The reality of local development in Senegal

08/29/2018, Kaolack, Senegal, Margherita writes:

Corridors of the Senegalese Ministry of Women, Family and Gender

CIDES’ team of Pikine

I have been in Senegal for three months. The cultural shock was much stronger than I thought it would be. I have travelled and lived in Asia; I have come across other cultures and tough working environments. I thought I was used to and ready for changes. However, Africa is different from everywhere I have experienced in the past. West Africa is different from Asia; West Africa is different from Central Africa and Central Africa is different from East Africa. I knew that living in Dakar would have been way easier then settling in the regions; however even in the regions there are consistent differences. Life in one city can be completely different from life in a city which is only a few kilometers away.

I spent the first month in Dakar, at the Ministry of Women, Family and Gender, in the department that manages multilateral and bilateral programs aiming at reducing poverty while acting on specific gender targets. Within the department, I am affiliated with a socio-economic development project (PADESS) aiming at strengthening the initiatives undertaken by a similar program (PIDES) which is closing at the end of the month.


With the 17 million euro financing received by the Italian Government, the project has as specific targets women and young people. Financing SMEs, often very small and family-run, the program should empower women making them economically self-sufficient and allowing sustainable economic growth in the regions of Dakar, Pikine and Kaolack. The first project has also financed the development of two local socio-economic development agencies in Pikine and Kaolack aiming at supporting the economic activities financed by the projects. They should offer a wide range of services, from basic information related to the sectors with a high economic potential in the regions to specific technical services such as business plans writing. These services are provided by the agencies’ members, according to their competences.

I needed a full month to understand the projects, comprehending their strategies and their implementing phases and all the infinite administrative procedures required. At the beginning of the second month, I moved to Kaolack to support the local agency’s work. A new tiring period begun. The psychological struggle was combined with high temperatures and dirt, everywhere. Kaolack is the dirtiest town of Senegal, chaotic and quite aggressive as many Senegalese people would sadly admit. It has always been a cross road of merchants and travelers, a crucial city for regional trade. In Kaolack, multiple realities merge, from the commercial one to an entrenched and widespread poverty. Furthermore, the city is a known place for migrants transiting toward Europe, so numerous European countries’ development cooperation agencies are indeed implementing projects targeting migrants with the aim of preventing irregular migration and supporting repatriated migrants.

Sandstorm at Kaolack

There isn’t an expat community in Kaolack, which makes it hard to have a sincere comparison with other European? people at the end of the day. However, the local team has been comprehensive and supportive and even if they could not deeply understand my struggles as a “toubab”, it was interesting and funny to laugh about each other’s cultures and weird habits. I strongly believe in the power of communication and in the effort to adapt to “the new”, from both sides. Being able to address certain topics in a spontaneous and open way enriched all of us. During the month of July, the local agency of Kaolack, along with the one of Pikine, was under evaluation from an external consultant. The evaluation aimed at considering the future of CIDES and the feasibility of opening a new local development agency in Sedhiou, in the framework of PADESS. Kaolack’s CIDES was, therefore, at a deadlock waiting to define its future strategy. The uncertainty, the heavy rains that hit the city, the difficulties of circulation and the lack of safety, led me to re-discuss my stay in Kaolack with the Project Coordinator.

I’ve moved back to the capital for a couple of weeks. The month of august was primarily dedicated to all the procedures anticipating the end of PIDES. The team had to analyze PIDES’ best practices to be applied to the new program as well as to underline the dysfunctions to be avoided in the next activities. With regards to CIDES, the objective is to make them sustainable from an economic perspective. However, the fact that they have been created within a specific project and a Ministry ties them to it, making difficult for them to act as independent actors.

The month of august will soon be over and with it some religious festivity which slowed working rhythms, that are already very slow. September is meant to be a more active month, where PIDESS should enter its second phase, the most interesting one!


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