Amadou Hott Minister of Economy, Planning and Cooperation Government of Senegal
WE’VE SEEN STRONG ECONOMIC GROWTH, BUT YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT REMAINS A THREAT
Over 60% of Senegal's population will be under 25 within three years. Amadou Hott, the country’s Minister of Economy, Planning and Cooperation, reveals the importance of building long-term economic and social resilience in the face of the Covid-19 crisis.
Senegal, Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda have been among Africa's most successful economies in recent years. What do you attribute this to?
What these countries have in common is strong leadership, good governance, macroeconomic stability and clear development goals. Senegal has just completed, for the first time since its independence, a sixth consecutive year marked by growth of at least 5%, i.e. double its historical average. It should be remembered that these performances were obtained within a good macroeconomic framework marked in particular by a controlled budget deficit and sustainable debt. Senegal makes a particular point of transparency, hence its adherence to the special data dissemination standard which proves the quality of economic and financial information.
The leadership of His Excellency, Macky Sall, President of the Republic, has made it possible to build a unique benchmark for economic policy, namely the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES). It has had the support of the international community and the implementation of its first phase enabled the country to catch up on infrastructure in order to broaden the productive bases of our economy.
What are the economic impacts of Covid-19 likely to be in Senegal?
The significant gains I’ve recounted have been brutally disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis, like all economies around the world. The pandemic has mainly affected our tradable goods sectors. Tourism fell 20% and imports dropped 24%. However, exports, thanks to their diversification, are expected to increase by 1.3% for 2020. The economy has also suffered from the drop in remittances from the wait-and-see attitude of international investors. The budget deficit has been reduced to finance the Economic and Social Resilience Plan set up by the Government, with major support for the health sector, assistance to households and fiscal and financial facilities granted to enterprises to maintain production and preserve employment.
The excellent health of our economy at the onset of the crisis, together with the new measures, have so far avoided recession, with growth expected to be 1.1% in 2020.
How are you building economic and social resilience into Senegal?
In addition to fighting the pandemic, the new measures aim to support vulnerable households and the private sector. With 1 trillion West African francs (7% of GDP) funding, the Plan is built on four pillars: support for the health sector, strengthening the resilience of core population and diaspora, preservation of stability macroeconomics by supporting the private sector and maintaining jobs, as well as the supply of hydrocarbons, medical, pharmaceutical products and basic necessities.
Emergency food aid distributed across the country to the most vulnerable households, costing 69 billion West African francs, has helped to limit the effects of the crisis on poverty and inequalities.
We have also taken care of the water and electricity bills of the most vulnerable households and pursued social programs that minimise the risks posed by the living environments of the most impoverished. Strengthening the health system through substantial direct support has helped improve Covid-19 management capacities, but it has also been beneficial to family well-being, gender equality and worker productivity.
How do you think the SDG targets will be impacted themselves? What adjustments do you plan to make so as not to deviate from the path leading to their achievement?
The Covid-19 crisis is a threat to sustainable development. We recently carried out a study to establish the potential impact of the SDGs, relating in particular to poverty, hunger, and inequalities. It showed that government action contributes to limiting the increase in the poverty rate to 2.9 percentage points against 4.8 percentage points if nothing was done. Under SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities – support halves the expected drop in income for the poorest 40% of households.
As relevant as they are, short-term measures are not enough to stay on course for the SDGs.
This is why the long-term vision as defined in the second phase of the Plan for an Emerging Senegal for the period 2019-2023 is crucial for sustainable development over the coming decades. The plan, in addition to the previous reforms set out in the first phase of the new plan, provides investments in priority areas targeting food, health and pharmaceutical sovereignty, digital transformation and sustainable industrialisation, as well as other sectors such as electricity, water and sanitation.
The support of the United Nations System for the mobilisation of our development partners is eagerly awaited.
The increase in private projects and in the form of public-private partnerships will make it possible to have a positive impact on social indicators, which are clearly improving compared to the reference values of 2018 as shown in our projections.
In this context, how do you see employment developing for your young population?
Faced with the new challenges of the post-Covid-19 world and the "withdrawal into oneself", underemployment and youth unemployment remain a threat to social balance and an obstacle on the realisation of the demographic dividend. By 2023, more than 60% of Senegal's population will be under 25 years old. It goes without saying that some growth-bearing sectors, such as chemicals, finance and energy, are not employment intensive. Therefore, and without starting the virtuous circle of investment and growth, the employment areas in community agriculture, infrastructure and the pharmaceutical sub-sector will be further exploited; hence the strong orientation of the new strategic plan towards these areas. In addition, the innovative financing mechanisms designed in the new plan will help boost private investment and private sector development to create more jobs, but also support the informal sector to strengthen self-employment. Micro-entrepreneurship and empowerment will also continue to benefit from preferential treatment, notably through the General Delegation for the Rapid Entrepreneurship of Women and Youth.
The employability of young graduates will be strengthened, notably through new state-private sector agreements, the creation of training centres in each department of the country and the anticipation of the professions of the future – an oil professions institute relating to production, for example, has been set up. To grow the labour market, access to information is vital.
Where do you look for inspiration?
We try to be hard on ourselves to translate into action the vision and strategic directions defined by the President of the Republic through the Plan for an Emerging Senegal, which transcends his term of office. We are helped in this by competent human resources committed to the development of the country.