In an exclusive interview President Macky Sall spoke with DW about Senegal's partnership with Germany. He bridled at the thought that his country could be seen as anything less than 100 percent democratic.
The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, was in the German capital of Berlin this week to attend a conference on investments in Africa. A dozen African heads of state joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel to assess the "Compact with Africa" initiative, launched a year ago. In an exclusive interview with DW, President Sall shared his thoughts about the German initiative and commented on the socio-political situation in his country.
DW: Senegal is emerging as an important partner for Germany. Does that make you proud?
President Macky Sall: Yes. You know, Senegal is a country that is now open to foreign investment and we are increasingly present in Germany. I am delighted because Germany has very important comparative advantages. It has a very dynamic industry, small and medium-sized companies and high quality services. Of course there is a language barrier. But it has been significantly reduced through an increase in bilateral contacts. I call on German companies to come to Senegal, an open country with a rapidly growing economy.
Which key sectors in your country could be of interest to investors?
When you push for development, you have to consider the whole spectrum. It's an all-round development. But infrastructure remains a priority; the agriculture and agro-industry sector, the vocational training sector is essential, the same goes for tourism and services. The different services: transport, energy, water and sanitation. So you see, we need a wide range of services. The German government needs to support these companies and we need to have access to credits. That's the only condition. But we're absolutely open and very happy to be here in Berlin.
You mentioned water. Critics in Senegal accuse you of selling out strategic sectors to foreigners. What do you think of these accusations?
(Laughs) They are ridiculous! We started reforming the sector in 1996, when I was not president yet. It's true that the government put out an international call for tenders. An international private company won the bid. But it was an open call for tenders. Why did the Senegalese not take part? We didn't say it was for foreigners only. Today it is easy to hide behind these kinds of claims. But twenty years on, considering all the support, we should have companies capable of making an offer that is acceptable. To say that we give everything away to companies abroad is too easy an argument. That said, we are not self-sufficient. And anyway, those who want to work will find work. Out of the all the projects in the Senegalese development plan (PSE), more than 60 to 70 percent of public contracts were won by Senegalese companies.
Do you mean that you don't neglect Senegalese investors?
How can I neglect those for whom I'm here? It doesn't make sense! I'm here first of all to represent the interests of the Senegalese people. But if I want a train, is there someone in the Senegalese private sector today who can build me trains? We have to be reasonable. There are things Senegalese companies can do. One example is railway construction. We have companies that have all the skills required for this work. We don't have them in the electrical sector yet, since we are only now starting. There are other sectors, like aviation: we don't make planes. If I need planes I have to buy them somewhere else. But just like in countries all over the world, gradually private companies have been building up services and maintenance. We are ready to support them. In fact, we already support them.
Democracy is one of the conditions set by Germany in offering a partnership in the compact. The presidential election in Senegal will take place in four months time. By the looks of it, it will not really be an open election.
Why do you say that?
Some opposition members have met with legal difficulties which prevent them from participating in the poll.
Legal problems exist in every country in the world, be it in Germany, France or the United States. They are solved in the courts. Why should this be a problem when it happens in Africa? In France we saw presidential candidates being indicted in the middle of the election campaign. Did we question French democracy or French justice? Why do you want to make an exception only when it happens in Africa? Justice is for everyone.
External partners set great store by democracy.
They are free to do so. And if they do, we have our answer ready. All the more so because Africa doesn't need any lessons. At least Senegal doesn't. I consider myself a democrat, I consider Senegal to be a democracy. I cannot accept unfounded accusations from whomever. Senegal is a democracy without doubt and everybody knows it. You cannot question our democracy or our judicial system just because some people have had problems with the law, were convicted, appealed even to the Supreme Court, and had their convictions upheld. It's just not fair. There are people being jailed every day after going to court and and being sentenced. But they are citizens too. Why does no one talk about them? As opposed to others, who have been found guilty of certain crimes or of mismanagement? The law is hard but it is the law. That's just how it is.
Macky Sall has been president of Senegal since 2012
The interview was conducted by Fréjus Quénum