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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Senegal dreams of Italy
Immigrant at work in Brescia
Factories in northern Italy need immigrant labour

As everywhere else in Senegal, children at the Couré Gatteigne school near Tivouane, 90km north of Dakar, are caught up in World Cup fever, following Senegal's lions of Teranga.

But here, along with the Senegalese colours, you see shirts for teams like Lazio and AS Parma.


It's not just the young who are leaving, but people in their 40s.

Teacher Amadou Kane
Many of the children have fathers and brothers working in Italy, and they too want to leave when the time is right.

The children chat hesitantly in Wolof about Italy.

"The climate changes there."

"It's a country with cars, machines and boats."

"In Rome there are two football teams, Lazio and Roma."

Destination Italy

The school's director, Amadou Kane, says the patterns of emigration are now well established in this part of Senegal.

"There is not much work here," Mr Kane acknowledges.

Street school in Senegal
Many children envisage a future abroad

"In terms of agriculture, you have groundnuts and millet, but not much else. People from here have traditionally been jewellers and shoemakers. They will go to Dakar or to Ivory Coast, or try further afield."

Mr Kane says Italy is the target destination for most emigrants heading overseas, and the trend is becoming stronger all the time, with mixed benefits.

Unemployment

"It's not just the young who are leaving, but people in their 40s. They will come back with money and be able to build new houses," he says.

"But educationally it is bad for us. Many children are growing up in households with no fathers, and the father is a key figure in the child's development."

Mr Kane's colleague, Sakhoudia Ndir, says there have been improvements in the Tivouane region, "more cars, more houses being built", but argues that unemployment clouds everything.

Fishing boats in Senegal
Traditional activities such as fishing are not as viable as they used to be

"It's not that everybody wants to emigrate," argues Mr Ndir.

"It's just that they see what is available and have no choice. People finish school and then find they might as well go back to their fields, and that is not what education is there for."

Just down the road, in the village of Mbedienne, Mamadou Madiara chats with his sons and his mother in the shade of a tree.

Dry soil

Mamadou describes himself as a "trader".

He now lives in Bologna in north-eastern Italy, but is back on a family visit.

"I can't take my family with me," he points out.


If I was God, I'd travel today. I would be off to Europe at the first opportunity."

Griot Ndiogo

Mamadou started out by flying to Belgium, then making his way through Switzerland to Italy where he already had Senegalese contacts working in business.

He lives with a group of Senegalese friends.

"I left because there was nothing here," Mamadou says.

"Twenty years ago, there was a living to be made in agriculture. But now the soil is dry.

Solidarity

It's simply not worth it. Just look at this place," he says.

Mamadou's brother, Ndiogo, is a griot, a musician and custodian of Senegal's oral history.

Italian TV sports commentator Idris Sanneh
Some Senegalese make it to the top in Italy

"My services are always in demand," Ndiogo says.

"I perform at baptisms and weddings. People in the community know me and respect me. But I'd have to say if I was God, I'd travel today. I would be off to Europe at the first opportunity."

In the neighbouring village of Beud Forage many of the houses stand deserted, but there is also a series of stylish new residences, built mainly with money brought back from Europe.

The head of the village, Assane Gassama, is sad to see so many friends leave, and says he now depends more and more on the telephone.

But Mr Gassama is grateful for the money sent home, particularly as it has helped establish water and electricity supplies.

"This is a village with a future," says local teacher, Mamadou Samb. "A good Muslim must always be optimistic," he says.

Mamadou Samb sees emigration as inevitable given the lack of opportunities at home. "But it's also a solidarity thing," he emphasises.

"In Africa we share, we are much less individualistic than in the West. Somebody goes off to Europe and they will do everything they can to help their brother make the same journey."


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See also:

04 Jun 02 | Europe
16 May 02 | Europe
20 Mar 02 | Europe
09 Aug 01 | Europe
Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


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