The first countrywide census of The Gambia was taken in 1881. Afterwards, censuses were taken every 10 years through 1931. Due to the outbreak of World War II, the 1941 census was deferred until 1944. In 1951, the census only covered the area around Bathurst. The rest of the country's population was estimated from counts obtained by Travelling Commissioners. From 1963 on, censuses of reasonably good quality have been held on a defacto basis (The Gambia 1993i). Figure 1 displays the sharp rise in the population since 1963.
Table 5 presents the sex ratios at each age group and reveals some remarkable differences among the age groups. The childhood years (0-14) behave as one might expect -- slightly more males than females in the 0-4 range followed by a slight decline. At the 15-19 age group, the sex ratio dips. It drops again at the 25-29 age group. I would attribute the first drop to an out-migration of students, as post-secondary level educational opportunities in-country are limited. The second drop may also be due to out-migration -- for work in other countries. Figure 4 and Pyramid 2 show that both of these patterns were also present in the 1983 census. The 1963 and 1973 censuses show a more pronounced dip in the school-age years, but increases in the sex ratio thereafter.
The large rise in the sex ratio which begins at the 35-39 age group and continues on through the oldest age groups is contrary to what would be expected: women having lower rates of mortality than men at each age group and the sex ratio declining. Some of this rise are an artifact of migration, but (as Figure 4 clearly demonstrates) these trends were present (and even more pronounced) in earlier censuses when migration (in and out) was not as prevalent. A break down of the sex ratios for the 1973 Gambian and Non-Gambian populations (Zachariah 1980) reveals sex ratios in the 240-290 range for all 5-year age groups in the Non-Gambian population .but the pattern for the Gambian population remains the same (although somewhat washed down with upper age group sex ratios now falling in the 110-120 range).
A more likely explanation for the trend is the overall health of Gambian females in comparison with males. In addition to maternal mortality (estimated by Graham, Brass, and Snow to be at 1005 per 100,000 live births), Gambian women are more likely to be in poverty (IFAD 1992) and therefore malnourished. Figure 4 clearly shows that this situation is changing: the trend is becoming less pronounced and this corresponds to efforts made over the past 30 years by clinics and family planning agencies to assist women.
Of course, not everyone living in The Gambia is of Gambian origin. The second "Provisional Report" released by the Central Statistics Department in 1993 focused on the distribution of Foreign Nationals in The Gambia. According to the report, 12.65% of the population is composed of foreign nationals. This marks a dramatic increase from 1983 when the foreign population was 8.88% of the total. The increase is even more dramatically demonstrated by the raw numbers -- in the ten year period the foreign population rose from 60,796 to 129,817. The reason for the increase is probably attributable to the relative stability that The Gambia enjoyed over the 10-year period. By contrast, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and (especially) Senegal all suffered from political and economic instability. The Senegalese population in The Gambia increased from 32,385 to 79,252 (a 144.2% increase) -- a large number of which were people fleeing the civil war in the southern part of Senegal (Cassamance). The Sex Ratio of the entire Non-Gambian population is 131.3 -- when Non-Gambians are removed from the population the sex ratio drops to 96.8. As stated in the previous section, this probably accounts for some of the large rises in Figure 4. The most striking sex ratio is for Mauritanian nationals living in the country. Being an old traditional society, the few immigrants who travel to The Gambia come to set up shops (and usually do not bring their wives). The sex ratio is 675! Overall, 94% of the Non-Gambians reside immediately around Banjul or in the adjacent Local Government Area (LGA) of Brikama (which is rapidly becoming urbanized).
