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Updated Apr 8, 2020

Senegal celebrated sixty years of independence on Saturday, April 4, without a fanfare. Amid the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus across Africa, President Macky Sall initiated lockdown procedures and imposed nightly curfews. Senegalese had to make do with celebrating their collective liberation separated and indoors.

The country has even more cause for celebration, says Ute Gierczynski-Bocandé, program director for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Senegal. Having lived in Senegal for more than 30 years, he points to the country’s significant gains in providing education for its citizens. At the time of independence, there were only a literal handful of primary and secondary schools in Senegal. Now, even children in remote villages can go to school.

Development has also come a long way, especially in the capital Dakar, which is home to nearly a quarter of Senegal’s population. In Diamniadio, a new urban and economic hub near the capital, work is under way on industrial parks and apartment complexes that will house tens of thousands of people, slated to be completed by 2035. Development outside the capital has, however, been slow.


Why It Matters

Senegal serves as a model country for West Africa in terms of both economic and political development, especially when it comes to its successful transfers of power following elections. While COVID-19 is likely to upend a lot of the progress made in Africa, taking the time to reflect on more than a half-century of progress is a hopeful balm during these times.

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