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 Capital City Dakar

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National Day  4 April

Her Excellency Dr. Fatimata Dia
Embassy of the Republic of Senegal
39 Marloes Road
London W8 6LA
T: 020 7938 4048 / 020 7937 7237
F: 020 7938 2546 E:senegalembassy@hotmail.co.uk

SENEGAL’S AMBASSADOR TO the UK Her Excellency Dr Fatimata Dia arrived in London in December last year, along with her three daughters and husband, Falilou. They quickly found themselves struck by “the beauty of this place and its traditions. Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family are such inspiring icons. I have been astonished by events like the State Opening of the Parliament and my credentials presentation.” During visits to Bristol and Brighton to meet the Senegalese community, she was pleased to “witness how diversified the British population is in terms of its people and landscapes.”

An academic by trade, the Ambassador found being raised in a large family to be a great source of motivation for her 12 years of university level studies, including a doctorate and a PhD. Her father was an administrator at the Senegalese National Assembly, also fuelling a strong interest in Senegal’s politics and the key issues around it.

Dr Dia’s doctorate involved research in Senegal’s rural areas to develop the country’s agricultural policies. Being in touch with various international partners, environmentalists and farmers “further increased [her] interest in social issues in Senegal’s rural populations.” Her membership of the African Women Leaders in Agriculture and Environment Association (AWLAE) gave herthe confidence to pursue a PhD in Agricultural Economics and Gender Economics, during which time she took part in a ‘Leadership for Change’ training programme, inspiring her to “aim for higher positions in regional and international institutions, and apply that vision to the African continent and the rest of the world.” Dr Dia soon became the Social and Gender Lead Specialist and Manager (2011-14) in the Senegalese government’s partnership under the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) initiative to reduce poverty and induce economic growth. “Agricultural and gender economics are two major challenges for Senegalese policies. In this globalised world, economic relations between countries are the centre of all diplomatic strategies. The main programmes in Senegal are related to self-sustainability and the empowerment of women, which are key issues of President Macky Sall’s initiative, ‘Plan Senegal Emergent.’”

Her role (2014-18) as Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender in Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), allowed her  exposure to “regional and international institutions, their challenges and policies, as well as providing an opportunity to develop [her] diplomatic abilities.” Dr Dia found herself in regular contact with international bodies like the UN and the IMF, but also various government ministers to find common ground and reinforce partnerships regarding social and gender issues. “ECOWAS members have different levels of development and different interests. Working to put all those differences into unified and coherent policies strengthened my negotiation and diplomatic abilities.”

The job also came with great challenges. “The most memorable moment of my career was the 2015 Ebola outbreak in the ECOWAS zone, under my jurisdiction. A difficult and demanding period, visiting the three most touched countries in West Africa (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia) allowed me to see what our people were going through during those tough times. Until today, working to fight the Ebola virus is one of my greatest achievements.”

As Senegal’s Ambassador in the UK, her priorities are to “reinforce cooperation between the two countries, by enhancing investments and partnerships, facilitating exchange programmes for our people – by working to ease the visa requirements of our compatriots travelling to the UK – helping the Senegalese diaspora integrate better here, and facilitating access to information for potential British investors.”

President Macky Sall has highlighted the need for Senegal to diversify its investment sources. “Aside from Senegal’s strong historic bond with France, we have been trying to source investment from other countries such as China and the UK, in infrastructure, energy, education and other domains. We hope that our partnership with BP is an example of cooperation to come in the future.  Back in March, I organised a roundtable with British investors to strengthen the initiatives discussed by our Head of States during the UK-Africa Investment Summit 2020.”

Furthermore, Dr Dia is confident that post-Brexit the relationship between the UK and Senegal will get stronger. “As we move from a multilateral to bilateral relationship, more room for exchanges and collaboration will be created. The UK’s recent partnership with the Dakar’s Pasteur Institute to create rapid tests kits for Covid-19 is a great example of these new initiatives.”

So how is Senegal handling the pandemic? “In late March, Senegal declared a state of emergency, and has implemented a curfew that has also greatly impacted the efficiency and work of bodies back home. Of course,” she continues, “the Covid-19 crisis has slowed down the whole world and our government and embassies are no exception. Here in the UK, all meetings have been suspended due to the lockdown, but we are functioning well with video conferencing and email, allowing us to keep up as much as we can.”

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