Senegal, a solid anchor at the western tip of Africa
WHERE? The Foundation for Freedom has had a presence in Dakar, Senegal since 1980. The nation has experienced several peaceful transitions of power since achieving independence in 1960. It is considered the most stable country in West Africa and hosts a large number of embassies, international organisations and NGOs.
WHO? Jo Holden, director of the West Africa office, coordinates the Foundation’s activities in Senegal, Mali and the work of the Abidjan project office in Côte d´Ivoire in close collaboration with his team.
WHAT? Senegal is seen as a solid anchor in West Africa, although it faces many of the same challenges as other countries in the sub-region. High poverty and unemployment rates, paired with rapid population growth, leave little space for the country to grow. State institutions are barely functional, the education system is rudimentary and the public infrastructure cannot keep up with the strains placed on it by the growing population. The majority of the population live in the rural areas, where access to basic education and health services is limited.
Micro-enterprises and small businesses, many of them informal, form the backbone of Senegal’s economy. Private enterprise is the most important growth factor and the country has posted some significant macro-economic gains over the past decade. Senegal’s government aims to turn the country into an emerging economy by 2030. To achieve this goal, it is investing heavily, particularly in transport and road infrastructure. Oil and gas production is commencing and is expected to boost growth in the coming years, as well as relieving fiscal pressure on public capital expenditure, which has been heavily reliant on credit financing. Currently, economic growth is insufficient to sustainably compensate for population growth. Many young people see no prospects in Senegal. As a result, many of them attempt to emigrate to Europe. A large Senegalese diaspora has established itself in France, Spain and Italy.
The Foundation for Freedom works actively on identifying organisations and individuals willing to take responsibility and contribute to development. The private sector and NGOs boast a large number of dynamic individuals who are driving the country’s development. They include young entrepreneurs as well as political and business leaders who work on campaigns or business ideas, thereby supporting the country’s progress.
Our activities in Senegal focus on the rule of law, the market economy and respect for human rights:
1. Political and economic reforms, and capacity building: The Foundation supports liberal political partners in Senegal, including both parties and individuals, to enable them to design and implement political and economic reforms. Selected members and future leaders participate in training courses in Senegal as well as programmes of visits to Germany. Through theses activities, partners are able to build networks with liberal peers in Africa, Europe and worldwide. Supporting liberal women’s and youth organisations forms a further important aspect of our work.
2. Human rights: Every year, our human rights activities in Senegal take place under a specific theme which links our work to current political circumstances in the country. This may include topics such as the use of natural resources, international terrorism and migration. Training focuses on lawyers and judges, but also includes journalists and human rights activists. The aim is not only to promote the awareness of human rights as a core liberal value, but also to build respect for civil liberties and greater tolerance.
3. Promoting entrepreneurship and “doing business”: In Senegal, where over two-thirds of the population are under the age of 35, it is critically important to create jobs and prospects for the youth in particular. This is not something the public sector can do on its own, nor should it. The Foundation cooperates with business organisations, focusing on start-ups, young entrepreneurs and founders of small and medium enterprises. It provides training and networking opportunities, as well as serving as a platform for business contacts. Through its partner network, the Foundation supports efforts to implement economic reforms and achieve long-term improvements in Senegal’s business climate.
Partners: The Foundation’s political partners are the Senegalese members of the Africa Liberal Network (ALN) and Liberal International (LI): the parties “Alliance pour la République” (APR), “Parti Démocratique Sénégalais" (PDS) and REWMI.
In the area of human rights, the Foundation cooperates with the national human rights committee, the “Comite Senegalais des Droits de l’Homme”, as well as with various networks linking human rights activists, the Senegalese branch of Transparency International and several international cooperation partners such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Strassbourg-based “Fondation René Cassin", a human rights foundation. In the fields of enterprise development and business promotion, the Foundation works with the Institut Superieur de Management (ISM) business school and the Senegalese agency for small and medium enterprises, ADEPME. Numerous incubators for start-ups, company founders and young entrepreneurs as well as general business associations are also partners of the Foundation.