By Mariama Marong
The trade in stolen electronic items creeps into the minds of many people in The Gambia when the name ‘Serrekunda Black Market’ is mentioned. To these people, this is a market that specializes only on the sale of stolen items.
However, some of the vendors there are of the view that the black market is a place where young men and women engage in income generating ventures that complements the government’s efforts in reducing youth unemployment through the creation of job opportunities. They say they buy and sell electronic devices to people.
Situated at the Serrekunda Market, the main junction to the right just before the Big Bantaba tree, the black market has existed for almost fifteen years and it continues to attract hundreds of youths on a daily basis.
Isatou Ceesay, a female creative wax designer, who also sells bangles, armlets and bracelets, said the market serves as an avenue to build one’s talent and creates new opportunities.
She said the black market has helped her to carve an identity for herself by producing creative materials.
Ms. Ceesay noted the way many people portray the black market is nothing but false claims, saying every place has its ‘own good and bad side’.
Omar Ceesay, a native of Busumbala, said the market reduces the burden on government by creating employment opportunities for young people in the country.
He explained how he started business at the market, which he said he did not regret.
“I graduated from Muslim Senior School with a certificate and I also did some professional courses to enable me to have a job, but things turnout un-favourable. I was jobless for many years, because employment in this country is based on nepotism. It was a friend of mine, who encouraged me to venture into ‘the black-market business’ which eventually paid dividend as it changed my life. I am now proud of myself,” he said.
Ceesay said the market creates job opportunities for many young people in the Gambia, especially for mobile dealers at the market. He added that his business is running smoothly as he is been assisted by five boys. He said these boys earned something as well.
“The market is not only meant for buying and selling of electronic products, but it serves as an avenue for us to meet our family needs,” he said.
Omar Jammeh, a resident of Tallinding and also a mobile vendor at the black market, said life was difficult for him after he was deported from Sweden 8 years back. He said as a deportee, life was very hard for him.
He added he later thought of a place where he could earn a living and the only place he knew was the black market. He said he later started selling headsets, chargers, batteries and mobile phones for a living.
Jammeh said: “I trained and create job opportunities for many young people, whom the government cannot provide jobs for.”
The black market has provided opportunities for various youth in the Gambia and most of them are now in the system.
Jammeh used the opportunity to advise the youths to work hard in order for them to earn money for themselves.
Muhammed Jobe, an apprentice to Omar Jammeh, said the market saved him from deals that were not appreciated by the society in which he was living. Thus, he shared his elation about the market for making him the man he is today. Jobe is a mobile vendor and also deals in bangles, armlets, bracelets and necklaces.
Jobe said bangles, armlets and bracelets are worn by girls and boys and it is in high demand at the market.
Ebrima Sosseh, also a mobile dealer at the black market and a native of Bundung, said their main challenge is that the police perceived them to be criminals, which to him is the contrary.
“We are not a threat to people, but rather friends to the society,” he said.
Mariatou Comma, a mobile dealer at the market, said the black market serves as a source of income for her and her family.