Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, whose election in 2000 ended 40 years of single-party rule, stressed the importance of education and African unity in a speech last night at the Institute of Politics.
Speaking before a full crowd, the 61-year-old leader articulated his vision of a United States of Africa. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]
“If Africa remains divided in small countries with tiny economies we will never get out of the pit,” said Wade during his speech. “Our only chance is to build a major political and economic space so we can benefit from a large economy.”
Wade, who has a doctorate in economics and a law degree, added that Africa could enter a new era of progress.
“We are now in the time of African renaissance, from Dakar to Pretoria, from Dakar to Johannesburg,” he said.
Under Wade’s presidency, Senegal has been largely lauded as a model state for other African nations. The former French colony is relatively peaceful, and holds free and fair democratic elections.
A new comprehensive index of African nations—which measures countries’ security, rule of law, economic development, and other areas—placed Senegal in the top ten, according to one of the report’s researchers, Robert I. Rotberg, an adjunct professor of public policy at the Kennedy School of Government.
In his speech, Wade touted progress in education made under his leadership.
“Senegal is the only country I think in the world that put 40 percent of its funds to education,” Wade said. “I have created many colleges, many...schools.”
The president said he felt that the the key to future African progress lay in the embrace of technology.
“My conviction is that the digital system is a chance for Africa,” he said. “Africa is going to be the biggest market in digital computers.”
Wade also highlighted the tolerance and democratic culture present in his predominantly Muslim country.
“The Muslims in Senegal are very tolerant,” said Wade, who is a Sunni Muslim.
Students last night said they were impressed with the Senegalese president.
“I think it’s a great privilege to have and hear from such a great and charismatic leader,” said Bryan C. Barnhill ’08, president of the Black Men’s Forum. “I’m very pleased with the progress of the government.”
CORRECTION: The Sept. 28 news article "Senegalese President Stresses African Unity" gave the wrong age for Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade. He is 81, not 61.