DAKAR, (CAJ News)– SENEGAL’S decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with China is paying dividends with investments into the West African country reaching more than CFA 780 billion (US$1,32 billion) since ties were resumed a decade ago.
This has culminated in China covering ground on France, the colonial master, which is Senegal’s biggest trade partner. According to a Finance Department document that lays out triennial investments, China will pour CFA 177 billion against 183 for France.
China had severed its ties with Senegal in 1996 for Dakar having recognised the island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade
province, that nonetheless would eventually be reunited with the mainland.
However, in 2005, the government of Abdoulaye Wade restored diplomatic ties with the Asian giant.
Money has been flowing in ever since.
Most of the funds China has invested have been channeled into key projects such in telecommunications, agriculture, energy, transportation and infrastructure.
The biggest beneficiary has been the infrastructure sector.
The biggest road infrastructure project ever in Senegal is underway, financed by China.
The highway Ila Touba will cost $812 million and will link the capital, Dakar, to the second biggest and religious centre of the country, Touba.
The execution of the 113 kilometers has already begun and will last 45 months, according to the deal.
The Senegalese government hopes this significant project infrastructure will generate thousands of jobs and its impact on transport benefits will also be huge.
Some CFA 754 billion (85 percent) of the investment will come from Eximbank China while Senegal will complete the rest of the funding.
In addition, last December another significant deal was made public, again with the involvement of China.
The Chinese will reconstruct the railway between the capital Dakar and the Malian town of Kididra, more than 600 kilometers apart.
China Railways Construction Corporation has been chosen to reconstruct the railway system between the two countries.
Senegal aims to revive the economy by fuelling the exchanges with Mali.
The countries have been linked by trains for a better trade and exportation between their industrial sectors.
Mali is landlocked draws a lot of its imports via Senegal’s port.
“Money is cheaper with Chinese,” beamed Abdou Ndéné Sall, the Railway Minister, indicating the benefits of low rate and long term loans China offered.
Some of the funds would be repaid over 30 years with the highest interest rate being 2 percent.
He pointed out ties with China were key as even developed countries were looking to China.
“China is very rich and isn’t just investing in Africa. It is even investing in the United States,” Sall said.
Nonetheless while it has an endowed purse, China does not loosen the strings for the sake of it.
“China doesn’t finance every kind of project. Among nine bridge projects , they have only chosen one. They only choose good and productive projects,” added Sall.
For the next three years only France will invest more money on Senegalese programmes than China (as stated above).
Another sector that is benefit is mining.
“For the last three or four years we have witnessed the arrival of chinese investors in our industry and mine sectors,” said the Minister of Industry an Mines, Aly Ngouille Ndiaye.
Meanwhile, it is envisaged thousands of jobs will be created after the United Nations industrial Development Organisation selected Senegal to test the feasibility of industrial parks in the continent. Ethiopia is the other country UNIDO has selected for the exercise.
An industrial park, also known as industrial estate or trading estate, is an area zoned and planned for the purpose of industrial development.
The facility is in the new town of Diamniadio and is on its last stages of construction.
“A Chinese entrepreneur has already said he will recruit about a thousand of employees in the industrial park in the first trimester of 2016 and train them for skills needed for the jobs,” said Ndiaye.
Ultimately, it is anticipated 5 000 people will be recruited.
“With the industrial park of Diamniadio, we hope to have a lot of jobs with Chinese, who want to delocalise some industrial plants in our country. Textile shoes and electronic enterprises are mainly aimed,” added Ndiaye.
The perspectives are even brighter with the farming industry set to benefit.
“For example, the industrial parks initiative would enable us add value to our cotton. We export our cotton to other countries that manufacture it and send it back to us at higher prices. That has to change,” said Ndiaye.
It is not all about the money.
To cement the relations between the two countries, China has also offered Senegal a set of cultural venues.
The Grand Théâtre, the biggest spectacle hall of the country has been built by the Chinese government.
In January, a delegation of Chinese government officials announced The Museum of Black Civilisations will open to the public in April.
The Chinese government is financing the construction of the facility, which is anticipated to highlight the richness of African culture.
China has now opened a Chinese Department at the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar.
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