Appointed at the head of the Delegation for rapid entrepreneurship, with the rank of Minister Delegate, Papa Amadou Sarr’s mission is to support Senegalese wishing to create their activity or to leave the informal sector. After three years of existence, the structure has aroused the interest of many countries in the sub-region.
Expected growth of 5.6 to 5.7% in 2021, granting of a loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), debt / gross domestic product (GDP) ratio close to the objectives set by international bodies, favorable assessment of the from the rating agencies: Senegal has withstood the economic crisis born from the Covid pandemic well and seems to be managing the current “rebound” well. Most analysts qualify its economy as “resilient” and welcome the efforts made. With, however, two caveats: job creation too slow to cope with the changing demographics of the country and still too much weight in the informal sector, with all the consequences that this implies for public finances.
It is largely to respond to this double challenge that the General Delegation for the Rapid Entrepreneurship of Women and Youth (DER / FJ) was created three years ago. For Young Africa, its general delegate, Papa Amadou Sarr, takes stock of its balance sheet and discusses the changes in direction to which the business creation aid structure has been forced to face the Covid period.
Jeune Afrique: How is Senegal’s economy doing after eighteen months of a global pandemic and the general disorganization that resulted from it?
Papa Amadou Sarr: The economy is rebounding. Growth will be 5.6 or 5.7% in 2021, we have held up well in the face of the pandemic. The 1000 billion resilience plan launched by the president, but also the significant public investments of recent years in infrastructure, education, social benefits have made it possible to contain the effects of the Covid. One of the major challenges, which is also at the origin of the creation of the DER, was and remains the large part of our economy made up of the informal sector. About 70 to 80%. The direct consequence is that the tax base is too narrow. There is a lot of awareness to be done on this, but also, I think, action to be taken: too many people expect everything from the welfare state, but still refuse to pay any taxes.
We have granted 150,000 loans, supported the creation of more than 3,400 businesses, trained more than 4,000 entrepreneurs
And the Delegation that you head, what is its assessment at the end of this difficult period?
We come to three years of exercise. The first two years were hard, we were criticized. Many saw us as a political instrument in the service of the Head of State when we are anything but political. We are there to promote the private sector, the activity of women and young people, and job creation. When the crisis hit, some said we were going to die. In fact, we have settled in the Senegalese economy for a long time.
And we will end the year with 72 to 75 billion CFA francs injected into the Senegalese economy, thanks in particular to our partners such as the African Development Bank (ADB), the French Development Agency (AFD), the Foundation. Gates, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)… Today we are in every region, in every city across the country. We have granted 150,000 loans, supported the creation of more than 3,400 businesses, trained more than 4,000 entrepreneurs. We also have a specific project for the diaspora, the “fifteenth region of Senegal”.
Are the projects that you support for the most part pure creations, or rather the regularization of activities from the informal sector?
Most of these are already existing activities, and therefore stem from the informal sector. People who hear about us, who could not get funding through traditional channels and who try their luck. 70% of them are also women.
We work with Guinea, have exchanges with Togo, Burkina Faso, Congo and Mauritania
Which sectors are the most represented among the companies you help?
The primary sector is largely dominant, at 60%: agriculture, breeding, fishing… We encourage them to transform their products locally. Then there are services, about 15%. Some such as restaurants, transport or hotels have suffered from the health crisis, but others have appeared, in particular delivery people. Handicrafts follow at 11.8%, digital at 5.7%, culture and creation at around 1%.
The DER model seems to interest many countries among your neighbors. Who are you in discussion with?
Côte d’Ivoire is very interested, especially in the digital sector. We are working with Guinea, and this partnership has continued despite the crisis the country has gone through. We have exchanges with Togo, Burkina Faso, Congo and Mauritania, some came to see us, I went to visit others. It is clear that we are making people jealous: people say to themselves “if Senegal does it, we can do it too”. Most African countries have a very young population and a model like the DER makes it possible to address this population. We have already exceeded the forecasts set out in the 2019-2022 strategic plan. For the period 2022-2024, we are targeting a doubling of our resources and perhaps an evolution of our status to move towards a model comparable to Bpifrance, more independent of public funding. It is essential, otherwise we will continue to be criticized.