Re-invention is the name of the game for Senegal's entrepreneurs. Daw Mbaye Jaly Badiane spoke to a few about how they are surviving Covid-19.
Senegal, a country of Téranga, is experiencing, with full force, its third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This third wave is worse than the previous waves. The number of patients continues to grow, and a situation that makes us fear the worst at all levels. Like many countries on the continent, the country's economy has been seriously weakened. Since March 2020, many entrepreneurs have seen their projects and businesses put to the test because of this health crisis. Nevertheless, they are showing ingenuity to develop their resilience in the face of the adverse consequences of the crisis.
Alassane and Maimouna have been married for 10 years and parents of three children. They lived abroad. For the sake of their children, they decided to return home in 2019 after 15 years in Canada. "Right away, we knew what we wanted to do; open a crèche and bring to Senegal the alternative methods of education that we had taken so many years to study and practice in Toronto," Maimouna explains with enthusiasm. However, not everything goes at all as planned. The dream faded through the fault of COVID-19. Alassane reveals: "Our project was well prepared, and we had the budget to start it. In October 2019, our crèche called: “Les Petits Bonheurs” opened its doors and welcomed its first residents. We had no idea that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to arrive under our skies and put us in such a precarious situation".
In Senegal, the state of emergency was declared on March 23, 2020, also closing public and private schools. "With schools closed, we had no more work and few financial resources to meet the fixed costs (rental, bills, salaries). These were dark moments especially for us who had left everything to return to invest in our country of origin", says Maimouna with a hoarse voice. She continues, "I had no choice but to find a means of subsistence but also an occupation, because we could not continue to draw on our economies. I have started to sell online masks, hydro-alcoholic gels, and paramedical products. I continue this activity which has become lucrative and even one of my main activities". We can say that this crisis has also made people happy in business.
Esther Nadège Nouga will not be able to say the same. This Cameroonian native has been living in Senegal since 2017. The same year, she launched his tourism agency. Very quickly, she managed to identify the tourist potential of her host country. Thus, her only dream not only to allow her compatriots to discover the country, but to all the other Africans. Emalya is an agency to plan holidays and to find guest-houses, but it also has experience in business concierge. "In March 2020, everything stopped because what was perceived as a small flu would paralyze the world; airports were closed, travels and gatherings were banned. This has been the beginning of long months of unemployment," explains Esther, who had no choice but to close her premises for lack of cash. Without waiting, she got into the restaurant industry by offering Cameroonian dishes for delivery. This activity does not bring in much but allows her to have the minimum to live.
I could no longer afford a salary anymore, so I had to find another way of subsistence. This crisis has been abrupt and brutal for the entire tourism sector and as entrepreneurs we had not received any help or support from the authorities to enable us to safeguard our jobs
Founder and general manager of Sitocom, Etienne Ndour has been working in the event industry for about ten years. He decided to create his own company that was making its way up, in a festive pre-Covid-19 environment. The stop was brutal. "Overnight all events were cancelled: weddings, seminars, gala evenings and activities that are our core business. Hotels and reception rooms were closed, we had no more materials or programs. At first, it was necessary to take the blow, so I decided to return to my village to recharge my batteries. These forced holidays allowed me to think about what I was going to do, and I was able to develop my offer. Thus, I decided to turn to digital communication, creation, and graphic printing", says Etienne in a serene tone.
In another area, the situation has not been any better. Tolya Sanbiose works in the production and export of organic fruits and vegetables; Khadija Kassem Mbaye is the founder and she has not been spared by the health crisis. She tells us: "Since importing the European market was our main activity, we did not work for 18 months. Air transport being interrupted and subsequently brought to a complete halt; it was necessary to reinvent oneself, to recycle oneself so as not to sink. Very quickly, we turned to related activities such as the processing of fruits and vegetables as the raw material was available. We have even gone further by selling finished products and it is envisaged the marketing of frozen products as well".
Resilience is the key word of all these projects that have been negatively impacted by the economic crisis that tirelessly accompanies this Covid-19 health crisis.