During the final week of March 2024, Senegal provisionally elected a new president, Diomaye Faye. Faye is set to be the youngest president in Senegal’s history. He came to power amidst several protests in the country that started in 2021.

The protests led to political turmoil that turned the country upside down. The political instability has led to the deaths of dozens and the arrest of hundreds of Senegalese. Among the arrested were two opposition leaders, President Faye and Ousmane Sonko who were released weeks before the election. 

Despite being arrested for 11 months, President Faye was able to win the elections by a majority of 54 percent. The second was 35 percent that went to Amadou Ba and third place went to Aliou Mamadou Dia, who got a meagre 2.8 percent.

 The winner, Faye, has gained popularity for his modest and methodical approach which earned him the nickname Mr Clean. He grew up in a village where he farmed and later became a tax collector before running for president.

His race for presidency has been furthered by his identification with the youth and village population of Senegal. Faye also promises to put an end to Senegal’s elite and establishment politics that have plunged the country into poverty, injustice, and corruption.

One of his largest pushes to popularity is his promise to create more jobs for the youth. People under 25 years constitute over 60 percent of the population and have struggled with finding jobs. The outgoing government has largely ignored the pressing economic needs of the young by focusing mainly on infrastructure-fueled growth.

The main beneficiaries of the infrastructure-fueled growth are the minority. With less focus on the challenges of the majority resulting in the village population having over half the living under the poverty line. The Senegalese government has also seen a decline in education, agricultural production, and job creation.

 The protests in Senegal were a climax to a conflict-ridden West Africa. The region, specifically the Sahel region has been the centre of several coups with eight since 2020. The recent uprising in Senegal seemed to be heading in the same direction once the outgoing president decided to postpone the elections that were scheduled for earlier this year.

 Once the announcement was made, the capital went into uproar with several protests until the postponed elections were brought closer to March.

The victory of President Faye is symbolic of what is happening in the African region. In the following paragraphs, we will look at some of its potential revelations.

 The first revelation is the changing power demographic of Africa. Africa has a largely youthful population that consists of 70% of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30 years. This demographic is shifting the power from the old guard toward younger and more youthful leaders.

 The continent is seeing a rise in the number of leaders who have risen to the helm of leadership. Besides Senegal, leaders below the age of 50 years have taken over countries including Burkina Faso with Ibrahim Traore, Mahamat Deby of Chad and Mamady Doumbouya of Guinea.

This indicates a changing demographic of African leaders who in the past have been elderly. Some of the prime examples of the old guard in Africa include Paul Biya of Cameroon, Nangolo Mbumba of Namibia and Emerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe who are over 80 years old.

 The change in leadership is adding to the continuing trend toward a withdrawal of continuing colonial powers in Africa. Already, Burkina Faso has severed ties with France in favour of new ties with Russia. Additionally, Senegal is following suit with a proposed plan to get rid of the CFA franc currency pegged to Euro and backed by France.

 The proposed plan seeks to replace the currency with a new Senegalese or West African currency.

 The victory also ushers in a potential new model of collaborative leadership in Africa. Already, Faye has the support of Ousmane Sonko, former President Abdoulaye Wade and former Prime Minister Aminata Toure. This shows a more collaborative approach toward transferring power in Africa which is not the norm in most African countries that are plagued with combative transitions of power.

 Besides fueling some controversy with the international community due to the proposal to renegotiate oil and gas contracts, there is potential for a positive outcome. Senegal’s dollar bonds have fallen to their lowest in the last five months due to investors being concerned about the business environment.

 But this could work out for the better. Firstly, the president has reassured investors that previous commitments to them will be honoured. Secondly, under the new government, there are plans to encourage more social spending that could go a long way toward alleviating some of the challenges faced by the population.

 It is also expected that oil and gas production will start toward the end of 2024. The revenue under the new contracts could be useful in alleviating challenges including poverty, poor education, and unemployment.

 While the position of Senegal as the beacon of democracy was under fire, the current election result shows potential for a positive result. Despite the prevailing coup-ridden environment in the Sahel, Senegal has braved challenges to elect a new president who, due to his upbringing in the village and humble employment as a tax collector, seems to have concern for the people. 

 It is hoped that President Faye will be a positive turn of a leaf not just for Senegal but for the continent which is seeing more and more younger leaders rising to the Presidency. Hopefully, they will bring a new brand of developmental ideas to the continent.