Senegalese President Faye Makes First Foreign Visit Since Election

Senegal’s newly elected President, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, has made his first visit to a foreign country since his election as President late last month. He has made his visit to Mauritania, in order to discuss an array of different issues facing the two nations.

Joint Development

President Faye arrived in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on Thursday morning for a “friendship and working visit” to Mauritania, a neighbour of Senegal. He met with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, in order to discuss several different issues.

The President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani (Photo from GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP).

At the top of the list, however, was the two nations’ joint development of a massive gas field, named the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim, on their maritime borders.

The Greater Tortue Ahmeyim, located approximately 10km (6.2 miles) off the coast of St. Louis, Senegal, is a liquified natural gas field that spans a total of 33,000km2 (12,741mi2). It is situated between Senegal and Mauritania’s maritime borders.

The gas field has 1.4 billion cubic metres in reserves, giving it a 30-50 year production potential.

The field is to be jointly developed through the UK’s British Petroleum (BP), the US’ Kosmos Energy, Mauritania’s Societe Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures (SMH), and Senegal’s Societe des Petroleos du Senegal (PETROSEN). Oil and gas production is to start in both Senegal and Mauritania within 2024.

A photo of development of the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim liquified natural gas field (Photo from BP).

The gas field represents extreme economic opportunity for both Mauritania, who suffers from rampant poverty, and Senegal, who has a large amount of debt at 72% of GDP, which is much higher than the sub-Saharan average of 56% according to figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Through this project, Mauritania has the potential to become Africa’s third largest gas exporter, following Nigeria and Algeria. For Mauritania, the project is expected to generate an additional 19 billion USD in revenue across the next 30 years. The government has stated they intend to use much of this revenue for internal development, which is lacking in the nation that boasts a very large land area, but comparatively small population.

The majority of Mauritania is desert, with only 0.5% of the land being arable.

Several heads of Senegal’s fisheries also requested President Faye bring up the recent boarding of a number of different pirogues belonging to Senegalese fishermen by Mauritanian authorities for inspection, after they claimed the Senegalese pirogues did not align with Mauritanian standards and relevant legislation.

Following his visit to Mauritania, President Faye is set to visit The Gambia, a nation which is completely surrounded by Senegal.

A New Government

Earlier in April, Senegal’s new Prime Minister, Ousmane Sonko, provided to President Faye a list of ministers he recommended to form the nations’ new cabinet. The list, which only contained four women (a notable decrease from previous administrations that averaged seven women as ministry heads), was approved by President Faye. The new government ministers assumed their posts last week.

President Faye (front centre) arriving at Senegal’s Presidential Palace alongside PM Sonko (left) on March 28th, 2024, ahead of the President’s April 2nd inauguration (Photo from the Senegalese Presidential Bureau via Reuters).

As previously mentioned, Senegal is set to begin the production of oil and gas within 2024. There have been concerns amongst large portions of the population that the extreme economic potential that this production will bring will not be properly captivated by the contracts that are already put into place, and thus the Senegalese people will not yield as many benefits from the projects as they could.

The contracts for the production of oil and gas will be a key target for President Faye’s sought after renegotiations, bringing a large amount of importance to the post of Minister of Energy, Petroleum and Mines, Birame Souleye Diop.

One of President Faye’s most important campaign promises was to tackle youth unemployment, an extremely pressing issue that many within Senegal feel was ignored by former Senegalese President Macky Sall’s administration.

Former Senegalese President Macky Sall (Photo from Ludovic Marin/AFP).

Senegal has an unemployment rate of approximately 20%, which is primarily made up of youth, with around 50% of Senegal’s population being aged 25 or younger.

President Faye’s promise to tackle this issue brings great importance to the post of Minister Abdourahmane Sarr, the Minister of the Economy. Youth unemployment is a pressing issue in many African nations, which have a rapidly increasing population.

The renegotiation of contracts is to be related to President Faye’s plan of tackling youth unemployment. One of the worries people have about the present deal is that it will not provide enough employment opportunities for Senegalese citizens.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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