*Reviewing a piece I wrote during my first two months in Senegal:*
It is barely sunrise on a Sunday, but I still get up to confirm my
suspicion. I leave my room and enter the rugged sandy paths of Darou
Khoudass, passing by the goats, pigs, and chickens, some of which are still
asleep. I walk past the loose concrete slabs that resemble the homes and
buildings of the community. I make it right up the main road and see the
more urban area of the town. Looking up in front of me, I can finally see
it, the dark tint of the emissions rising from the towering phosphate
industrial area down the road. It dissolves into the atmosphere, as the sun
begins to emerge out of the sky. Its morning time in Darou Khoudass,
There are few clouds in the sky today. I arrived in Senegal during the
rainy season, although there has been very little rain fall during my stay.
I later was told by a specialist on the subject that the lack of rain was
due to climate change. Meanwhile, I begin to hear the voices of marketplace
grow behind, as men and women greet each other as they begin set up their
small businesses. French is the official language, but most of Senegalese
speak non’colloquial languages, including Wolof, Pular, and Serer. There is
no official time in the morning of when these shops are opened. The sense
of time here is a lot less linear and more abstract. But, eventually
everything is open and running. Generally speaking, the people and the
communities are grounded, down to earth and unbelievably kind. People and
family come first here.
As I return to my home, I see a car pulling up to the house. A man comes
out, semi-casually dressed.
“Alexandre Omar Gaye!” he calls.
When a family hosts someone in Senegal, they rename you and take you in as
part of their own family. This is part of the “teranga” of Senegal, that
is, the hospitality one has towards others. Therefore, my host parents
introduce me as their son. This demonstrates to the community that you are
a valued member of the community and are part of a family, not merely a
This man from the car, is, therefore, my brother-in-law named Arman, who is
a professor of African Macroeconomics in Dakar. Arman talks to me for a
long time about issues pertaining to the current economic problems
throughout west Africa.
In Senegal, the main exports are peanuts and fishing. The fishing industry
in Senegal is under attack because of offshore fishing by China. China has
superior technology to often go undetected by Senegalese authorities.
Often, these ships are docked in international seas right outside of
Senegalese jurisdiction in addition to any legal fishing contracts made
with the Senegalese government. This results in the economic loss in
Dakar’s fishing industry. It is important to mention, however, that these
issues are never one-sided. Many of the roads and schools I observed were
constructed through a partnership with, or aid from, China and bring about
a great benefit to the population.
The main roads throughout Senegal are mostly sponsored by foreign
countries, usually by China, Canada, or Japan, or a combination of the
three. The electric grid is inconsistent and largely dependent on the
exported petroleum shipments. I reside in Darou Khoudass, a leading area of
Senegal’s agricultural sector. Recently, oil and natural gas have been
discovered to exist under the ocean, beside Senegal. However, there is a
growing concern that Multinational Enterprises will place claim over this
oil and only provide Senegal with a mere 5% profits from this, in addition
to the costs of West African labor. A major import for Senegal is
petroleum. Like so many other African nations, spikes in oil and OPEC
prices can cause larger economic instabilities. Senegal’s stable democratic
government tries to offer subsidies when oil prices spike so that
Senegalese citizens can afford it, but it cannot always do so successfully.
After our conversation, I thank him and head back onto the sandy roads of
the community. I turn before the main road and can already see the straw
roof of the nursery school for the impoverished and orphaned that I am
helping to build. I open the gate and glance at the framework of wooden
logs beside the small structure of the school that will eventually turn
into the yoga and arts center for these children and their families.
I know I can do more, and so I decided to initiate my own project while I
am here. I am helping renovate a small nursery schools in my area for the
children in need.
There are many ways to contribute to the socioeconomic development efforts
here in Senegal. I wish to understand some of the challenges by listening
and serving the local community. Through this, I can therefore better
contribute to the community I now reside in.