AFTER taking a couple of years following his much-hailed election to set out his domestic stall, Senegal president Macky Sall is emerging as a continental leader of note, with the ears of both the region and the international community.
So well has he stepped into a pan-Africanist role he has evidently embraced that there is a growing feeling that he is emerging as a “go-to” leader in a continent currently deprived of a credible, standout figure at a time Africa struggling again to define its place in a complex world.
This is significant, because in recent post-Leopold Senghor (Senegal) and Felix Houphouet Boigny (Ivory Coast) decades, Francophone Africa has been in the shadow of its English-speaking neighbours, both politically and economically.
His recent move to shrink his presidential tenure has captured global attention, coming from a continent where many leaders are scrapping term limits and grabbing third terms and more.
Sall says a referendum on cutting the country’s presidential term inherited from the French from seven to five years is “definitely” due next year and would affect his current term by bring forward elections.
Alive to sensibilities on the continent, he says he is not offering himself as a model to other leaders, and that each country has its own sovereign constitution and “metabolism”, but notes that leaders should not be afraid of retiring.
Mail & Guardian Africa deputy editor Lee Mwiti interviewed him on the sidelines of the recently-concluded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, where billions were pledged to support the continent’s growth and which he sees as a beneficial—but short-term—engagement in Africa’s march to self-sufficiency:
MGA: Thank you Mr President for your time on a tight schedule. Coming off the summit, how should we on the continent view our relationship with China?
President Sall: First I must thank president [Jacob] Zuma for successfully hosting this summit, and also his co-chair [China president Xi Jinping].
Macky Sall with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
This shows a new dawn and cooperation between China and Africa, which will be a strong building block for Africa to play a much larger role in world affairs.
You are obviously not afraid of retiring, given the move to review down your term, but why are African leaders afraid of retirement?
The job of being president is not easy at all, we don’t get much rest, despite appearances. It is a role that requires commitment and sacrifice. If people don’t have a certain humility or there is not a certain framework to guide retirement, then it brings the problem of a fear of giving up power. The African Union must reflect on this, and I am not talking about immunity but a guiding framework, but there is a life after the presidency. We can serve the continent, the world or even the continent in another way. So for me I am not very worried as I am sure I will have something to do.
Do you believe Africa is rising, or it’s just the few elites rising?
I think Africa is on the road to emergence, when you look at the region there is an economic force, nations are emerging. When you look at it globally we are increasing our power, there is an increase in population, and we have lots of natural resources which we are transforming. Economically speaking, it is an interesting phase. Yes there are some countries that have difficulties as they are too small, that of course is a handicap, but certainly Africa is rising globally.
You have been at the forefront campaigning for Africa to get a fair shake of its natural resources, but will the existing economic global order allow Africa a place higher up at the table?
This is a constant battle and of course everyone wants to profit as much as they can from the situation. Africa has its big interest in the market battle for value of our natural resources.
To get the best value, Africa needs to own all its resources—human, natural, energy, agriculture. Its legislation must also be up to scratch so that we have a win-win situation. It is up to Africa to create the transformation on the continent to allow for this added value and to boost employment, so that it trickles down to every one.
Where do you see Africa in 2030?
I see Africa as the new frontier of development in 20 or 25 years. I can see Africa welcoming immigrants from the US, Australia, the European Union, Asia, as they seek job opportunities, as we will be in full growth and enjoying an economic boom. Despite small wars here and there, and our difficulties with terrorism, I think if democracy is upheld we will in 20 years be the new go-to destination for the world.