02 Jul Gulf-Senegalese Relations (A Future Vision)
Fortunately, most of what I face in life is criticism, which is often focused around two points that I recently began to respond to after a decade of ignorance.
The first one is that I’m an extemporary person of impromptu, rash speech that endeavors to reach others, even if that costs me a punishment I know about beforehand and which I would definitely overcome. The second point is that I don’t use papers already stuffed with specific questions for the purpose of interviewing a certain personality, under certain circumstances and in a certain country. This was taken by those criticizing me as one reason for the intellectual chaos I experience “from their own standpoint”. I normally retort to myself before retorting to my criticizers by affirming that extemporariness in my own view is a sort of sharpness of mind, cultural richness, and a spontaneous direct representation of an idea that flashed in the mind and expressed in words.
Yes, I believed in myself, so I’m no longer worried or dejected. I dismissed letdown, crowned by diligence and honored by success and brilliance, only when I believed in myself.
This introduction may sound relevant to my today’s topic about a country that believed in itself, bet its people, instilled values in its domestic front and counted on its foreign policy. Consequently, it has developed into a prosperous model in Africa, a continent intentionally abandoned with a bitter past to remember, and likewise deliberately deprived from a bright future.
There are several accounts as to the meaning of Senegal or “Sonogal”; some claim that it means “our boat” in the Wolof language (the most widely used language in Senegal). Another opinion states that the name of “Senegal” is originally “Zenkal”, a name that refers to Senhaga tribe which came from the north in the 11th century AD and which is credited with spreading Islam in West Africa.
Internationally, Senegal is classified among countries that managed to stand out as an ideal model which proved successful on all levels whether political, economic or social. Politically, Senegal is never known to have witnessed any military coup for more than six decades. Economically, Senegal today is a monetary, business and investment center for a number of countries, and due to political stability Senegal was selected as a seat for many financial and monetary institutions. Socially, despite ethnic and religious differences Senegal has never seen sectarian conflicts like its African counterparts.
The history of Senegal is related to three of the most important ancient African kingdoms, namely the “Ghana Empire”, the “Mali Kingdom”, and the “Songhai Empire”.
- Ghana Empire: The Ghana Empire was dominant during the 7th century AD, and extended between south eastern Mauritania and Sahara. Some historical references indicate that the chief objective behind establishing this Empire was to trade in gold which was abundantly produced in that region.
The Ghana Empire chose the town of “Koumbi Saleh” which dates back to the 3rd century AD as its capital. The capital was divided into two centers which are The South Area, called “Koumbi”, which is allocated to Christians; and the Northern Area called “Saleh”, an area rich with mosques and worship centers allocated to Muslims.
That empire collapsed in the 13th century AD for a number of contradicting reasons; some sources state that it collapsed due to environmental factors , while others confirm that it collapsed after the Murabitun armies occupied it ,replaced the Empire’s native inhabitants, and destroyed a number of historical scripts.
The town of “Koumbi Saleh” or “Elsuhbi” as named by the natives still stands lofty in the Mauritanian territory today, but suffers neglect in all sectors and the locals complain about the lack of a drinking water system.
- Mali Empire: It was a bigger empire than “Ghana Empire” and extended from the Atlantic Ocean in the west till the Niger River in the east, and from in Guinean goldfields in the south to the roads of commercial caravans across the Sahara in the north. The empire’s ruler was “Gagi Kanga Mansa Musa”, during whose reign the region became an academic center in Africa. The town of Timbuktu developed into a center for gold trade and Da’wa for Islam, especially that “Mansa Musa” was well known for his wisdom and good political governance. Noteworthy is that in 1324 Emperor Mansa caused a complete global inflation crisis for twenty years when he headed to Mecca for pilgrimage where he happened to distribute gold to whomsoever he met in his way.
After emperor “Mansa Musa” passed away in 1337, the “Mansri”, who are a group forming the eighth generation of “Mansa Musa” descent was established. Today they are found in Guinea and Sierra Leone and the most famous of them is the professional footballer “Chirno Mansari”, classified as the best professional footballer in the history of Itihad Football Club in Alexandria, Egypt.
- The Songhai Kingdom: This kingdom was established by the “Songhai” ethnicity in West Africa, and ruled from the mid 14th century AD to the late 15th century AD. Because it flourished commercially and developed into an important center, it was consequently invaded by “Mali Empire” which annexed it till the late 14th century AD. Soon as “Mali Empire” started to decline, the “Songhai Kingdom” took the opportunity to restore its past glory and ended the dominance of “Mali Empire” led by King “Suuni Ali”, who was the first king of the “Songhai Empire” and who managed to subdue many regions of the “Mali Empire”. After he died, he was succeeded by “Askia Muhammad” during whose reign the Empire boomed and stretched till the Hausa States in the east. Religious scholars moved to Songhai Kingdom and Islamic influence extended to Lake Chad and the Empire’s borders expanded from the Niger Basin deep into the Algerian desert.
