Copyright: ARD / Marc Dugge
Copyright: ARD / Marc Dugge

Almost 10.000 Senegalese migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2016 to come to Europe. Senegal is one the hotspots for migration in Africa. That’s why Germany and the European Union have launched aid programs and are investing millions to counter the causes of migration and yet it's still unclear what effects this will have. Marc Dugge reports from Dakar.

Massaer Guevye knows what hopelessness feels like. Knowing that things won’t turn our for the better made him feel empty and longing for a better life. Gueve is now in his mid 30s and is a certified blacksmith in Senegal’s capital Dakar. Many years ago, he specialized in manufacturing small, energy-efficient cooking stoves. Even though he was talented at his craft, business had been bad from the start.

That’s why ten years ago, he took a major decision. “Life had become hell”, he says. “I was ready to give up everything and risk migrating illegally.” He tried to reach Spain by boat twice.

He failed both times. One time his boat got into distress at sea near Mauritania and he lost some of his fellow passengers. He himself survived – and he was in luck: development aid workers in Dakar wanted to distribute his stoves as an energy-saving cooking alternative. The German Development Agency GIZ helped him set up his own business through consultancy and loans. Today his business is going really well and Gueye has 21 employees.

“This is my contribution to stopping illegal migration“, he says. Sometimes he runs into a young man who has no proper education. “I give him work so that he can make some money and stay in our country. Those that leave illegally say to themselves: I either make it or I die. Having a job makes it harder to leave.”

Massaer Gueye now runs a successful business in Dakar Copyright: ARD/ Marc Dugge

Friederike von Stieglitz heads the GIZ office in Senegal. Standing next to Gueye, she smiles. His cooking-stove venture has been around for years. Recently, there has been a rising interest in other projects as well that can offer perspectives to people at home. “Fighting the root causes of migration”, that’s currently a buzzword in German development aid policy.

A new programme by GIZ is to be launched in April: „Successful in Senegal“ is implemented on behalf of the German government. The program aims at creating jobs and generate income for those in Senegal. “You have to keep in mind that 50 percent of the population is 19 years old and younger”, Friederike von Stieglitz explains. “That’s why we’re targeting young people and want to create career opportunities for their future.”

Jobs for young people

Jobs can be brought to tens of thousands of young people as GIZ wants to open four more offices in remote parts of Senegal where many migrants come from. The strategy for this, however, still appears to be rather lofty. There’s talk of “new job profiles”, “multi-generational-dialogue” and “joint change-making projects”.

Yet the goal behind this is clear: to keep young people from leaving and to create new opportunities at home. “It’s important to have a vision of what things can be like, what I can be, and how the needs of my family can be met”, Friederike von Stieglitz explains. “Those who leave are considered heroes at first. But once they return unsuccessfully, they are ashamed and like they have failed. We want to forego this.”

Germany and EU paying millions

„Successful in Senegal“ is costing the German government nine million Euros. Should the project lead to the expected outcomes, more funds would be allocated towards it.

The German government is not the only player investing in employment opportunities. The EU also launched two programmes aimed at improving people’s lives and creating jobs. Financed out of the fund for emergency aid in Africa, the EU is investing 60 millions to keep citizens in the country.

But will the plan come through? The idea of migration is rooted deep within the region’s culture, as migration researcher Sylvie Bedeloup states: “Every young person wants to discover the world and wants to do it in their own way. I call it the ‘migration adventure’”. In a sense, it is considered an initiation ritual. “To see what’s around, and maybe return to better conditions back home”, she explains. “People leave in order to toughen oneself up and to grow personally.”

Bredeloup does not believe that development aid can change this and many migration researchers are similarly skeptical. Yet one thing is for sure: The cooperation with Europe has bestowed Senegal a vast amount of financial aid.

President skeptical about cooperation

The president of Senegal, Macky Sall, is also not enthusiastic about this as the financial aid could also have a drawback. He could be seen as having been paid off by the EU.  The funds could be reduced if expectations aren’t met. In an interview with France 24 he stated: “Senegal cannot cooperate on the basis of less migration the more cooperation. This is not a proper basis for a partnership.”

During the interview, Sall was just about to speak the word „chantage“, which means blackmailing. He is under pressure from outside as well as from inside the country. But so is the EU, as millions of taxes are now being invested into a cause whose outcome is unclear.

With his cooking stove venture, Massaer Gueve did create jobs. But the dream of going to Europe is not yet done with. “I would like to leave, yes”, says one of his employees. “I would like to to see other places and make a lot of money like the others to help my family.” The brothers of his friends have left and are now in Spain. “They have a lot of money. They even bought themselves houses and cars!”


This report was adapted by DW from the German report "Kampf gegen Fluchtursachen - ein mühsames Geschäft"by Marc Dugge, produced for the Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) -special dossier: „Milliarden gegen Migration - Deutschlands Flüchtlingspolitik in Afrika“

First published February 20, 2017

Adapted by Charlotte Hauswedell


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