Jobs, economic reform, migration: New Senegal President Diomaye Faye’s plate is full

Senegal woke up Tuesday to a new president-elect, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a former tax inspector and political newcomer who was released from prison just weeks ago and had inspired voters, many of them unemployed youth, with a vow to fight corruption and reform the economy.

Faye was catapulted into a presidential campaign after popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who was barred from running due to a prior conviction, had backed him.

The election followed months of unrest ignited by Faye and Sonko’s arrest last year, and concerns that the president would seek a third term in office despite constitutional term limits.

The violence shook Senegal’s reputation as a stable democracy in a region that has seen a wave of coups.

Rights groups said dozens were killed in the protests, while some 1,000 people were jailed.

Considered the anti-establishment candidate, Faye’s campaign messages of economic reform and anti-corruption resonated with the youth.

Almost a third of young people are unemployed with thousands risking their lives on dangerous journeys in search of jobs in the West.

Tapha Ndiaye, a shoe seller at a small shop in Dakar, said he voted for Faye because he thought he will create an environment where more young people could get work and contribute to their country.

“We have seen our brothers and sisters fleeing to Europe, and we don’t want that. This is why we want change. Because the regime that was here before did not help us,” he said.

Elhadj Badiane, another voter, said he lost his job in 2021, and hoped for a better future with Faye.

“Here, a young person can work for a month and not even save 25,000 cfa ($41) or 30,000 cfa ($49) to take care of his future. You work everyday, and you have nothing,” said Badiane.

Many young Senegalese have fled the country on dangerous journeys to Europe and more recently the United States through South and Central America.

Aly Tandian, a sociologist based in Dakar, said that many of those fleeing are looking for better economic opportunities.

“We have a population that wants to be actors in globalization. And not victims of globalization. So I think that this need to leave is a way of materializing this need to contribute, to be a part,” he said.

Though Faye’s opponent and current President Macky Sall has congratulated him on his win, official results are not expected to be out until later this week.

Analysts had expected a second round of voting in two weeks, but Faye was able to get more than 50% of the votes Sunday, surprising many.

Faye has vowed to improve Senegal’s control over its natural resources by promoting national companies to prevent the country from falling into what his campaign called “economic enslavement.”

His manifesto promised to renegotiate Senegal’s oil and gas contract and introduce a new currency.

Source: AfricaNews

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