Democracy wins in Senegal. What does this mean for Germany and Europe? Roger Peltzer analyzes the election results and formulates recommendations for German foreign and development policy.

A new president was elected in Senegal on 24.3.2024. Bassirou Diomaye Faye victorious
as the surprise winner in the first round of voting with an absolute majority. Bassirou Diomaye Faye stood as a deputy for Ousmane Sonko, who is particularly popular with young people.
extremely popular opposition politician who, however, has been charged with various criminal offenses.
was barred from running for president as a result of investigations. Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who works with
Ousmane Sonko, who has been working with him for years and is a close friend, appointed his
friend then became prime minister immediately after the presidential election, so that both
will determine the fate of Senegal in the next 5 years.

This was preceded by several months of tug-of-war over the date of the presidential election. This should normally have taken place on February 23, 2024. However, the previous President Macky Sall, in agreement with the majority of the Senegalese parliament, then tried to postpone the election until the end of 2024. The background to this decision was probably also the fact that it became apparent that Macky Sall’s preferred candidate for his succession would foreseeably not receive sufficient support from the Senegalese public. In Senegal, this planned postponement led to
large protest actions and also abroad on critical issues.

On 15.2. However, the Senegalese Constitutional Council (the equivalent of the
Federal Constitutional Court) that the presidential elections must be held immediately.
which then happened on 24.3.24. With this and the democratic election, whose
result was also immediately accepted by the defeated parties, all the
speculation that Senegal could follow a similar path to the
Neighboring countries Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, where the military has seized power.
As in a number of other African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya)
Democracy in Senegal is based on institutions that have grown over the years, which in
are able to cope with crises and have a high reputation among the population.
enjoy. And a lively, alert civil society does its part.

How to deal with the new government in Senegal?

What can we make of the new political leadership in Senegal? Personally, I have to
say that I was not very impressed by Ousmane Sonko’s actions in the past.
was convinced. His discourse was largely similar to what we here in Germany know from the
AFD or the Sarah Wagenknecht alliance: A sweeping criticism of the government
with the tendency to dub “those at the top” as criminals who deceive the people and who
would effectively act as dictators. That’s not true for Germany or for Senegal, where a democratic election has just taken place. In addition, Ousmane Sonko has at least tolerated the sometimes violent escalation of protests that he has called for.

But as a result, it has to be said that the vast majority of younger people in the
Senegal – and there are a hell of a lot of them, partly because the birth rates are among the highest in the world.
of the world – wants a change. Today, they all have a school education, many have a
university degree and they move around the Internet just like their Western peers
and in the social media. In contrast to these, however, the vast majority of young
Senegalese have no job prospects, but have to make a living as small traders or
Making it through life as a cab motorcyclist. And these young people have understandably
great anger at the old political elites and also at the West and the old
colonial power France, who are (supposedly) to blame for their situation.

Now Bassirou Faye and Ousmane Sonko are not military officers (a big difference to the
heads of state in neighboring countries). They came to power through democratic elections
and both are well-trained and qualified tax consultants. So you have
the chance to prove now that they can make a difference and help young people again.
can give hope.

Not just proclaiming partnership at eye level, but practicing it

They will not eat some things as hot as they “cooked” them during the election campaign. So
they said immediately after the election that they would withdraw from the
common currency zone with Europe – the West African currency FCFA is firmly anchored to
the euro and freely convertible – would not be as serious as
announced before the election. And this also makes sense, as the FCFA zone is – in contrast to the
to many prejudices that are also widespread in Germany – for the countries involved.
an advantage. It enables a degree of economic integration in West Africa that is unparalleled in the world.
otherwise does not exist in Africa. And the zone’s stability criteria also lead to this, among other things,
that the FCFA countries are largely spared the phenomenon of over-indebtedness.

But otherwise the West will certainly be prepared to take a tougher stance in negotiations.
have to adjust. The coasts of Senegal serve many refugees from all over West Africa
via the Canary Islands as a springboard to Europe. The EU and Spain have agreed
In the past, Senegal has tried – sometimes successfully – to persuade the country to seal off these escape routes by offering incentives. Senegal will be able to rely on such agreements under the new
leadership, if at all, only if the EU offers significantly more: With
a few hundred scholarships for Senegalese students, they will no longer be able to afford
to be fobbed off. The EU will already have legal migration opportunities for thousands, if not thousands, of people.
not have to offer tens of thousands of young Senegalese. Incidentally, this could be the case for
Europe make perfect sense, the basic education of the vast majority of young
Senegalese are quite good. And in our country and throughout Europe, there is an urgent
Workers wanted. As the young Senegalese generally move to Europe and
the EU also has a real bargaining chip here.

And Germany and the EU will finally establish a “partnership of equals” not only
proclaim, but must also be practiced in concrete terms. Up to now, development cooperation has been a formally “equal” political dialog, but in reality the partner countries have to accept the priorities set by the BMZ. Exceptions are not possible. And if a specific climate policy project proposal does not take into account the sophisticated gender requirements of German development cooperation, it will fail, as will an investor who is related to a member of the government in the partner country,
has virtually no chance of obtaining financing from an EU development bank.
These and other requirements also mean that our partners in Africa are increasingly focusing on
turn to other alternatives – of which there are plenty. So much authorization all
our guidelines and regulations may have for themselves, German politics and
The development administration must learn much more to apply a sense of proportion to these requirements.
flexibility in individual cases. This is the only way that we will also be able to
government can remain credible and important partners.

Cover picture: Fishermen in a pirogue on Gorée Island, Senegal; photo by The Wandering Angel


  • Roger Peltzer

    70 years old, married, 3 children and soon 4 grandchildren. I studied economics at the University of Münster and then completed a postgraduate course at the German Institute for Development Policy (now IDOS).

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Democracy wins in Senegal: What does this mean for Germany and the EU?

Roger Peltzer

[wpml-string context="pb-bioinfo" name="info-1"]70 Jahre alt, verheiratet, 3 Kinder und bald 4 Enkel. Ich habe an der Universität Münster Volkswirtschaft studiert und anschließend den postgraduierten Kurs am deutschen Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (heute IDOS) absolviert.[/wpml-string]

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