepreneur. “The coach guided me on how to start and manage a successful business. She also coached me on proper record keeping, budgeting and how to make a profit.”

Jalima was also supported with start-up materials which enabled her to start a food processing business after the completion of the coaching sessions. Named Jalima Agrofood processing and Preservative Centre, her business processes food products such as pepper sauce, groundnut cake, and baby food for sale in Soma and surrounding communities. Business, she said, is booming, and she is making a lot of sales.

“My products, especially the pepper sauce, are a hot cake”, she said with a big grin. “It is always in high demand. I am even struggling to meet the demands of my customers. As a mother of two, Jalima uses her income to improve her family’s living conditions. “My income has helped me to pay my bills, and I am thankful for that.”

Jalima hopes to expand her business to employ more people and contribute immensely to the economy of The Gambia.

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