Eradicating poverty and boosting development through agriculture and support for small and medium sized enterprises, without neglecting social safeguards and the defence of human rights, are Senegal’s objectives, and Italy is ready to help. And Minister Emma Bonino brought concrete proof of that on her visit to Dakar: 45 million euro in aid over 3 years earmarked in the 2014-2016 country programme signed by the minister with Senegalese foreign minister Mankeur Ndiaye, confirming “good relations” between the two countries that “can only improve”, as Bonino pointed out; and also confirming Senegal as a priority of the Italian Cooperation, which has given 292 million euro in donations and 129 million in assistance loans since 1985.
Bilateral investment forum
Minister Bonino and President Macky Sall held a long and cordial meeting in which they underscored that relations had become so good that Senegal offered to organise a bilateral investment forum open to public and private concerns in the sectors of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, transport and healthcare. With regard to infrastructure, Bonino explained, the country “intends to develop the railway between Senegal and the capital of Mali, Bamako, and that which connects the airport to the centre of Dakar, and from this point of view we are experts”. Senegal confirmed its participation in the 2015 EXPO in Milan within the thematic cluster of “agriculture and nutrition in arid areas”, and various initiatives involving the Senegalese civil society are under way.
Security and stability for development
But there is no development without security and stability. “The topic that most concerns us is the spread of terrorism, violence and fanaticism” in the region, said Bonino, who is relying on the close collaboration of the Dakar authorities, who made it clear they do not intend to pull back. “The issue of peace and security remains central to our priorities”, minister Ndiaye reiterated, “and despite the efforts of the international community, the situation remains alarming”. This meeting, he added, is also “an opportunity to ask the international community to make an even greater commitment to arrest the destabilisation threatening the countries of the Sahel”.
Bonino comes out against forced marriages
Women’s rights are not only asserted through the fight against female genital mutilation, Emma Bonino’s historic cause, but also through banning early and forced marriages. The minister touched on these topics in her meeting with Minister for Women and the Family Anta Sarr. “The harmful practices that need to be eradicated are not only FGM but also forced marriages, also because mutilations are an essentially African problem, while forced marriages are a global one”, said Bonino during the meeting, assuring that this theme would “remain among the Italian Cooperation’s priorities”. For her part, Anta Sarr underscored that underlying the problem of forced marriages was the “high rate of early school dropouts”, but that “the Senegalese government is working to eliminate them”. The minister also discussed women’s rights with Prime Minister Aminata Touré, the second woman ever to have filled the position in her country but, above all, is deeply committed to policies in favour of gender equality, the defence of human rights and the fight against female genital mutilation. She was also director of the Gender and Human Rights Department of the UNFPA.
Senegal’s highest honour awarded to Emma Bonino
In an unexpected side event, President of Senegal Macky Sall awarded Minister Bonino Senegal’s highest honour, Grand Officer of the Order of Merit. A “magnificent surprise” the minister exclaimed, thanking Sall as he pinned the medal to her jacket. After having received Bonino yesterday, the president today skipped protocol and told the minister he was going to lunch with the Premier to confer the award. The convoy reversed direction amidst the traffic in Dakar and sped off to the presidential palace.