Africa
3 months ago

Senegal opposition coalition promises new currency and revamp of oil contracts

A boy cleans a Senegalese fishing pirogue on the beach in Bargny on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal March 7, 2024. 
A boy cleans a Senegalese fishing pirogue on the beach in Bargny on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal March 7, 2024.  Photo : Reuters/Zohra Bensemra/Files

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A Senegalese opposition coalition backed by popular firebrand Ousmane Sonko launched its presidential campaign platform on Saturday with promises to create a new national currency and renegotiate mining and energy contracts.

There are no public election opinion polls in Senegal, but the coalition’s candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, is seen as a strong contender among the 19 candidates vying for the presidency in the March 24 vote.

If he is elected, the coalition’s plans could have significant implications for the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union and for Senegal’s plans to become an oil producer later this year.

“Convinced that full independence cannot be achieved without controlling the economy, livestock management, fisheries and agriculture, we are fully committed to achieving food, digital, fiscal, energy and scientific sovereignty,” Faye said in an introduction to the 84-page platform document.

Members of Sonko’s dissolved Pastef party and other parties formed a coalition and picked Faye as a candidate in November after Sonko was disqualified over a defamation conviction.

Sonko has called on his supporters to back Faye - a concern for competitors since Sonko enjoys widespread support, particularly among young people frustrated with economic hardships and a lack of jobs in the country of 17 million.

The coalition’s platform lays out proposals it says will tackle inequalities and boost employment, but it also plans significant governance shake-ups including the creation of a vice-president role and the abolition of the prime minister’s position.

Its proposals that might particularly worry regional allies and investors include tax and customs reforms, the introduction of a national currency, and the renegotiation of contracts related to mining, hydrocarbons, public procurement and infrastructure.

The platform lists a number of measures that would need to be implemented before a new currency could be introduced. But the move would pose another threat to West Africa’s CFA franc currency, which some junta-led states in the region have also said they might abandon.

The platform does not provide detail on how it would seek to restructure contracts, but it said it would do so to “to make the mining industry an important lever of our socio-economic development” and “to maximise revenues from oil production”.

Senegal’s first offshore oil development is due to start production in mid-2024. The Sangomar oil and gas project operated by Woodside Energy is expected to produce about 100,000 barrels per day.

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