A few days after our landing in Dakar, we had the chance to meet Sadio and Kante, with whom we drove a few hours towards the farm of Sadio and his father. The opportunity to ask critical questions which are quite important to me …
Please have a look to Sadio Siby’s interview before reading the brief (and very simple) report of our exchanges, below.
What is the future of Senegal? What are the solutions for its development? What are the obstacles? What you do today to develop the country? These questions effortlessly fill 2 or 3 hours of carpooling through the Senegalese national road.
Education in Africa
Of course, education is a remedy; if not THE remedy to make the country evolve in a “good way”. But the problem is almost eveything has to be redone. Colonialism has been there; neo-colonialism continues its way through undisturbed. Here in Senegal, the name of the streets are gradually changing, replacing eg “Pompidou” with “Check Anta Diop.” It’s part of the way to get there!
Language! La langue ! Heritage desired or not, here the official language is French. Yet there are a dozen local languages, including ultra dominant Wolof. Make no mistake, this is also a written language. Evidenced by the numerous billboards with images of international brands, that seduce the Senegalese consumers in their native language. We know culture for many passes through language. Why isn’t it (or very little) taught in schools? According to our interlocutors, progress goes through there too. We want to believe them, even if we imagine that this is a considerable asset for international trade that French is also widely practiced.
And of course History. Long time there was blur surrounding the history of Senegal, not mentioning co-history with Western countries. But the story does exist, it is rich, it is long known, and especially deserves to be learned from all young Senegalese to envision a future forged on a unique identity, authentic. Again, programs are reviewed. The road will be long; but there is a path.
Major works? French companies first, then more recently Chinese, American, or the Persian Gulf. Almost all sectors (energy, industry, construction …) are locked by the multinationals. The Autonomous Port of Dakar has just taken the dimension of its name (“autonomous”) by introducing competition for its management. But whoever the dealer, if the dockers are Senegalese, most executives appears to remain Western or similar.
These last decades -too- few competencies were transfered. If the raw materials can not be relocated, processing (value added) is predominantly elsewhere. We are told that everything was done to maximize the dependence of Senegal to the West, especially France.
You might not believe it as the country has numerous fertile soil areas (a lot of rivers in the country), has huge amount of agricultural lands, and exports some productions, but Senegal imports more than half its food…
Kante and Sadio explain to us how colonialism had modified even the kind of products that is grown here, sometimes less adapted to local environment than millenary cultures. For example, rice cultivation that has eroded the millet, once widely consumed in the country. And rice, today is of course partly exported to distant countries approaching food crisis, or who can not produce enough for their ultra growing population.
The official goal of the new President is to achieve food selfsufficiency by 2017! Our friends are part of the dynamics and put their energy for this vital cause for the country.
Sadness or hope?
For the sake of honesty, our respondents concede that the trend is to the famous co-development. More and more development organizations are emerging, both Senegalese and foreign, to organize the transfer of skills and technology.
Above all, their hope is nourished by awakening the consciences of the new generations, which we see that the elite comes more and more numerous “back home” after studying abroad in a deep concern for development.
Compared to some past experiences in West Africa, we are compelled to note that here no hatred of the West. As if this step was over, past. Or at least, that’s not the point. The time is the urgency to “build an African Africa“, with all its heritage, desired or not. The episodes of the last centuries, if they are not digested, are about to be. Focus on the future, which necessarily requires independence.
This independence should be the result of profound changes that can only be done over long decades. But it seems to our interlocutors that hope is required. We also believe so, and we humbly join our contributions, at least by disseminating the message. Because it can not be otherwise to build a sustainable development and peace.