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Senegal today: Corporate resource extraction, corruption

Posted on 28 August 2019

Photos: MONUSCO Photos (Flickr) , and Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

In 2019, Senegal saw a contested electoral process and cases of repression against growing people’s movements. This unfolding political context, amid increasing threats of corporate-led resource plunder, warrants a closer look into contemporary Senegal.

Senegal is located in West of the African continent, and covers an area of 196,712 km². It has an estimated population to 15 million inhabitants in 2018, according to the national agency of statistics and demography, with the population growth at 2.39% in 2017. Senegal is a member of several regional unions: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), African Union, among others.

Between 2012 and 2017, the average annual growth of the Senegalese economy was 5.4%. The economy is still oriented for outside powers, including to France, but also to India, Italy, China, USA etc. Despite the various programs and policies recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank since the late 1970s, Senegal remains a Least Developed Country (LDC). Its population, as in all poor countries, faces enormous difficulties in meeting basic needs, in particular those related to food, health and education. The main sectors driving of the economy are in crisis: agriculture, fishing, tourism, and mining.

Senegalese elections, political repression

Following the re-election of President Macky Sall last February, controversies erupted about recent oil and gas discoveries which have been expected to be solutions to underdevelopment. Also, policies adopted by those in power seem much more interested in the interests of multinationals and their countries of origin than those of the Senegalese population.

The first quarter of this year 2019 was strongly marked by the presidential election, the eleventh since the independence of the country. A sponsorship system was adopted to limit the number of candidates despite the refusal and criticism of the opposition. Because of this, only five candidates were selected. Among them, Ousmane Sonko, a young leader, was removed from public service by President Sall following the former's denunciations of government irregularities. Sonko embodies the responsible youth and has a lot of interest in preserving Senegalese interests over natural resources including oil and gas.

Despite  the opposition’s denunciation of electoral irregularities (delayed opening of offices, absence of at least one proxy to monitor, children's votes in certain localities, etc.), President Macky Sall was reelected for a second term with 58% of votes. The candidate Sonko came third with nearly 16%, after a famed Prime Minister Idrissa Seck.

Amid these, political repression has also become an issue among people’s movements. Guy Marius Sagna, an activist for the full decolonization of Senegal, was arrested in mid-July 2019. This was in relation to a social media post critical of France’s attempts to justify increased military presence in Senegal on pretexts of fighting “terrorism”.  Sagna has been a leader of the “No to EPAs” Coalition, a movement against neoliberal Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) in Africa, and a member of France Degage!/FRAPP movement, which resists continuing neocolonial influence in Senegal.

The proliferation of foreign companies in

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