On Wednesday, the Prime Minister, Charles Michel, and the Minister for Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, began a three-day visit to Senegal. It marked 50 years of bilateral cooperation between Belgium and the West African country.
Upon arrival in Dakar, around 5.30 p.m. local time (6.30 p.m. in Belgium), under blazing sunshine, Messrs Michel and De Croo were welcomed on the airport tarmac by the Senegalese Prime Minister, Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne. During the evening they then attended a cocktail-dinner party at the residence of the Belgian Ambassador, in the presence of members of the Belgian community in Senegal and the globally known Senegalese artist, Youssou N’Dour.
In the presence of such guests, Charles Michel expressed his wish to “strengthen diplomatic, economic, development and friendship ties” with Senegal, which has engaged as a partner in Belgian Cooperation since 1968.
The relationship between Belgium and this West African country has further evolved over the last fifty years. Alexander De Croo, the Minister for Development Cooperation, said, “We no longer consider everything from a North-South viewpoint, which used to simply desire that the North resolved the South’s problems. From now on, we are promoting a partnership, in which trade plays a crucial role.”
On Thursday, the Belgian Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister will sign a new agreement with the Senegalese authorities, which will define the cooperation priorities over the next five years. These consist in promoting local and sustainable entrepreneurship, sexual and reproductive rights and training. The agreement will have an estimated budget of €40 million.
Mr De Croo comments, “Senegal is a very good example of cooperation. The country is making headway in a multitude of domains, in particular that of health. For example the HIV rate is very low.” He goes on, “However, further efforts are needed in the fight to prevent violence against women, and marrying at an early age.”
On Friday, after visiting several projects supported by the Belgian Cooperation, Messrs Michel and De Croo will focus upon Belgium’s economic relationship with Senegal. In particular a meeting is planned between the Directors of the Ports of Antwerp and Dakar. Mr De Croo adds, “Senegal has highly significant economic potential. Moreover, numerous Belgian companies have a presence in the port sector, but also within mining and agriculture.”