The “Songhai Empire” collapsed and divided into several microstates following the “Battle of Tondibi” launched by Moroccan Sultan “Saadi Ahmed El-Mansour Eddahbi” in 1591 which marked the beginning of the Moroccan-Songhian war from 1591 up to 1630.
Noteworthy is that before these kingdoms a number of states and emirates emerged in Senegal, most important of which are: “Takrur State”, “Dinyaki State” founded by the “Bolar” ethnicity in the northeastern part of the country, and the “Wollof Empire” in the “Waalo”, “Kayor”, and “Baol” regions in the 14th century AD.
Afterwards, the land of Senegal witnessed a sort of colonial competition between various colonization powers such as “The Netherlands, France, and Britain” on slave trade which was based in St. Louis city, the main center for this trade. However, that competition soon came to an end when Paris won the war and controlled the whole of Senegal and selected St. Louis city to be the capital.
Afterwards, Senegal and Mali united under the name of “Mali Federation”, but didn’t last long. It is worth mentioning that during my trip to West Africa countries I met some researchers and historians of that period who confirmed to me that the “Republic of Mali” once bore the name of “The Sudanese Republic”, but after it separated from Senegal was renamed “The Republic of Mali”. Senegal subsequently gained independence from France in 1960 and the city of “Dakar” became the capital.
Gulf-Senegalese Relations (Valuable Opportunities)
– Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Riyadh offered soft loans for Dakar during the years 2010-2012; in addition the Saudi private sector undertook the renewal of an investment loan for Senegal embodied in the Kingdom Holding Company acquiring 12% of the shares of the Senegalese telecom company “Sonatel”, and the buying of Meridien Dakar Hotel. In 2014, The Francophone Organization called Riyadh to attend the Organization’s meeting in Dakar; the Saudi delegation was headed by His Highness Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal given that he is one of the most important shareholders in the investment and real estate field, and the most prominent donor and supporter of the health and education sector in Africa.
Riyadh contributed to the support of Islamic education institutions and centers and in inaugurating centers specializing in teaching Arabic language in a country where Muslims constitute 95% of the population. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also enhanced the “Oxfam Program” in Senegal for the improvement of employment opportunities.
In February 2016 Riyadh agreed to finance Senegal in order to implement its strategic project in the infrastructure sector, which is constructing express train railways to link the capital Dakar and new Blaise Diagne International Airport. Also, the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (member of Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah) has supported The Republic of Senegal in issuing sovereign bonds in the regional market of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, especially that Senegalese bonds are considered the first sovereign bonds to be issued in Africa. This paved the way for West and Central African countries to resort to bonds as an alternative for financing; and “Nigeria” today is aspiring to be Africa’s Islamic finance center.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia works to consolidate spreading Islamic Banking in Africa, which was quite successful in a number of African capitals such as “Dakar”, “Niamey” and “Abidjan” which recently managed to issue the largest process of sovereign bonds in West Africa worthing (244) million US Dollars.
The Islamic Development Bank agreed in 29-9-2016 to finance two projects for Senegal which worth 356 million US Dollars. The Islamic Development Bank seeks to expand its activities in Africa for the purpose of promoting Islamic finance in that region where Muslims constitute more than 70% of the population. It also targets the encouragement of exports, support of development projects and creating job opportunities.
– Kuwait: The Kuwaiti-Senegalese relations started in early 1960’s of the past century. After gaining independence from France in 1960, Senegal opened its first embassy in Kuwait in 1961; in turn, Kuwait opened its embassy in Dakar in 1971. Kuwait signed the first joint agreement with Senegal in 7-3-1972 which sought to promote trade between the two countries. Afterwards, Kuwaiti-Senegalese relations was boosted as a result of Dakar support of Kuwaiti legitimacy in 1990 and its participation in the Liberation of Kuwait Operation in 1991 during which Senegal lost (92) soldiers.
In 2009, the two countries agreed to sign an “avoidance of double taxation” agreement, which protects all investments for both sides. In addition, Kuwaiti charity associations led by “Abdullah Alnouri” association and in coordination with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs contributed to the establishment of the second Kuwaiti Educational Complex in 2014 which will serve more than (20) Senegalese villages. Also, Kuwait founded “Jaber al-Ahmad Complex” in 2004 for teaching Arabic and Islamic studies. It is worth mentioning that there are (29) business and investment agreements between Kuwait and Senegal with a total value exceeding (600) million US Dollars.
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense and its Senegalese counterpart recently concluded an agreement under which Senegalese army officers and soldiers are to be sent to study at the Kuwaiti Command and Staff College.
However, the Kuwaiti-Senegalese relations were troubled in January 2016 after the Kuwaiti ambassador to Senegal; “Mohamed Fadel Khalaf” was accused of activities that contribute to the spread of Shiism in Senegal. However, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry’s response was a decisive statement which read: “We will not accept or allow any deviation in the performance of our diplomats, and we affirm that any diplomat proved by investigations to have committed a mistake or deviated from his normal course of action will be immediately subject to necessary administrative and legal procedures in accordance with regulations and rules”.
