Young Senegalese forced abroad by dual economic and political crises


As young people quit Senegal amid mounting economic and political hardship that has seen universities close and jobs dry up, local charities have moved in to stem the exodus by offering practical training aimed at helping vulnerable youth forge a path into the workplace.

The country has been thrown into political crisis over the past year over the jailing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and the violent supression of protests.

President Macky Sall was accused of seeking to maintain his grip on power amid disputed elections that were then delayed. A polling date has finally been set for 24 March.

The turmoil has had a ripple effect on the economy, with tourism in decline and most industries at a standstill.

Ayoba Faye, a journalist with private media group Walfadjri in Dakar and chief editor of the online newspaper Press Afrik, told RFI the postponement of the election had aggravated matters, particularly for young people.

“The country faces a political crisis, but also a social crisis and an economic crisis,” he said.

Young people lost many work opportunities after the government sold fishing licences to China and the EU, added. With the largest university closed for nine months “more and more of them are taking their pirogues to try and emigrate to Spain”. Rise in poverty

Known abroad as a haven of stability in a volatile region, Senegal has experienced a dramatic rise in poverty. More than a third of the population living under the poverty line, UN World Food Programme figures show.

Forty-one percent of Senegalese are under the age of 14 and many young people are focused on one thing: reaching Europe.

To do so, they typically travel the dangerous Atlantic route to Spain’s Canary Islands, which means days of sailing across treacherous seas.

The International Organisation for Migration said 14,976 migrants from West Africa had reached the Canaries between January and September 2023. It also said 424 people had either drowned or disappeared in crossings during that period.

More and more people are dreaming of taking their boats out “not for fishing but to leave the country”, economist N’Dongo Samba Sylla told RFI.

“When even demonstrating can lead to death because of state violence, what else can they hope for?” Call for training

Several organisations are focused on supporting young Senegalese facing unemployment – some of whom have returning to the country after a failed attempt to migrate.

Aspyre Africa, a UK-registered charity, provides access to vocational training for the country’s most vulnerable youth – especially those who feel they are unsuited for higher education.

It aims to propose practical and sustainable solutions that can remove barriers to entering the workplace.

Many young men go through Aspyre to learn how to become electricians, for example.

“In Senegal, a lot of young people lose hope because of unemployment,” trainee gardener Pape Moussa Diarra told RFI.

“I want to tell them that they can find support and get training to find a job that suits them, and then they’ll be able to help themselves and their family.”

One of the trainers, Lamine Tall, says social pressure has contributed to Senegal’s emigration problem.

“If a young man hears about another one who left for Europe and did well there, his family and his village might ask him, ‘Don’t you deserve the same?'” he says.

“That can get into people’s heads.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here