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A new era for Senegal after the election?

Martina Schwikowski
March 31, 2024

Senegal's new president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, has proposed a radical change of the political system and more sovereignty. That includes new partnerships with foreign companies.

Senegal Dakar: Supporters of the opposition, in colourful T-shirts waving and holding the Senegalese flag
Many Senegalese are in favor of the changes proposed by the new presidentImage: Carmen Abd Ali/AFP/Getty Images

The election of Bassirou Diomaye Faye as Senegal's new president confirms the political change advocated by the opposition party PASTEF and their coalition with Faye.

A total break with outgoing President Macky Sall's political system — that is the promise made by Diomaye Faye and his mentor Ousmane Sonko, which appears to have particularly resonated with the Senegalese population.

"It is up to the entire population to accept change now. And change is collective before it is personal," Aissatou Gassama, a resident of the capital, Dakar, told DW.

The Flip Side: Will Senegal's Diomaye deliver?

'We must first sever link' to France

Another resident agreed. "We are still attached to France, which has always dominated and colonized us. To talk about breaking away, we must first sever that link," said Abdou Salam Camara.

What Bassirou Diomaye Faye and Sonko have voiced as their goal is, first and foremost, sovereignty.

According to El Hadji Saer Faye, deputy mayor in charge of planning and human resources in Ziguinchor and political leader of the Diomaye Faye president coalition, this means "resetting the counter to zero."

"We had advocated a break, but a positive one," he said. "To give the population confidence and a new lease of life."

That includes an economic break, to renegotiate partnerships with foreign companies and to ensure that the Senegalese population benefits more directly from the country's growth.


Radical policy change ahead

Bassirou Diomaye Faye also campaigned on fighting corruption.

"But that does not mean a complete break with the past," said Fatou Bintou Sarr, part of the president's campaign group in the commune of Pikine Nord.

"We are going to continue with what we have got, which has been approved and congratulated by everyone, because the state is also a continuity. Now we will have to review what was being done and which the people did not agree with. What we have deplored since then, we will review for the good of Senegal", she told DW.

Lucie Sane, a community development worker and PASTEF activist, was not opposed to a certain continuity. "Continuity in the right sense! If it does not go against the interests of the population," said Sane.

Senegal Dakar: A young man in a yellow T-shirt walks along a street
The new president has proposed partnerships with multinational companies to better benefit the Senegalese peopleImage: John Wessels/AFP

Bassirou Diomaye Faye's accession to the post of president at the age of 44 is a first in Senegalese history. The youthfulness of the next head of state gives hope of a profound renewal for a whole section of the population, in a country where almost two-thirds of the inhabitants are under the age of 25.

During his election campaign, Bassirou Diomaye Faye was able to convince voters by drawing up a rather unpleasant assessment of Sall's achievements, particularly on the economic front and by proposing a radical change of policy.

According to Mamadou Samba Hane, economics professor at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, the Senegalese are calling for an agriculture industry that will enable them to be self-sufficient in food, import less processed products and, above all, create massive employment for young people.

"Admittedly, Macky Sall has invested several billion CFA francs in his Senegal Emergent Plan, and has built roads, hospitals, new universities and transport infrastructure," he said. "But these projects do not sufficiently meet the real needs of the Senegalese population." 

Senegal's President Macky Sall looks on during the EU Global Gateway Forum 2023, in Brussels
Analysts have said Senegal's outgoing President Macky Sall did not reform the economy enough to better people's livesImage: Johanna Geron/REUTERS

Growth not benefiting Senegal

There is economic growth today, the analyst said. "But this economic growth is being exported, because it is being made by these foreign multinationals and is not really benefiting Senegal. The best solution would be to think about industrializing our economic fabric," he added.

Hane does not see a risk that major investors will turn away from Senegal. The country offers extraordinary opportunities, he added.

"Whether we like it or not, people have to come [to Senegal] because it is going to be a major producer of gas in Africa, and of oil. There is also stability," he said.

Hane believes agriculture, fishing, future industrialization could create hundreds, thousands or even millions of jobs. "Everything can be done, but you need political will, you need to give hope to these young people," he said.

Robert Adé in Dakar and Sandrine Blanchard in Bonn contributed to this article, which was originally written in German.