Isatou Njie : Breaking barriers in Gambian construction

8 March 2024
ITC News

The Gambian construction industry, creating a growing demand for building materials. That’s why Isatou Njie established Gambrick in 2020, as one of the first big block-making companies in the country.

The company makes blocks in different shapes and designs, using hydraulic machines.

Gambrick, like any start-up, faced a lot of challenges in the beginning. The electricity supply is erratic and unreliable. Not many people knew how to operate high-powered machines, which are expensive to maintain. To make things worse, in 2020, a big storm razed down everything the company had built.

‘That period was very, very difficult for us,’ Isatou said.

To help her overcome these challenges, the International Trade Centre (ITC) provided grant support through its EU-funded Jobs, Skills and Finance joint programme. The company received 1,500 bags of cement and 20 trucks of sand, so Gambrick could rebuild. The company also received molds, pallets and machine spare parts. Isatou said that support allowed the company to avoid lay-offs while cutting maintenance costs.

‘With these materials, we will be introducing three new products that are scarce in the market,’ she said. ‘Furthermore, it will help us increase our production capacity, subsequently expanding our customer base and allowing us to generate more income.’

Isatou envisions a future where her company will operate efficiently, preventing a situation where customers have long waits for their products. She hopes to meet the demand in the market. Her goal is to increase production by running multiple machines simultaneously.

‘We do know the first five years will be challenging,’ she said. ‘Our plan for the future is to produce and stock – a future where we can meet the demand in the market. We do not want to make customers wait for their products. When the work is slow people move to other businesses. We hope to run both machines at the same time to be able to increase production to at least 25-50%.’

Currently, Gambrick employs 16 people, and it hopes to grow this number.

Isatou advised women entrepreneurs to be resilient.

‘Do not restrict yourself,’ she said. ‘What a man can do a woman can do. Do not give up, you need to be patient and resilient.’

Isatou proves that women can be leaders in any field. All they need is sustained support to allow them to make a difference. Isatou wants to continue to make things better not just for Gambrick but also for other women in The Gambia who want to start a business in the construction industry.