Posted on Monday, 23 November 2015 10:00

Senegal Country Profile 2015: Sall's plan is emerging

By The Africa Report

altLike President Barack Obama, Senegal's Macky Sall swept into office on the promise that he would deliver change.

The two have both found that to be easier said than done. The Senegalese government's framework for its first term in office is the Plan Sénégal Émergent (PSE), launched in 2014 with the goal of making the country an emerging economy by 2035.

Economic change has so far been slow and the poor performance of Sall's Alliance Pour la République (APR) in 2014's local elections shows that his backing could be fleeting.

With his Benno Bokk Yakaar coalition taking 119 of 150 seats in the 2012 legislative elections, Sall has few political obstacles to the implementation of his government's programme.

In 2014, Sall's team went on a road show to attract financing for the PSE and secured about $7.8bn in pledges. The government estimates that it will finance 56% of that sum while donors will contribute 36% and the private sector 8%.

Multi-sector development

The PSE includes 18 key projects that the government wants to develop as public-private partnerships. They span the fields of infrastructure, mining, tourism, education and agriculture. Structural projects include a desalination plant, the development of the iron ore mine at Falémé and a special economic zone at Thiès.

The government says that the programme will double economic growth rates over the next decade.

Large swathes of the population are still unhappy with the pace of change which they say does not live up to Sall's promises, despite the cuts in the price of rice, the introduction of universal health coverage and the reduction of rents. They sent a strong signal to President Sall during the June 2014 municipal and provincial elections.

There was infighting in Sall's APR and it failed to win control of the capital city, Dakar. Afterwards, Sall sacked all ruling party officials holding governmental positions, including prime minister Aminata Touré.

Sall is trying to score points by going after fraudsters from the government of his predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, and has set up an agency to fight fraud. Karim Wade, the son of Abdoulaye, is on trial after more than a year in jail, and is accused of illegally amassing $248m while in office.

altSince Sall's 2012 election, the former ruling party, the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais has been on the back foot and has a weak representation in parliament.

Former prime minister Idrissa Seck of the Rewmi party has been widely campaigning against Sall but has yet to show that he will provide much of a challenge in the 2017 presidential polls.

As the country faced a very poor rainy season in 2014, observers are expecting bad harvests and a rise in food insecurity. To increase agricultural growth, the government has set up a programme targeting the production of rice, peanuts and fruits and vegetables. It plans to invest 581bn CFA francs ($1.1bn) to help the country become self-sufficient in those products by 2017.

The Senegalese government stymied the small Ebola outbreak that took place in the country in 2014, but the continued closure of its border with Guinea has hurt the economy of border regions.

Oil promise

Senegal now has a future as an oil producer after Cairn Energy discovered what appears to be a commercially exploitable deposit of at least an estimated 250m barrels at the Sangomar Deep Block in October 2014.

Development will not take place for several years, but exploration is continuing and more decisions about how to proceed will be taken in 2015.

Also in August, US-based Kosmos Energy pursued a farm-in agreement with the state-run Petrosen and Timis Corp for a 60% stake in the Saint Louis and Cayar blocks.

Electricity provision was one of the previous government's weaknesses. Sall's administration is pushing for the rapid construction of the 87.5MW power plant at Tobène so that it can begin production in 2015.

The development of the mining sector is mostly on hold after the government and ArcelorMittal finally parted ways in 2014 following a dispute about delays in the investment. The government is looking for a new investor for the Falémé mine, but iron ore prices are low, so prospects are dim.

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