DAKAR, Senegal — Senegal is an emerging economy with a poverty rate of 38 percent. One solution to poverty is economic growth and transformation. The idea is that growth will create jobs and increase income to help pull those out of poverty. The positive effects of economic growth include road and hospital construction and affordable and widespread education. Senegal’s economic transformation will help to alleviate poverty with a $20 billion Emergent Senegal Plan. It’s already seeing progress. GDP growth has steadily risen from 6.4 percent in 2015 to about 7 percent in 2018, which makes Senegal one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Infrastructure Development Underway
Infrastructure development is a basic foundation for economic growth. A developed economy relies heavily on roadways, bridges, buildings, sewers and electricity. As part of the $20 billion Emergent Senegal Plan that ends in 2035, Senegal constructed more than 137 miles of multi-lane roads to improve transportation and trade. Under President Macky Sall, Senegal’s economic transformation is moving quickly. More than 43 road infrastructure projects were completed within seven years. Road construction is not primarily in urban areas either. The Community Development Emergency Program, the Casamance Development Pole (PPDC) and various other groups teamed up to construct almost 2,500 miles of roads in rural areas.
The project constructed a one-mile-long Senegambia Bridge to increase trade between Gambia and Senegal. It’s one of the longest bridges in the world and became operational in early 2019. Another form of transportation in its first phase is the Dakar Regional Express Train (TER). The TER is a high-speed express train project that costs more than $1 billion and consists of 14 train stations connecting Dakar to the Blaise Diagne International Airport.
A Possible Technology Hub
The Senegalese capital Dakar is gradually becoming an African technology hub. In June 2019, 26 corporations attended an event called Digital Women’s Day showcasing what the future holds for Dakar. “Dakar is among the top 10 digital cities in Africa, with incubators for start-ups and major investors,” said Delphine Remy-Boutang, the event’s founder. Dakar is already home to start-ups, yet some organizers believe new technologies could create 35,000 jobs by 2025.
In 2018, the World Bank invested $180 million to support Senegal’s economic transformation, particularly in Information and Communication Technologies to build a long-term digital sector. Louise Cord, World Bank Country Director for Senegal, expressed concern that energy is expensive in Senegal and that the country has to rely on oil prices that fluctuate wildly. Cord mentioned a more sustainable and widespread approach to energy since energy access in rural areas is only 40 percent. Without electricity access, it’s difficult to see Senegal’s economic transformation coming to fruition. One of the goals is switching from oil to natural gas, which is less costly.
The government also formed the Senegal Digital Strategy 2025 to help diversify the economy. It hopes to generate 10 percent of its GDP from the digital industry. Antoime N’Gom, director-general of Senegal’s organization of ICT professionals, stated at the IT international fair in 2016 that technology could create 30,000 jobs by 2025.
Dakar is already receiving interest from outside investors. Orange is a telecommunications company serving more than 123 million customers in Africa and the Middle East. Orange already built a digital center in Dakar, yet it’s opening up a second center that provides free programs and training for young entrepreneurs and budding start-ups.
Senegal’s poverty rate reduced from 55 percent in 2001 to 38 percent in 2011. Infrastructure is ongoing and economic growth is gradually increasing. Technology innovations in Dakar and have attracted start-ups and corporations across the globe. Under President Sall, progress is being made in Senegal’s economic transformation. Diversification and economic growth is one way Senegal is reducing its poverty rate and improving livelihoods for its people.
– Lucas Schmidt