The coronavirus deprive Senegal of the precious foreign exchange from its emigrants

Le coronavirus prive le Sénégal des précieuses devises de ses émigrés

KEUR MASSAR | Tidiane Konte, father of family, dakar, unemployed 56 years of age, holds between her fingers, “last receipt” of the money sent to Spain by his brother. Since the appearance of the coronavirus, the transfers of emigrant workers in Europe are almost dried up, creating a challenge to many Senegalese.

“My brother is working in plantations in Zaragoza (north of Spain). The last time he sent us money, it was in February, 422 euros” (649 $), nearly five times the minimum wage in Senegal, maugrée Tidiane Konte in his home in Keur Massar, in the suburbs of the senegalese capital.

Result: “We do eat more meat,” he says.

The world Bank estimates that due to the pandemic of COVID-19, the amount of money sent by migrant workers to their countries of origin, which constitute up to one-third of the economy of some poor countries will fall by 20% this year, to $ 445 billion $ USD 554 billion in 2019.

This fall, the most important in recent history, is largely related to the “job losses, business closures, and containment measures” in the countries of emigration, explains to the AFP Dilip Ratha, an economist at the department of Migration and Remittances from the world Bank.

It represents the “loss of an important safety net for many poor families and has a direct impact on the expenditure on food, health and education,” he says.

The senegalese ministry of the Economy is even more pessimistic: “We anticipate a reduction in the order of 30 % for 2020” transfers from abroad, says one of its leaders.

Three million emigrants

Senegal, a former French colony in West Africa, has up to now been relatively spared by the epidemic. The country has less than 1000 cases and a dozen deaths.

But measures to stem the spread of the virus, such as the introduction of a curfew, the closing of frontiers and the prohibition of movement between the areas make it even more difficult the daily life of a population living largely in the day-to-day.

The authorities estimate at about 3 million Senegalese who have gone to work abroad, particularly in France, Spain and Italy, on a population of 16 million inhabitants.

The approximately 2 billion euros ($3 billion) that they send out formally each year to their relatives represent 10 % of Senegal’s GDP, and a balloon of oxygen essential for so many families.

Counting “the amounts paid by the informal route”, these amounts may be doubled, writes an official with the ministry of foreign Affairs.

These last few weeks, shipments have dropped “of at least 25 %,” said the manager of a shop of Rufisque, another suburb of Dakar, where the beneficiaries can come and collect their money.

“I even made four transfers of Senegalese in Europe, that their families wanted to help”, said an employee of the bank.

Boiled millet

Same observation to the interior of the country. “We are sure, with difficulty, three meals daily,” says Fatou Seydi, the first wife of a polygamous family of Kolda, in Upper Casamance (south). Her husband, who “works in a farm in Spain” has suspended its transfers of monthly 300 to 450 euros (460 to 690 $) designed to feed 15 family members.

Abdoulaye Cissé, a young journalist, a volunteer of a radio station of Kolda, do, can no longer count on the help of his brother, emigrated in southern Italy.

“He said you have the money, but can’t send it because of the containment” in the peninsula, which prevents it from going into the stores that specialize in international transfers. The eight members of his family were therefore “replaced the milk and bread for breakfast with boiled millet,” he says.

Other Senegalese people are detained in the country by the closure of air borders. This is the case of Abdoulaye Baldé, a 45-year-old, who works “for twenty years” in a store of fruits and vegetables of Barcelona and that was “to return to work on 24 February”.

“I know that I lost my job. I sent more than 300,000 CFA francs (450 euros) per month to my mother, my two women, my children, my brother and my sister. I don’t have income here,” sighed he.

The senegalese government has planned a budget of twenty million euros in order to “assist, support and protect” the emigrant workers. It has also launched an extensive food distribution to help families in difficulty to the four corners of the country.

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