More detail can be gleaned from surveys and studies. The most recent major surveys to be undertaken include the 1990 Gambian Contraceptive Prevalence and Fertility Determinants Survey (GCPFDS) and the 1992 Priority Survey. The GCPFDS primarily focuses on the deter-minants of fertility, but a quite extensive section on mortality has provided the most reliable recent information. The infant mortality rate for the 5 year period 1985-90 is estimated to be 89.4. This represents a 20% decline from the 1976-80 rate of 111.9. Over the same period the Under Five Mortality Rate (U5MR) showed a greater decrease -- a 43% drop from 283.7 to 160.5. Both mother's education level and place of residence correlate with dramatically different rates. From 1981-1990 the U5MR in urban areas was 114 ... in rural areas it was 198. The U5MR for mothers attending secondary school was 92 ... for those who did not it was 186. (This difference may be confounded with economic differences as secondary schools charge fees, but primary schools do not). Hopefully, as more Gambian women enter school the rates will continue to decline.
The Priority Survey reveals stunting (low height for age) in 13% of Gambian female and 15% of Gambian male children aged 3 to 59 months. In the Lower River Division, over 40% of the children are stunted. In the North Bank 25% are stunted. The authors caution that these large discrepancies may be the result of ethnic differences and not malnourishment. Indeed, when weight for age (wasting) is considered, the male children of Banjul are the only group in a proportion over 6%. Combining the two indicators may give a clearer indication of child malnourishment: 5% of the Gambian children have significantly low weight for height. Given the country's poor economic condition, this is not a 'bad' number. Estimates of the per capita daily calorie supply (UNDP 1995) show The Gambia to be doing well in comparison to other Sub-Saharan African countries (2360 in comparison to a 2096 average). This suggests that the high mortality rates are probably more attributable to diseases than to severe malnourishment.
Table 1 shows the distribution of the population among the LGAs over the past 30 years. The most striking feature is the rapid growth of Kanifing -- from 12,208 in 1963 (less than 4% of the total population to 228,214 in 1993 (almost 22% of the total population). The increase in the proportion of the total population has come at the expense of the up-country LGAs (Kerewan, Mansakonko, Kuntaur, Georgetown and Basse) and Banjul. Banjul is a very small geographically (I could walk across it in half an hour) and may have reached its population limits with respect to available housing. The up-country LGAs are growing -- but not as rapidly as Kanifing. With up-country fertility rates being higher than those around Banjul, one might expect the opposite to be true. But migration (both internal and external) more than offsets that growth. As we have already seen, most foreign nationals are located in Banjul, Kanifing or Brikama. Internally, the "rural-urban drift" (which I will look at in more detail in the next section) increases the growth in the urban areas and decreases the growth in the rural areas. The Brikama LGA is a unique case: it has features of both the urban and rural areas. The rapid expansion of the Brikama urban area has ensured that its share of the total population is still increasing, while its rural eastern part prevents the growth from keeping pace with the Kanifing LGA.
Table 2 shows how quickly the population of The Gambia is becoming urbanized -- from roughly 23% in 1973 to 37% in 1993. Note that this definition of urban is slightly different than the U.N.'s definition. The U.N. focuses only on large aggregations of people and would therefore only include Banjul, the Kanifing LGA, and the town of Brikama as urban resulting in an estimate slightly under 30%. In this table, aggregations of 5,000 or more people are considered to be urban -- primarily because the primary source of income in these communities is trade (and not agriculture). The high percentages of urban people in the Mansakonko and Kerewan LGAs are due to the growing communities of Soma and Farafenni. The high percentage of urban people in the Basse LGA is due to the town of Basse itself -- the easternmost trading point of The Gambia through which people and goods arrive from Senegal, Mauritania, and Mali.
Table 4 shows the change in the overall change in the composition of the country since Independence. In 1963, only Banjul could be thought of as an urban center. In the following 10 years the area around Banjul underwent a transformation. The Gambia News and Report Monthly described it this way: "It has grown from small farming communities supplying foodstuffs to the capital to a dormitory town for the skilled, semi-skilled, and professional work force." Within two decades, Serekunda had grown into a town almost twice the size of Banjul. The definition of Serekunda as a distinct entity composed of a particular set of communities was well-defined in 1963. Now, the distinctions are blurred. Each community has taken on its own identity (and some of these communities have populations as large as Banjul). At the same time, references to Serekunda will include communities not in the 1963 definition. Thus, the 1993 population listed for Serekunda is really meant for comparison purposes only.