port of harlem magazine
port of harlem gambian education partnership
The Back Way from The Gambia to Germany
March 25 – April 7, 2021
Mamadi Susso

When Mamadi Susso left the Gambia in 2015 at age 19, he was fleeing a dictatorship and tough economic conditions. Jobs and opportunities for youth in the West African nation are rare, and many people can’t depend on having regular meals.

With a dream of becoming an entrepreneur, Susso risked the dangerous journey across the desert and the sea in search of work opportunities abroad.
He sends on average €200 to his family in the Gambia each month. That’s equal to 12,430 Gambian dalasi, equal to about $240 and six times higher than the monthly salary of a person with an entry-level government job.
“I decided to take the risk to travel to Europe through the back way in order to take my family out of extreme poverty,” he says, a phrase Gambians use for irregular migration routes.

After spending three months in Italy, Susso arrived in the summer of 2016 in the southwestern German town of Weinheim, where he applied for asylum.

“I came from a very humble background, where it was very difficult to cater for regular meals,” says Susso, who represented his village in football tournaments and had dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. Now 24, he has a wide smile and just plays football for fun. “My dream is to build a good house for my family and to establish a viable transportation business in the Gambia.”

Susso was born into a family in a village called Saruja, far inland from the Gambian capital, Banjul. Saruja has a population of just under 2,000 and used to be a rice-growing powerhouse but has seen a shift to vegetable gardening because rice farming doesn’t return the profits it used to.

The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa, slightly larger than Lebanon. The former British colony occupies a long narrow strip of land that stretches 450km along the River Gambia, which divides the country into two parts — the North and South banks. The country is surrounded by neighboring Senegal on all three sides, except to the west, where the 60km coastline kisses the Atlantic Ocean.

The Gambia has a $1 billion economy which relies upon three main aspects: agriculture, tourism and remittances. The number of migrants from The Gambia has grown from 77,440 in 2010 to 139,210 in 2020, according to U.N. data — that’s about 6% of the country’s total population of 2.3 million. More than 85,000 of these Gambians live in Europe, and 15,535 of them in Germany.

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Also by or includes thoughts from Modou Joof:

Immigration Is a Black Issue, Too: A Look at Gambians Who Send Big Money Home

African Realities and the Corona Virus

Madi Jobarteh Speaks After Police Dropped Charges

Springdale, MD Connects to Juffreh, The Gambia
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