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[Published: Saturday April 20 2024]

 Senegal’s new government targets economic sovereignty

DAKAR, 20 April. - (ANA) - Senior figures in Senegal’s new government are pushing reforms they say will move the country towards greater control of its resources, retooling the country’s economy away from its decades-old reliance on foreign governments, especially France.
Bassirou Diomaye Faye, 44, who was sworn in as Africa’s youngest elected president earlier this month, made his political mentor Ousmane Sonko the prime minister and inaugurated a 25-person cabinet that includes only four women. The appointees assumed their roles last week and have begun to provide a stronger sense of how Faye and Sonko’s campaign pledges to break with the past may play out.
Bemoaning rising levels of foreign currency debt incurred by previous administrations pursuing infrastructure development, new finance minister Abdourahmane Sarr said Senegal will seek stronger bilateral and multilateral ties “while aiming to free ourselves from ties of dependence in our public policies.” Government debt as a share of gross domestic product is at 72%, above the sub-Saharan African average of 56%, according to the IMF.
Senegal will also push for more autonomy for the central bank that oversees the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union. Members of the union use the West African CFA franc currency that is pegged to the euro. “We will not be able to develop and deepen our financial market without a more active monetary policy,” Sarr said.
The West African country may also “renegotiate all existing contracts” to bring them in line with the public interest, new energy, oil and mines minister Biram Souleye Diop said on Thursday. Any such move depends on the outcome of an audit of the oil, gas and mining sector which Faye ordered the day after his inauguration.
Faye won last month’s presidential elections on the back of widespread frustration with the immediate past government over high unemployment and widening inequality among Senegal’s 18 million people. He took office at a time of slower economic growth that is partly due to external shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic.
French president Emmanuel Macron’s decision to congratulate Faye on his election using a tweet in Wolof, the major local language in Senegal, is a sign that France is concerned about Faye’s insistence on a sovereign future for Senegal, said Babacar Ndiaye, a senior fellow at the Timbuktu Institute in Dakar.
“It seems likely that, after its traumatic expulsion from the Sahel, [France] is trying to repair its relations with its important French-speaking partners, including Senegal,” Ndiaye told Semafor Africa.   - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/20 April 2024 - - -

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