A group of Senegalese in diaspora has launched a unique project which involved crowdfunding to rehabilitate,extend and modernise railway facilities in the interior of the country.
Tagged Sunurail TVG with slogan ‘mobility for all’,the project is attracting attention and huge patronage.
The sponsors of the project on their website noted that “n the wake of the will of the Senegalese authorities to revive the railways in Senegal, we propose a public / private national partnership by the financing of high speed lines (LGV) to allow fast interregional links with the aim of reviving the interior regions of Senegal.
According to the sponsors,”5,000 expatriate executives have decided to propose to the Senegalese public authorities an alternative mode of financing that will appeal to the diaspora’s savings to carry out structuring projects for Senegal.
The sponsors identified weaknesses in the ongoing railway reforms to include excessive focus on the urban areas and neglect of many interior lines and stations.
“Since despite all the investments made in inter-urban connections, rehabilitation of several roads from North to South via Central axis and toll roads, the beneficial effects of the train for our interior countries have never been found and this even with the multiplicity of coaches and passenger cars that will only increase accidents and pollution
“Indeed the privatization of the Senegalese Railways (SNCS) under the pressure of the World Bank and the abandonment of passenger traffic deemed unsafe and unprofitable has led to the closure of many stations across Senegal ,suddenly depriving these counties sources of income that the passage of the train allowed”,the sponsors explained
To reach the rural areas,Sunurail proposes to rehabilitate the rail in all the regions of Senegal from the North to the South by way of the Center in order to allow the populations of these zones to live by trade and the services as it was the case until 1997.
“Our current mode of financing is a monthly subscription of € 200 by our 5,000 expatriate executives who will each sponsor 50 other Senegalese to raise 50 million euros / month and 600 million annual is close to 400 billion FCFA / year
The rehabilitation of the rail in Senegal is also able to connect all our interior countries by a high-speed train while contemplating a green band that bordered along the routes. The logical continuation of the TER is the rehabilitation and the construction of the rail across Senegal with Trains at Big Speed to connect Diamniadio to our interior regions between 30 minutes and 3 hours”
The group had historical sense to its mission: “In French West Africa, the “Dakar-Niger” train linking Dakar to Bamako was designed to open up the vast “Sudan” that has become Mali to the market economy.
“Thus, the day after its accession to international sovereignty, Senegal had one of the densest railway networks in Africa bequeathed by the settler, whose objective was to open up the settlements deprived of access to the sea by remaining at within the territorial and legal framework of the federations.
“In addition to the international rail link that connected it to the Republic of Mali, Senegal had four axes serving the interior of the country whose first railway line built in French Black Africa was the section of Dakar-Thiès-Saint-Louis dating from 1885 with a length of 263 kilometers.
“However, as elsewhere in West Africa in the late 1980s, thanks to the structural adjustment programs set up by donors such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the State of Senegal under economic difficulties gradually disengages public services, including railways.
“The Senegal Railways Authority (RCFS) was therefore drying up in the area of public investment.The devaluation of the CFA franc in January 1994 will give it the coup de grace because its debt overnight multiplied due to imports of equipment rolling like spare parts.
“The sudden cessation of rail transport in Senegal provoked an inexorable acceleration of the rural exodus from Senegal’s interior to Dakar, which will see its population quadruple in one decade (1995-2005). Indeed a significant part of the populations of the rural areas (North, Central and East of Senegal) whose municipalities and cities like Thiès, Tivaouane, Kébémer, Louga, Khombole, Bambey, Diourbel, Gossas, Guinguineo, Kaolack, Kaffrine, Koungheul, to name only those who took advantage of the path of irons and passages of the train for the trade and exchanges, no longer seeing the train come, went to its source, Dakar.
“This massive exodus has had the effect of wiping out the agricultural and industrial potential of these areas and has negatively led to the expansion of an urban economy called the “informal sector”, whose main activity is based on the trade of products. These products are often manufactured in Asia or Turkey and imported by groups or individuals who have created jobs, but this activity is very often non-contributors of added value even if little effort is made in this direction.
“The recurrence of the phenomenon of floods in Dakar and surrounding areas with its multiple harmful effects, in particular, shantytown, is one of the consequences of this exodus which has seen populations settle anarchically in non-aedificandi areas under the impassive gaze of guilty Senegalese public authorities. This phenomenon has been exploding from 1997 date of the stop of the passenger trains.
“The city of Dakar soon found itself overwhelmed by an untrained young population, confronted with unemployment and a sudden high human concentration, the main effects being felt in the early 2000s with the first massive departures by canoes to European shores”,the group concluded.
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