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West Africa: Photos and First Impressions

By Laura Davis | Wed Dec 07 2011

As part of consulting project, the RENEW team recently traveled to Niger, Senegal and Ghana. Here are a few photos and first impressions:

Impressions of Niger:
On the edge of the Sahara Desert, Niger is dry, dusty and in many ways it feels forgotten by most everyone (except the Chinese and al-Qaida). USAID is not even active there. But there are bright spots including one of our key contacts who said "Niger is not poor. We are just acting poor." The country has a variety of natural resources and though not evident upon first glance...there is great potential for economic growth in certain sectors including oil, uranium and onions of all things.


First impressions of Senegal:
The international airport is in the heart of Dakar (it will be moved to the countryside in 2012) and as you fly across the city the vibrancy is immediately apparent. Signs of economic growth include the many buildings under construction, a decent highway system, and malls with things like pet shops and an Apple distributor. It's impossible not to notice the many people exercising on the beaches and roadways. All signs that the middle class is definitely growing in Dakar. And the great folks at USAID - Senegal seem open to public private partnerships to encourage the SME space. When you go to Dakar, do try to overlook the bad smells/pollution and trash though and don't forget to visit Chez Loutcha a great, affordable restaurant downtown.

First impressions of Ghana:
Grasscutter anyone? Across West Africa, a giant rat is considered a delicacy more expensive than beef or chicken. I am not sure what that has to do with my first impressions of Ghana, except that we saw our fair share of the not so little guys. The infrastructure, organization and growth in Accra is impressive. Traffic is quite bad and the city is spread out, but there is definitely good SME investment opportunities to be found in Ghana. For more information read the State Department's economic outlook for Ghana.
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