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Report: French-speaking countries' Summit in Dakar

Ebola casts shadow over French-speaking countries' summit in Dakar

The Village Francophone in Dakar
The Village Francophone in Dakar RFI/Paulina Zidi

The Ebola epidemic is casting a shadow over the 15th summit of French-speaking nations in the Dakar this weekend. The Senegalese capital has been a hive of activity in the runup to the event.

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The 15th Sommet de la Francophonie was planned to mark a turning point in the life of the organisation with the election of a new secretary general and the definition of a new agenda for women’s and youth empowerment.

But the Ebola epidemic in west Africa is set to change the dynamics of the summit.

Senegal has nothing in common with some of the spendthrift leaders it will be hosting.

But the country of the Teranga Lions knows how to put on a warm reception without excess, which is why its many friends flocking to Dakar will admit that what comes from the heart goes to the heart.

Who else could prove this but the legendary griots of Fouta from Saint Louis in northern Senegal? 

They performed a scintillating boubou dance at the Village de la Francophonie, where events on the sidelines of the summit take place, on Thursday afternoon. The pomp and pageantry of the Koumballi group was just a taste of the bright, generous face Dakar has  showcased over the past week.

Le Village has been a point of convergence for the stakeholders of this summit - entrepreneurs, young and old, showcasing their knowhow and looking to the Francophonie to provide solutions to their chronic funding problems.

On the sidelines of institutional meeting, hundreds of Dakar’s residents spend the day at the village and economic actors, charities and social groups have set up shop to sell their concepts with the hope of building partnerships with funding agencies.

Recruitment agencies are the conspicuous absentees of the fair.

Anti-summit activists held a press conference in Dakar on Thursday to denounce the Francophonie’s weaknesses on the economic front and slam the large community of life presidents who manipulate their countries' laws to stay in power.

When the summit gets underway Saturday morning sceptics will be vigilant to see if the organisation can at least deliver on its promise of more solidarity with Ebola-affected countries by lifting travel restrictions on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as the west African nations grouped in Ecowas did at  theirrecent crisis summit, and step up surveillance and sensitisation.

The reputation of the organisation will depend more on its ability to deliver on these pledges than on who it elects to replace Abdou Diouf, the outgoing secretary general who is retiring after 12 years in office.

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