April 4, 1960. The end of colonialism in Senegal, independence from France, and the beginning of modern colonialism.
Senegal— a country full of culture, beauty, unique characteristics and not-to-mention a wonderfully distinct set of languages— is still under the firm grip of France, but in a much less obvious, much more invisible way.
After gaining independence from France, Senegal moved forward as its own people. But the sour taste of colonization spoiled the streets as Senegal worked to recover. Even now, in 2019, major streets in Dakar, the diamond of West Africa, are still named after French soldiers who captured, enslaved, and killed thousands. The popular company, Orange, is a french corporation that owns a large portion of Sonatel, the primary phone provider in Senegal and multiple other African countries. The primary supermarket, Auchan, is owned by the French and banks on Senegalese households buying food and necessities, the essentials to every day life. Senegal relies on French importation and numerous farmers in Senegal plant cash crops to sell to France. And even the banks (even a small portion of the Bank of Africa) are owned by France.
French as a national language has squandered the utility of Wolof (specific to western Senegal where i am living) because the school system and business world now operates in French. If a child does not speak French, they have lost their ability to go to school. If an adult does not speak french, they will most likely not work in an office but rather for micro businesses such as bakeries, tailoring shops, and carpentry shops.
60 years later, even the currency is still French (CFA). To this day, the name of the city i live in, Thies, has a French pronunciation.
But the Senegalese people are resilient. Senegal is considered one of the most stable countries in Africa and a staple of West Africa. They continue to prioritize peace (jamm rekk) and have managed to keep themselves out of conflict since independence in 1960. Senegal now uses French as a way to bind the multiple different languages across Senegal instead of viewing it as a remnant of colonization. They are fighting this modern colonialism.
With that said, it is vital to understand that colonialism is still present and thriving today. It may not be western colonies openly killing and enslaving Africans colonies, but the sense of control is still alive. France has a tight grip. This time, they are just a bit more underground.
I have limited experience with Senegal. My intention is to wrestle with the local perception of foreign intervention into the Senegalese culture and the benefits of foreign investment. Could Senegal and other African nations develop their own infrastructure and markets effectively – in a way they can grow, eventually reach par with developed nations, and then compete? Or is foreign investment a necessary requirement of development? And maybe I’m not thinking about the outcomes correctly. In any case, I have six more months of immersion to continue to discover and draw conclusions.
If you’d like to ensure the possibility of students like myself continuing to receive this opportunity of immersion in a foreign culture, and the outcomes Global Citizen Year is working towards, please donate to GCY through my fundraising page.