On Wednesday, the President of Senegal Macky Sall joined the World Leaders Forum. Enigmatic Enthusiast Eric Wimer practiced his French.
Macky Sall almost didn’t come to Columbia on Wednesday. He was cutting his New York visit short that very night to return to the capital, Dakar, where a water shortage had hit hard. But Sall seems very comfortable battling tough circumstance: when the previous president of Senegal had removed him from an Assembly President post, he founded his own party and took the former prez’s job in the next election. President Sall touched of the philosophy of Francis Fukuyama and Hobbes, called out the UN and Western Media, and laid out his vision for African growth, even a common West African currency, in what was an interesting, wide-ranging speech.
President Sall gave his speech entirely in French. I was lucky enough to see a handful of World Leaders Forums this week, and maybe it was just the novelty of practicing my poor French, or more likely the fact that the President didn’t have to struggle to hit an elegant note in a foreign tongue, but President Sall’s speech seemed to be especially well-recieved. Even with our UN-style earpieces on to translate, his fiery rhetoric got through and he had to pause multiple times for strong applause, albeit probably led by his diplomats.
His criticism of the UN hit particularly well with students. ‘The UN membership has grown from 51-193 members, but the Security Council has only been modified once,” he told us. ‘The need for reform is now more urgent and legitimate since Africa, a continent that accounts for more than a quarter of UN member states, has only three non-permanent seats. We believe that this is unfair!’
However, when a student asked him about bans on LGBTQ sexual activity, he rebuked, telling him not to “apply US values to us.” This too, was greeted with applause. Yup, that one was definitely the diplomats.
President Sall painted his vision for African Economic growth, insisting that philosophers like Fukuyama and Hobbes paint a picture of man “as a wolf to other men.” He insisted that predatory economic practices be reined in and saw little merit in criticism of African debt by countries “that are in huge debt themselves!”
“We cannot validate the voice of the future with tools from the past,” he went on, claiming that innovative investment, not empty charity, was the real path to growth. He claimed that 4/5ths of African countries were experiencing growth above the world average and insisted that a common currency for eight West African is the right move. The one positive aspect of colonialism is that it united those countries oppressed by the same power.
Sall also answered questions on the environment–citing his willingness to revoke fishing licenses and manage Senegal’s resources responsibly–and unemployment–insisting that the youth should be able to find jobs where they are instead of being forced to leave for the city or take a boat to another country.
I asked about the water crisis he was leaving for and said that he plans to enforce responsibility and build a wide-ranging and improved water storage system. He answered another question on the lack of Science and Mathematics students in his country on a lack of public interest, which could be solved by providing interesting scientific entertainment so that potential students don’t just turn on the TV and watch “dancing morning until night.” He’ll have the laboratories equipped and waiting when they come.
Afterwards, he stayed for a bit to shake hands and even take a few selfies with lucky students.
The man via Wikimedia Commons