SDGs: the five major projects of Bassirou Diomaye Faye, Senegal’s president-elect

By Inès Magoum – Published on / Modified on 

Following the presidential election in Senegal on 24 March 2024, results from polling stations published by the Senegalese press give an advantage to the opposition candidate, Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye. If these results are confirmed by the Constitutional Court, he will succeed Macky Sall, whose term of office ends on 2 April. During his five years in office, the President-elect will have to deliver on his commitments, which include renewing methods of public governance, particularly with regard to the management of essential services such as water, waste and electricity, and accelerating the fight against climate change.

Are we moving towards accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Senegal? At least, that’s what the majority vote by opposition candidate Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye in the presidential election of 24 March 2024, whose green programme is ambitious, suggests. Although the results are “unofficial” at present, the man who was still in prison a few days ago for criticising Senegal’s judicial system has a strong chance of succeeding former president Macky Sall, whose term of office ends on 2 April after twelve years in power.

Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye’s presidential project reads: “The project for systemic change, supported by the broad coalition of political parties backing my candidacy, aims for a profound renewal of the methods of public governance, a relationship with the outside world that is more respectful of our national sovereignty, an administration that is not subservient to political power, a justice system that is unsubordinated and independent, strict respect for the separation of powers, a return to regulated presidentialism, etc.”.

Universal access to water and sanitation

The renewal of public governance methods in Senegal’s water sector will make it possible to meet the challenge of sustainable management of this resource through the introduction of a basin-based system, and to review the transfer of the management of rural boreholes to the private sector, given that the transfer of rural hydraulic services has led to an increase in the price of water and recurring conflicts between the populations of the hinterland and the concessionaires.

Over the next five years, the new strongman of this West African country is also planning work to ensure that water is controlled and managed rationally in the arid Sahelian regions of the centre-north by building the Cayor Canal, the Baol Canal, canal du Gandiole, the Dande mayo-Dieri canal, the construction of anti-salt dams at the mouth of the Casamance (the river of the same name in the region of his electoral stronghold) in order to “desalinate” the river and mobilise its freshwater resources for the development of local rice growing and mangrove swamps, the dredging of the Casamance river at Kolda to ensure the annual continuity of water flow, the construction of a main multi-use water mobilisation infrastructure to improve resilience to climate change and serve the drinking water supply, economic activities and the preservation of ecosystems, and the gradual transfer of responsibility for water and sanitation to the communes for better planning of programmes and the achievement of territorial equity objectives.

While the rate of access to drinking water is 98.8% in urban areas and 91% in rural areas in Senegal, according to official sources, the projects announced aim to increase coverage to 100% by 2030. To achieve this, it will also be necessary to win the battle against pollution.

Standardisation of the waste sector

Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, who takes over as head of Senegal, will also have to tackle the issue of waste. And as part of this, his programme includes the implementation of a law aimed at transferring powers relating to waste management and prevention planning to regional councils (communities or entities). The legislation will contain “an inventory of waste, facilities, players and guidance documents; the definition of priorities for the creation of new facilities and for the collection, sorting, appropriate treatment and prevention of waste; and the establishment of landfill sites, sorting centres and composting platforms for household waste that are publicly controlled and standardised throughout the country”, says the candidate who claimed to be “anti-system” throughout the election.

After a series of laws, regulations and other generations of legislation in this country of more than 18 million inhabitants, the last of which (law no. 2020-04 of 08 January 2020) on the prevention and reduction of the environmental impact of plastic products has also remained ineffective, effective standardisation of the waste sector could be a step forward in the fight against pollution. To support this approach, a project will also be launched to rehabilitate and modernise the Mbeubeuss landfill, which receives 3,300 tonnes of waste a day, out of the 7,000 produced daily in Senegal. A modern landfill will be built on the site, together with an electricity production unit comprising gas turbine generators and a household waste incineration plant.

Supplying sustainable electricity at lower cost

The third project awaiting the 44-year-old, who will become the youngest head of state in Senegal’s modern history, is electricity, which will involve an energy transition. Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye’s ambitious programme includes more in-depth studies of the potential for renewable energy sources in each of the eight major regional centres, so that a solid, coherent energy project can be put in place, the construction and development of new very high-capacity renewable energy power stations based on the results of the mapping of the energy potential of each major regional hub (the share of renewable energy sources would represent 30% of the energy mix in Senegal, editor’s note), as well as the introduction of new sources of renewable electricity production based on the “Pt-X” (Power to X Products) concept of green hydrogen. Initiatives to create national companies specialising in the manufacture of materials for the photovoltaic industry will also be encouraged and supported.

To boost the rate of access to electricity, estimated at 69% according to Power Africa, especially in rural areas where less than 50% of the population is covered, Senegal’s visionary also wants to expand collaboration within the Organisation pour la mise en valeur du fleuve Sénégal (OMVS) and the Organisation pour la mise en valeur du fleuve Gambie (OMVG) to increase the country’s installed hydropower capacity by at least 400 MW by 2030.

Preserving biodiversity

If the Senegalese people voted Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye into office on 24 March, it was also because of his roadmap for managing ecosystems. In this area, he promises to “update and strengthen the National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, as well as the institutional and technical capacities of biodiversity conservation institutions through sustainable funding in order to increase the capacity of stakeholders to preserve biodiversity and environmental policing to combat deforestation and habitat fragmentation, especially in the southern part of the country. It also undertakes to provide financial, technical and organisational support to protected areas to improve biodiversity conservation and maintain the associated ecosystem services, to apply texts relating to biodiversity conservation in economic and social development policies, to strengthen collaboration with civil society, and to encourage non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to regain their role as catalysts of opinion in favour of the environmental cause”, reads the electoral project of Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, who will be supported by his mentor Ousmane Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential election and initially headed the Pastef party’s list for the 2024 presidential election, for which he was declared ineligible.

Providing an effective response to climate challenges

While the above-mentioned projects will enable Senegal to make progress towards achieving the MDGs, one aspect of the former tax inspector’s plan will be to raise awareness among his compatriots of the concepts of sustainable development and environmental conservation. What’s more, a label called “E3D” (Établissement en démarche de développement durable) could be introduced to reward schools that stand out for their respect for the environment, or a “CSR” (Corporate Social Responsibility) prize for private sector organisations that stand out for their eco-responsible commitments.

In order to reduce the effects of climate change in Senegal, a National Climate Change Competence and Resource Centre (CNCR2C) will also be created in Senegal. This will be a national platform for dialogue and capacity-building for the various stakeholders, and a hub for climate change information open to the regional, African and international environment. A Climate Resilience Programme for Territories (PRTC) will also be set up to ensure effective management of the risks of climate-related disasters (coastal erosion, flooding, drought) and protection of production systems (intelligent agriculture in the face of climate change, livestock farming, fishing, industry, infrastructure, etc.). If his victory is confirmed, Bassirou Diomaye Faye will be sworn in as President of the Republic of Senegal on 2 April 2024, and the future will not be smooth sailing for this lawyer by training, who wants to break the codes of the old regime.

Inès Magoum