Senegal: Dakar Reaches Out to Finance Big Development Plans

Photo: Julie Strupp/AllAfrica
Senegal's Minister of Budget Mouhamadou Mactar Cisse (center) talks with members of the press in Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC — Senegal's Minister of Budget Mouhamadou Mactar Cisse met with business representatives in Washington, D.C. last month to present the country's ambitious development plan and encourage new investment in the West African nation.

The National Strategy for Economic and Social Development (SNDES) is comprised of more than 30 projects in agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, education, information technology, and more. The plan aims to foster human development in Senegal and boost growth to at least seven percent per year in the next four years, from the current 4.6 percent. The country hopes to achieve emerging economy status by 2035.

The Washington meeting was a prelude to a World Bank and United Nations Program for Development-supported Paris Consultative Group, where Senegal sought private and public financing for SNDES. Commitments to date total $7.7 billion dollars from international creditors, according to Agence France-Presse. The government is seeking to raise a total of $2.2 billion.

In Washington, Cisse offered practical advice to investors and discussed priorities and the research involved in the plan. Below are selections from the minister's press conference, translated and edited for clarity:

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in investing in Senegal - especially in the areas of energy and infrastructure - but is unsure of where to start?

We've created the Investment Promotion Agency (APIX) for exactly this purpose--to be a one stop agency for every single one of your issues.

This agency was just created to exactly answer your question. You can even do it online--in one hour, online, you can start a Senegalese company. Our legal framework is aimed at securing foreign investment.

We presented a plan of action this morning that paves the way for more investment, but there are other things in the project that are very attractive. What we'd like to emphasize is that there are 17 reforms in the business environment that are accompanying these projects. It goes from fiscal reform to land ownership to intellectual property - you name it. Everything has been thought of and put into a package. These are the preconditions for us for the vision to succeed. In Senegal it's paramount that investors, especially U.S. investors, feel certain that businesses are protected. That's why we made sure to take the time to create this framework.

How are you involving Senegal's Diaspora in the country's development?

Senegal is definitely considering in the role of the Diaspora in this presentation. The Diaspora is key driver to the success of the initiative. We know that the Diaspora is very diverse, and we understand that the remittances from the Diaspora are an important cushion for our economy and without it maybe we would witness some social unrest. Do understand that Senegal does value the Diaspora and the Embassy and the Consulate are here to support you. Just know that the vision does really take into account the Diaspora.

Senegal has had development plans in the past, such as the financial adjustment in the 80's, which had mixed results. What makes your current plan different?

The key difference here is that we had a five-year planning process which we inherited from the French, but this time around it's really a strategic plan that's different from the old way of running the country.

This is the first time we're looking at a 20-year strategic plan.

Before, we had three years, then five years planned, but never really the longer view. I understand that it takes more than one term to create real change. To answer your question, this plan of 20 years is forward-looking, but there are going to be checkpoints along the way.

The 20 years is split into two ten-year terms, and the first ten-year term has been split into the five-year action plan that you received.

Those first five years are going to put together the precondition for the systemic growth and will put Senegal into a trajectory of growth.

That is the five-year plan that was presented this morning, which is just for the first five years in the first 10-year term. The second innovation is how we're strengthening our monitoring strategies. In the past we tried to implement new strategies, but monitoring and evaluation was not really our strength. This time around, we wanted to be more of a part of the (monitoring) process.

The third innovation is that this time, it is the president himself who is leading the way; it is his plan and he is putting it into action. In the previous plan, this was more a technical matter between the Ministry of Finance, the IMF, and the World Bank; it was very technical without any good bridge between the technical aspects and the social application. This time around, the president is more involved and the president is the one who is actually leading the delegation to Paris on February 24th and 25th. Also, this is a good time to address the question: "Why Paris?" There have been questions about why I did not speak in English, but it's just for practical reasons. We picked Paris for strategic reasons - it's easier to gather people in Paris, but next time we will invite you to Senegal.

I'm working with a renewable energy company. In the coming months, we're looking to meet with the SENELEC (Electricity Company), so we just want to know your strategy as to opening up the private sector to help companies meet with the utility companies and form a stronger bond.

Energy is considered a platform to what we're trying to do. Without energy, there is no growth. We have a mandate from the president to work on different energy sources. The energy that we're using in Senegal is imported fuel, because Senegal does not have oil. We plan on using a variety of sources of energy - that is our current strategy. The energy market, in terms of production, is really open for other businesses to come in. An example is APR energy which is providing energy to the SENELEC.

You have a lot of projects planned. Which ones are you prioritizing, and why?

The issue with an underdeveloped country is that you can say anything is priority. Energy is priority, everything is priority. One of the key things that we did for this new vision was to work on setting up the priorities. We went way back from independence in 1960 to now and looked at everything we've done, good and bad. We concluded that the key drivers for growth in Senegal, each one of those drivers was completely out of shape. And we are facing a very young population. We have two-thirds of the population that is under 25 years old, so there are a lot of expectations from them in regards to education. This plan is really an accelerated path for the country. The 27 projects that the APIX representative Mr. Lo presented today, those are the key drivers to put Senegal into an accelerated growth path.

From a sequential point of view, we'll start with energy. The second objective is for agriculture to be able to put Senegal into a sustainable place, especially on rice, which is what we consume most.

Our key suppliers are now consuming their own rice and they're not exporting, so that means we have to be self-sufficient and produce what we consume. With such a young population, there is a huge demand in terms of education and health. We have to supply this.

For the private sector to be efficient, the government has to take charge of the development of heavy infrastructure. The government will emphasize taking the lead on infrastructure and energy, agriculture, human capital; those are the things we've identified. Two others we've identified are social capital and of course women's empowerment. Those sectors need heavy investment and the government with take charge so that the private sector can come in to a conducive environment that's efficient.

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