ROLLING MEADOWS, Illinois — Senegal was one of the first countries that jumped to action when the WHO first announced the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, their response was so successful that the Foreign Policy COVID-19 Global Response Index ranked it second out of 36 countries. This was primarily due to the government’s quick response to the pandemic, which made COVID-19 tests free, banned public gatherings, suspended flights, made handwashing stations available in public and introduced a “dusk till dawn curfew.” Still, nearly 2 million people have fallen into poverty since the pandemic began and the second wave has hit the country hard. Senegal recorded 20,000 cases this July. Before that, the country recorded only 40,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. However, USAID has awarded three co-investment grants in order to meet desperately needed market demand for basic needs and minimize the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on Senegal.
Investment in Club Tiossane
Club Tiossane is an online fresh-grocery delivery service based in Senegal. USAID and Club Tiossane have made a combined investment worth nearly $2 million.
With the USAID funds, it will increase the size of their operations. It will buy 14 delivery trucks in order to increase the number of food deliveries to homes. The Senegalese have rapidly gained access to the Internet, with 206,000 additional Senegalese connecting to the Internet since 2020. This will help many people gain access to food without potentially exposing themselves to the virus. In addition, the company plans to build a cold storage and a packing facility in order to process, preserve and store food for longer periods.
Club Tiossane plans to build supply-chain partnerships with 400 small-scale food producers in Senegal. This will help these producers to improve the quantity and quality of their produce. It will help them develop new food products and access new markets to sell to.
Investment in Biosene
Biosene is a woman-led company that sells goods made from local raw materials. USAID and Biosene have made a combined investment worth nearly $2.18 million. The company will use these funds to stabilize its supply chains in West Africa and in Senegal.
Specifically, the company has said that it will buy 340 metric tons of products and raw materials from 6,600 farmers. These materials include millet, fonio, baobab fruits, hibiscus, drumstick trees and white beans. As agriculture is a major part of Senegal’s economy, accounting for nearly 70% of export revenues and as nearly 70% of the rural population depend on farming for their livelihoods, this will help many farmers gain a significant rise in income.
Biosene has said it will use some of the USAID funds to launch an e-commerce platform to help the company market its products. To manage this e-commerce platform, the company plans on hiring 39 new employees. Women will comprise 22 of the employees hired. The company plans to better train all 96 employees to maximize efficiency and productivity. In addition, Biosene will construct a new processing and storage facility.
Investment in Enterprise Aïssatou Gaye
Enterprise Aïssatou Gaye is a woman-led company that is a rice production company. USAID and Enterprise Aïssatou Gaye have made a combined investment worth nearly $5.8 million. The company will use the USAID funds to address obstacles in working capital, processing capacity and agricultural advisory services, which help with the technological, social and economic decisions a farmer needs to make.
The company estimates that the USAID funds will double the company’s rice processing capacity. This will help address the increasing demand for rice. The COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for rice, which forced transport restrictions that reduced rice imports to Senegal.
In addition, the USAID investment will help rice production and combat food insecurity in the Ross-Béthio region, the largest rural community in the country. This is especially important because an astounding 75% of families in the country suffer from chronic poverty.
Increased rice production will help many families get access to desperately needed food. Overall, these three Senegalese companies show immense promise to reduce the impact COVID-19 has had on the people. But they also show promise in the larger fight to reduce poverty in Senegal.
– Matthew Port Louis