Leopold Senghor the first President of Senegal was one of the most celebrated Africans in French history for his contribution to furthering French interests in Senegal. In order to reciprocate the goodwill Senghor was elected to the French Academy the highest honor of scholars and writers in France. Senghor sought French acceptance so he considered this award highest honor of his life as the first African and reiterated that he wanted to be remembered more as a poet than the President of Senegal.
Senghor trained as a Roman Catholic priest before dropping out and joining regular school. He went to Paris on a scholarship and became a teacher there. While in Europe, he was captured by the Nazi and spent 2 years in a concentration camp then becoming an advocate of independence.
Senghor was President from 1960-1980 ushering two decades of failure and taking the Senegalese backward on every socioeconomic factor. This is not surprising since he made no positive contribution to Senegal in the 20 years he was President.
Senghor the beloved Frenchman in African skin had French advisors in his government. He kept French government officials and justified this by stating that the Senegalese were uneducated and therefore unqualified for top government positions. He never made any effort to train the Senegalese or to change the status quo. The Senegalese remained second class citizens as all trade and industry was in the hands of the French. He gave development projects to the Muslim Brotherhood to appease them as they were the power brokers also supporting his presidency.
Senghor’s legacy was the inability to maintain food security as groundnuts the country’s main export fell between 5.5% up to 1970 and 1970 -1979 by 8.4%. Average income in Senegal during Senghor’s regime fell by 0.2%. Senegal’s external debt rose from $98MM from in 1970 to $738MM in 1979. This turned Senegal into a nation of beggars relying on foreign aid. During his tenure, aid accounted for 13% of Senegal’s GDP. Senghor’s dismal economic record set Senegal backwards and the nation has not been able to step out of poverty since Senghor’s mismanagement of the nation’s resources.
It is no secret that Senghor spend most of his time in Paris and Normandy rather than Dakar because he was a Frenchman at heart. During Senghor’s presidency more French people migrated to Senegal than anytime during colonialism. This was not surprising also because Senghor married a Frenchwoman which made his assimilation complete. In the end Senghor was more beneficial to the French than to the people of Senegal.
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