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  • Writer's pictureProf. Dr. Ahmet KAVAS

Senegal: The Country You Love As Much As You Know

Increasingly, it was thought that the knowledge in the human repertoire would diverge and differ from those obtained by previous achievements. Gone would be the times when even ordinary words about countries were considered highly important. There have been developments faster than the predictions, and even the ones belonging to yesterday do not attract much attention anymore. Nowadays, it is not enough to just read books or listen to a meeting. It is also interesting to some extent to find an opportunity to travel, to get into local communities, and to get to know their daily lives.

Before colonialism, it was a privilege to live and describe the sultanates, emirates, and kingdoms of different geographies within their administrative borders for a while. With the independence, the newly established states, whose numbers are now approaching 200, were perhaps never able to gain their full independence, as is supposed. Globalization has suddenly shattered the boundaries of almost every aspect of life. For example, as in the case of Senegal, it is no longer easy to obtain necessary information about any country. Interacting in a multi-faceted activity also requires a detailed understanding of the present and a certain foresight about the future. If you can achieve this, then you will love this country and become more attached to it. While the Ottoman Empire was still influential in world politics, it opened an honorary consulate here to facilitate the affairs of Syrian and Lebanese citizens living in Dakar, the capital of this city, and affiliated with Istanbul in the 1910s. These citizens became pioneers in the contacts of not only this country but also the whole of West Africa with the world in many fields, especially in trade. Their number is now around half a million, of which 75,000 live in Senegal as Senegalese.

All of the countries, except the island ones, can be reached by road. But the number of those who add the railway to this is also increasing. It has become commonplace to go to almost every one of them by air and to connect to many cities besides the capital. Arriving at the ports of those with the coast by sea is not an option, it is a necessity. One of the most fortunate countries in the world in this sense is undoubtedly Senegal. Although the railway that connects the capital Dakar to Niger's capital Niamey via Bamako, the capital of Mali, is now idle during the colonial period, it is desired to be built at the first opportunity.

If the geographical location of a country is at the junction of these transportation networks, at the beginning towards the interior or the final point reached from far, it is said to have vital importance, which is now called strategic. Senegal deserves such an invaluable value in every way. For example, it was understood that the airspace was taken at the most suitable point when flights between Europe and America were about to start. Planes departing from Europe or those coming from the Americas were refueling at Senegal's Saint-Louis airport and completing the rest of their routes. Today, Turkish Airlines cargo planes use Dakar airport as a refueling point on their flights to South America.

Ships traveling to Asia, Europe, America, and Africa also approach here if they are going to take or unload cargo from the Dakar port on their sea voyages. Especially certain regions of the surrounding countries, including Mali, carry out all kinds of transportation through this port. It is one of the central points of heavy tonnage transportation, which is one of the most important income sources of the blue economy, which is made over all kinds of seas annually over 20 million tons. The Senegal river basin, which also forms the natural border with Mauritania in the north and takes the same name as the country, was the most indispensable area of trade, agriculture, and animal husbandry along with the centers of science throughout history, and it still maintains this importance from different perspectives. The Kazamans river in the south also provides all kinds of convenience, including transportation.

Despite the fact that the Great Sahara Desert extends to the coast of Mauritania, there is no desert on the Senegalese side except for a small 18 km region between the cities of Dakar and Saint Louis. As the sea coasts go to the cooler interior regions, the weather is getting warmer. Especially between June and October, there are heavy rains throughout the country and there are occasional floods. The population of the country is now approaching 18 million, and many immigrants or people are coming to other directions from here. Especially hundreds of thousands of Guineans and tens of thousands of people who migrated from the Cabo Verde Islands continue their lives in Dakar. Its entire geography is suitable for living and producing agricultural products. In particular, one and a half million tons of peanuts are produced annually. In addition, millet, corn, and similar local grain products and various vegetables are grown. Livestock is an important source of livelihood, especially in the inner regions of the country.

Cheikh Anta Diop University, which has its origins in the colonial period in African countries, is today one of the most important universities in all of West Africa. It is home to the largest number of international students in Sub-Saharan Africa among its 85,000 students. Senegalese, both in scientific research and in science, medicine, and social sciences, both domestically trained and educated abroad, have the highest number of intellectuals when compared to the populations of all continental countries. Many international organizations have managers or expert staff working in different units. Athletes who are very successful in the field of sports, especially football, play in many countries of the world. After France, 75 Senegalese football players have played in Turkish football teams so far.

