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Monday, October 2, 2023

Njie Charakh: A businessman helping to shape the careers of Gambian women entrepreneurs

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Njie Charakh is the founder and CEO of Njie Charakh World Market. He is one of the country’s leading entrepreneurs. Like many Gambians, Njie struggled to build his business from scratch.

Njie’s determination to succeed took him to Senegal to look for greener pastures. But after years of struggle in Senegal, he finally returned to The Gambia to face the realities his fellow underprivileged young people are facing. Njie started afresh all over again and went on to start what is now a successful business selling mobile cases and chargers at the Serekunda market.

A determined Njie will go on to try several other adventures before finally settling for business. He has since established himself as one of the leading importers of clothes, shoes, and several other products. His humility and principle of building the capacity of young entrepreneurs, especially women, earned him admiration, especially among women entrepreneurs.

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The Gambia is one of the countries in the world where more women than men choose to become entrepreneurs.

While both male and female entrepreneurs face the same constraints when it comes to lack of capital, women are specifically impacted by a number of obstacles, such as discrimination and the dearth of collateral.

Recent data collected in ten African countries indicates that, on average, male-owned enterprises have six times more capital than female-owned enterprises. The fact that women have less access to assets affects their ability to obtain medium-sized loans and, in turn, impacts the growth of their enterprises.

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Njie’s solutions

Concerned about the lack of opportunities for upcoming women entrepreneurs to build successful businesses, in June, Njie started a three-month intensive entrepreneurial training programme for 150 businesswomen in Kanifing and the West Coast Region. The training, which targets 600 businesswomen every year and focuses on entrepreneurship, startups, and skills, seeks to address the capacity of women entrepreneurs.


He said the challenges women entrepreneurs face while starting businesses can be counteracted by giving women more control over assets through, for example, the granting of joint property rights or by eliminating the need for collateral.

“When it comes to honesty and willingness to repay loans, women offer a promising solution,” he said.

He said trainings for women entrepreneurs should be aimed at fostering proactive behaviours among entrepreneurs rather than teaching them basic commercial skills.

“The idea is to teach small entrepreneurs to show initiative, be proactive, and demonstrate perseverance. This is why our training is yielding impressive results, as the female trainees have seen a 50 percent average increase in their profits. One example of this is a female entrepreneur in Bundung who, prior to the training, merely made a profit. After receiving the training, she decided to expand her clientele,” he said.

This, he added, offers proof, if any were needed, that inexpensive solutions exist to support female entrepreneurs in The Gambia and that minor changes, such as modifying the type of training offered to women, can alter their fate.

Last month, Mr Njie organised a business meeting between the women and Bloom Bank. He said the idea was to give the women the opportunity to open accounts with the bank and explore means of accessing loans from the bank to build on their businesses.

Ebrahim Sadik, a staff member of Bloom Bank, said the bank is committed to working closely with the women and will not hesitate to give them loans to develop their businesses. He said the bank has services to meet the women at their workplaces, collect whatever money they want to deposit, and later give them their receipt. He said customers of the bank can access their funds even after banking hours at the various forex bureaus that are working with the bank through their Bloom Easy service.

“We came up with this service to ensure that our customers, especially those who are doing business, can access their funds beyond banking hours or without going through the stress of queuing at the bank,” he said. He said the women will be provided with loans depending on the money they deposit in their accounts.


The women welcomed the idea of working with the bank but appealed for reasonable interest.

Responding to the request of the women, Mr Sadik said that when it comes to small SMEs, the bank normally lends them at a very small rate.

“So, depending on the number of people coming onboard, we can talk to the management and give a reasonable interest rate that would benefit all of us,” he said.

Njie Charakh assured the bank that all the women will be supported to open accounts with the bank, but they will want the bank to give them a D20 million loan to develop their businesses.

“We will continue engaging with the bank and the women to ensure that the process will be a win for both of us,” he said.

All the women who spoke to journalists at the meeting commended Mr Njie for his commitment to supporting them. The women also commended him for providing them with a business training school.

The women called on the minister of gender to support Gambian women entrepreneurs.


Fatou Bah, a resident of Bundung and beneficiary of Njie Charahk’s benevolence, said she got to know Njie through the media and approached him for her daughter, who is currently at the UTG. She said Njie immediately accepted her daughter’s offer to work at Njie Charakh’s World shop. Ms Bah, who lost her husband a few months ago, said her life has changed since meeting Njie. She urged her fellow women to embrace business. “If you help a woman, you have helped the world,” she said.

Sira Manneh, also a beneficiary, thanked Mr Njie for his generation.

She said the Njie Charakh World Market School has been a blessing for the women.

Fatou Njie, also a beneficiary and petty trader, said she was going to a makeup school but could not further her education due to a lack of funds, but since she joined Njie, she has realised improvement. She urged the government to support and empower Mr Njie to accomplish his mission.

Binta Njie explained how she was able to convince a number of sex workers to leave the street and start businesses through the benevolence of Mr Njie. “So, Njie has inspired a lot of young women to start businesses, and most of them are now very successful,” she said.


Njie is also supporting a number of elderly and underprivileged individuals with monthly stipends. One of the beneficiaries, Njane, a resident of Nema, said Njie has been paying him a monthly stipend of D1,500 for the past five months. He urged the women to support Njie and avoid betraying him because a lot of people are benefiting from his generosity. The 70-year-old urged Njie to continue his benevolence. He appealed to the government to empower Njie so that he would be able to continue supporting the needy.


Njie used the meeting to assess his staff and urge them to keep up the momentum. He also offered free lectures to the women and shared best practices on how to be successful businesspeople.

“If you want to be a successful businessperson, you will not take anything for granted. I started from a very humble beginning, and thank God today I have reached this far,” he said.

He recalled how he borrowed D10,000 to start his business selling mobile cases and chargers.

“I remember going to work extremely sick because I don’t want to make my boss angry for my absence,” he concluded.

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