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Senegal's Opposition Promises New Currency and Renegotiated Contracts

Published March 11, 2024
2 months ago

Dakar, Senegal - With the Senegalese presidential election on the horizon, the opposition coalition, led by popular figure Ousmane Sonko, is stirring the political pot with transformative promises. On Saturday, the coalition rolled out a comprehensive campaign platform, anchored by the commitment to introduce a new national currency and restructure existing mining and energy contracts.

Bassirou Diomaye Faye, the face of the coalition's presidential bid, stands as a formidable opponent in a crowded field of 19 candidates. Although Senegal does not conduct public opinion polling, Faye's bid for the top office has captured attention, indicating a potential for political upheaval.

Faye's detailed platform, spanning 84 pages, outlines the coalition's intent to reclaim economic control as a path toward full independence. The document emphasizes achieving sovereignty in vital sectors, including food, digital space, fiscal policy, energy, and science. This is not merely an economic campaign but a declaration of a comprehensive approach toward omnipotent national self-rule.

The coalition, a conglomerate of members from the now-disbanded Pastef party and other political factions, has coalesced behind Faye following the disqualification of Sonko over a defamation conviction. Sonko's call for his supporters to rally behind Faye could swing a significant demographic — the youth — who are currently grappling with economic hardship and unemployment in the nation of 17 million people.

As Faye proposes bold measures to address inequality and unemployment, there are also ambitious hints at major governance reforms. Notably, the platform proposes the creation of a vice-presidential role coupled with the dissolution of the prime minister's position. These changes symbolize a prospective restructuring of the governance architecture designed to streamline operations and concentrate executive decision-making.

Regional and international stakeholders are closely watching the coalition's campaign vows, particularly concerning fiscal and customs reforms, the introduction of a national currency, and the reevaluation of critical contracts that span mining, hydrocarbons, public procurement, and infrastructure.

Though the platform falls short of detailing the mechanics of these vast contract renegotiations, it underscores the redirection of the mining industry to become a central mechanism for socioeconomic development, aiming to maximize oil production revenues. The upcoming Sangomar oil and gas project operated by Woodside Energy, which is set to produce approximately 100,000 barrels of oil per day starting mid-2024, underscores the gravity of these proposed renegotiations.

The proposed national currency raises flags for the West African Economic and Monetary Union and the future of the CFA franc, a regional currency long embroiled in debate over its connections to former colonial powers. The practical steps to establish a new currency, however, remain a complicated endeavor that would require careful planning and extensive support to reach fruition.

As Faye and his coalition gain momentum, the coming weeks will reveal whether these formidable proposals resonate with the Senegalese public and have the force to shift the political landscape or if they will simply evaporate as election rhetoric.

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