Saturday, April 7, 2007


President Abdoulaye Wade in his famous shaven head. One group of Wade’s fervent supporters, promising some highly unusual celebrations following his 2000 election victory, told a journalist “We have told everyone we will shave our heads to be like ... Wade.”

A lawyer and a pioneer of African opposition politics long before multi-party democratic elections were widespread, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal founded his party in 1974. Since then, he has actively denounced the de facto one-party rule of his then great rival President Abdou Diouf. Diouf's Socialist Party, which had been in power since independence from France in 1960, had been described by Abdoulaye Wade as corrupt and full of cronyism.

“The first great objective of my political life was to get rid of a system in Senegal. Midnight has struck, the system is dead,” Abdoulaye Wade said after voting in the second round of presidential elections in 2000.

Abdoulaye Wade was born in 1926 in Kebemer, Senegal. He studied at the University of Besançon in France, where he read psychology, sociology, economics, and law. After qualifying as a lawyer and obtaining a doctorate, he embarked on an academic career, teaching at the universities of Boston, Dakar, and Paris (the Sorbonne). He worked as a barrister at the Court of Appeal and was appointed Dean of the faculty of Law and Economics at the University of Dakar. Abdoulaye Wade came to power in March 2000, winning presidential elections at the fifth attempt, and defeating Abdou Diouf’s Socialist Party. Wade was 73 at the time. More recently, he won re-election for a second term on February 2007, gaining nearly 56% of the votes cast - enough to avoid a second-round ballot.

Abdoulaye Wade casting his vote as his wife Vivian Wade looks on

President Wade is also the leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party, a liberal party. He led the opposition for decades and was, at times, exiled and imprisoned at Besançon prison for his political activities. An advocate of democratisation, Abdoulaye Wade helped to launch the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, NEPAD. The partnership aims to foster economic recovery through African-led reforms and good governance.More on Abdoulaye Wade Background in French

Abdoulaye Wade's CEO Vision for Senegal

When asked what he needed from Europe Abdoulaye Wade replied “ We are ready to accept precise forms of help. I don’t want money, and I don’t want hand outs. I want trade agreements with European firms who will come to Senegal and work with African firms. Anything else is a waste of time.”

Wade contends that Europe would benefit greatly from turning more to Africa. He sees the world as evolving such that the upcoming big powers will be the US, China, India, and possibly Brazil. "Europe is not one of the major powers. And Africa even less so, of course." Wade advocates for a synergy to be developed between Africa and Europe since both continents can benefit from each other. Africa has what Europe lacks: space, human resources, and natural resources, while Europe has the technological innovation that Africa lacks.

"My vision is that Senegal develops itself agriculturally. We have land, we have water, and we have people. We have always imported food goods and I want to get to the point where we are exporting them. Europe needs a lot of agricultural goods and we have immense resources. In particular we are focusing on organic farming for export to the US and Europe. Returning our focus to agriculture is the best way of creating jobs. Since 2002, every year we have managed to double our volume of foreign investment. On a macroeconomic level we now have a model economy, an inflation rate of between 0.5 and 1 percent and no budget deficit. We need to support our agricultural economy and that’s where Europe can help us. We have concrete projects, such as providing water but such projects are expensive. We have the young people who can come and work on these projects, but we also need European materials and foreign companies to come in."

President Abdoulaye Wade, with his wife First lady Vivian Wade, receives the African Gender Award in recognition of his role in the promotion of gender equality, on May 2, 2005 in Dakar, Senegal.

"I believe in a liberal economy and have never put much faith in the state-run economy, because it fails. I support the state, but not the state-run economy. The state should intervene only to create the conditions necessary for the private sector to thrive. I am counting on the private sector, because it is crucial to Senegal’s future."


Return to sender: New out-of-Africa immigrants to Europe via Canary Islands caught by the Spanish Coast Guard

One of the biggest problems facing Africa and Europe is migration. Thousands of Africans risk their lives to get to the Canary Islands and other European territories. Abdoulaye Wade wants to keep the young Africans in Africa and he proposes:

Immigrants stranded on the beaches of Canary islands in inhumane conditions surprising tourists.

"When I look around at these major projects which are being set up in Senegal right now, they are all being run by young graduates who have come back after having studied at international institutes in the US and France. For some of them this is their first job. They want to come back and my problem is finding good enough jobs for all of them. The young people who are migrating in boats to the Canary Islands are not graduates. Our objective is to give them a chance to earn money quickly. I met up with some of them who had been brought back from Spain. I asked them what it was all about. They said, ‘Mr. President, we have no work here. We have to do something. If you give us jobs we will stay. The other thing is that there are prejudices against the traditional peasant life which our grandfathers lived.’ But modern farms are different. I know graduates in Senegal, who have banana farms, and have come back with new ideas and use modern materials."

Interview extracts conducted by Damien McGuiness at Spiegel


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Anonymous said...

the contradictions on the pictures say it all.