In April 2016, the government of Kuwait agreed to exempt Senegal debts. No doubt the former appreciates the importance of African countries in the voting process at the Security Council especially that Kuwait intends to run for the Security Council nonpermanent membership in 2018/2019.
– Kingdom of Bahrain: The Kingdom of Bahrain and The Republic of Senegal signed an agreement for the training of Senegalese economy experts at (Bahrain Institute of Banking & Finance), especially that this institute is playing a vital role in training and improving human resources in the fields of banking, Islamic financial services, operational development, administrative leadership and insurance, besides information and telecom technology. Bahrain undertakes a major role in the Middle East and Africa with regard to this field.
In March 2016, the “First Forum of Halal Business in Africa” was held in Dakar under the theme “Towards a dynamic trade exchange with Gulf Countries and Asia.” The Gulf delegation was headed by the Bahraini Mr. “Abdulrahim AL Naqi”, Secretary General of the Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce.
– UAE: Dubai Ports International and the government of Senegal signed a memo of understanding for the purpose of setting up a free logistic zone near Senegal new airport and seaport. UAE also contributed (53) million AED to upgrade infrastructure, education, health and social services in Senegal. Abu Dhabi Fund for Development also offered soft loans mounting to (193) million AED, and the trade exchange between the two countries reached (451) million US Dollars.
Deyaar Real Estate Developers Company, UAE concluded an agreement with DubaiCares Institution to lay the foundation for a school in the remote region of (Fatick) in Senegal in order to allow children an opportunity to continue their education. About 150 children and 60 adults will benefit from this project within educational programs intended for adults; the project is the second one to be carried out in Senegal by the same company.
– Qatar: In 1998 Qatar concluded an agreement with The Republic of Senegal called “The Joint Economic Agreement”, under which the two countries agreed on trade and economic exchange. Recently, the two parties signed a memo of understanding to organize the bringing of Senegalese labor to Doha following cancellation of Mauritanian labor contracts because of the progress and development Qatar experiences on all levels and its host of the 2020 World Cup.
On the other hand, Qatar intervened to release Karim Abdoulaye Wade, son of former Senegalese president, who was sentenced in 2015 by Senegalese Judiciary to six years imprisonment and a fine of 209 million Euros on charges of illegal enrichment.
– Sultanate of Oman: Muscat offers an amount of “million US Dollars” to West Africa as in-kind and relief assistance as part of the Global Aid Program.
Gulf-Senegalese Relations (a Future Vision)
I consider that Gulf-Senegalese Relations is progressing noticeably in the fields of economic and investment but not equally so on the political level. The GCC countries have a great opportunity in Senegal that may not be available in any sub-Saharan African country. In order to ensure the progress of such relations on the economic and political levels, the following can be implemented:-
Gulf Countries can proceed to form an economic bloc comprising (the six Gulf Countries, Senegal, Morocco and Nigeria), which has the capacity to involve any country wishing to join it. Such a bloc may have positive consequences, not only on Gulf Countries, but rather on member African countries as well. For instance, Moroccan and Nigerian views may be bridged on the Western Sahara issue which undermines national security of Morocco, and also persuading Abuja to withdraw its recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Republic, taking into account that Nigeria is one of the major powers in Africa eligible to lead the continent. Furthermore, Gulf Countries can curtail Shiite influence in West Africa which has grown into a real threat to African societies let alone Gulf and Arab societies, especially that all candidate countries to join that (Gulf-African bloc) share a common vision that the “Shiite influence” threat to societies may risk its national security and enhance sectarianism amid African societies that adopt Sufi and Sunni doctrines just like Gulf and Arab societies.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia managed to support Islamic financing, and could issue Islamic bonds in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Niger and Nigeria, which offers a real chance to establish firm economic values for the Afro-Gulf bloc, which in turn can revive African economy on the one hand, and maintain Gulf funds away from any future political or economic extortion on the other.
In my own view, a number of obstacles may shape the future of this project:-
- Different political and economic visions among some of the Gulf Countries.
- Paris may view that bloc as a threat to the French interests in West Africa and the continent in general, which will result in the adoption of a counter French strategy.
- The US has made it clear that it will be permanently present on the West African coast after it moved (AFRICOM) military base from Stuttgart, Germany to Senegal. Subsequently, Paris and Washington may cooperate and make use of terrorist groups to attack the growing Gulf interests in “Sub-Saharan Africa”. As a result, I deem it likely that Paris and Washington agree to allow terrorist groups some power to be exploited whenever needed to curtail a certain party’s influence, especially that some powers began to appear on the African scene like China, Russia, Turkey and South Korea. This explains why the ECOWAS, Paris and the international community though united but failed to defeat and uproot Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Qaida in Mali so far.
Dr. Ameena Alarimi