German companies are unsettled by the postponement of Senegal’s presidential election, originally scheduled for 25 February but which has now been shifted to 15 December.
The unprecedented move has called into question the West African country’s reputation for democratic stability in a region beset by military coups.
“The postponement of the elections in Senegal – and this shortly after the withdrawal of three countries from the West African Economic Community ECOWAS – is unsettling some of the German companies operating in West Africa,” says Christoph Kannengießer, Managing Director of the German-African Business Association or Afrika-Verein.
“Companies active in Senegal and other West African countries are concerned about the current developments in the region and are hoping for swift solutions, at least with regard to Senegal,” says Kannengießer.
Senegal is the second largest economy in Francophone West Africa and it enjoys a good international reputation as a place to invest. Thanks to regular elections and generally peaceful transition of political power, the country is considered one of the most politically stable in the continent.
Afrika-Verein points out that Senegal’s inclusion in the G20 “Compact with Africa” initiative has made the country even more attractive for German companies in recent years. “With growth forecasts of over nine per cent this year, Senegal is one of the most economically attractive markets in Africa. An increasing number of companies are in the process of setting up branches in the country as part of their diversification programme.”
Afrika-Verein says that German companies and organisations are particularly active in Senegal’s energy sector – from decentralised renewable energy projects for households, hundreds of villages or industrial sites to large-scale projects in the areas of hydropower, gas extraction, grid expansion and energy logistics. Moreover, German companies in the areas of healthcare, industrialisation and digitalisation are also active in the country, the organisation said.
“To date, Senegal has been dependent on imports of fossil fuels. As a result, the country has one of the highest electricity prices in Africa. The government aims to give the entire population access to electricity by 2025 and to join the group of middle-income countries by 2035. It is the second African country with which international G7 partners (including Germany) have agreed a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP).”
In a related development, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), which has struggled to contain a surge in coups in the region, has called on Senegal to restore the electoral calendar in accordance with the provisions of its constitution. France and other nations have also expressed their displeasure at the election postponement and called on the Senegalese authorities to reverse the decision.
President Macky Sall postponed the 25 February vote, citing an electoral dispute between the parliament and the judiciary regarding some candidacies. Opposition leaders and candidates rejected the decision, calling it a “coup.”
Some opposition lawmakers were blocked from voting on Monday as parliament rescheduled the election for December, prompting outrage and condemnation. Sall’s second and last term in office should end on 2 April. The vote by the MPs to delay the presidential election paves the way for Sall to remain in office until his successor is sworn in, probably in 2025.
The election has been surrounded by months of controversies, from deadly clashes that resulted in Sall announcing that he would not seek a third term to the controversial disqualification of two opposition leaders by the highest election authority
Kola Tella (Lagos) and Felix Dappah