Important names of the mystical line such as El Hac Ömer TALL, Ahmedu Bamba MBACKE, Malik SY, and İbrahima NYASS have enthroned the hearts of the people of Senegal and millions of people in neighboring countries. Today, millions of people maintain the moral values ​​of society with their teachings. In the field of music, besides well-known artists such as Youssou Ndour, there are scientific and academic figures such as Amadou Makhtar MBOW, historian Sheikh Hamidu KANE, and Cheikh Anta DIOP, who served as UNESCO General Secretary between 1977-1984 and has many printed books. The most spoken language in the country is Wolof, followed by Polar. Regardless of their local language among the people, especially in the city centers, everyone speaks Wolof in daily life. Although the official language is French, it is mostly preferred in official transactions and speeches. Arabic, on the other hand, can be taught at an advanced level, as the language of science that society has been accustomed to for centuries, to be the spoken language in all madrasahs, and even to write a book.

It is considered that the biggest source of income for Senegal in the 21st century will be oil and especially natural gas. Serious investments are being made for both of them at a rapid pace. When they are put into operation, they will be among the serious income items for the country. Currently, a serious input is provided thanks to phosphate with a production of 1.5 million tons per year. It is estimated that the iron mines in the east of the country, which have not yet been put into operation, hold a resource of approximately 700 million tons. One of the most valuable mines of Senegal is the zircon mine, which is mined close to 100 tons per year. In addition, 700 thousand tons of ilmenite, which is the source of raw materials for all kinds of ceramics and similar products, are shipped to foreign markets. The country, where gold and similar mines are of vital importance, are promising area, especially with the support of the head of state's expertise in the mining field.

It is known that the area stretching from the Strait of Jebel-i Tarık to the Gulf of Guinea is one of the largest fishing areas in the world. 700 km. In Senegal, which has as many as 2 million beaches, approximately 2 million people continue their daily lives thanks to fishing. However, in recent years, the large fishing vessels of the Europeans and Chinese have negatively affected the lives of those who carry out this profession, especially with small boats. In this regard, Morocco and Mauritania in the north and Gambia and Guinea Bissau in the south give more work permits to foreign ships, and an estimated 3 million per year are kept by ships and boats registered in these countries.

Unfortunately, the entry of Turkish companies into Senegal was delayed until the 2000s. It cannot be said that our embassy, ​​which was decided to be established in 1962 and opened to service a year later, established any activity in its first 30 years. Because until the 1990s, no one came and settled in the capital Dakar, except for a Turkish family who stayed in the port in the 1950s, on the way to the USA, without realizing it. In addition to the Turkish products biscuits and soap sold on its streets, industrial products have also arrived. However, they were not seen in the bazaar, as they were taken and taken to the necessary places. Nowadays, with the figures for 2021, 550 million dollars of trade between the two countries are mentioned. 50% of the animal feed production, 20% of the flour production, 15% of the electricity production with the Karpowership ship, the construction of the congress center, sports hall, airport, stadium, railway, hospital, one of the largest public buildings, etc. Each gigantic structure was built by Turkish companies in the last year. Today, our biggest business in the country is the management of the airport named LAS with the cooperation of Turkish-Senegalese. A total of 1500 people were employed here. The leading company in the food industry, FKS, adds vitality to tens of business sectors with the employment it provides directly and indirectly to thousands of people.

1000 Senegalese students studying in four schools of the MAARIF Foundation, Yunus Emre Institute, which provides services for Turkish language teaching, customs, and organizations such as TIKA and Kızılay provide direct service to the people of Senegal. Many of our Non-Governmental Organizations, especially the Turkish Religious Foundation, carry out humanitarian aid activities in many fields without interruption. It is almost as if they are embroidering the love of our country in Senegal, stitch by stitch, on the local people in every region they can reach. Thus, Turks know no bounds in their love for Senegal and Senegalese for Turkey. Every year, about 20 thousand Senegalese visit our country for different reasons.

The young people who are still studying in our country and whose numbers are advancing towards the 2000s will ensure the establishment of Senegal-Turkey relations more permanently and effectively. We spent our long years talking about the colonialists. We were busy with what others were doing before we came to the field ourselves. From now on, our business world, from the contracting sector to our investors and traders, complete their work on behalf of our country, not only in this country but all over Africa, and become successful examples of our country.



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