Senegal Minister Hopes Eurobond Will Boost Youth Fund

Senegal could use part of the proceeds of a 775 million euro ($946 million) bond sale for a new fund created in response to protests that engulfed the West African nation earlier this year.

The fund of 450 billion CFA francs ($836 million) aims to address youth unemployment by supporting small- and micro-enterprises, and creating jobs, Amadou Sarr, the minister of a new portfolio to boost entrepreneurship, said in an interview Tuesday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The government will set aside 150 billion CFA francs each year for the next three years, he said. While Sarr hopes some of the proceeds from the bond sale will go to the fund, the decision will be made by the country’s finance ministry, he said. The 16-year eurobond was issued at a yield of 5.375%, according to people familiar with the transaction.

“It was just after the crisis that President Macky Sall put in place that fund as a response to the riots and to support the youth by tackling their needs,” Sarr said. “One of those needs is mainly employment.”

Sall, who coasted to a second straight victory in elections two years ago, faced calls to resign after the arrest of a popular opposition leader in Senegal triggered demonstrations in March, undermining the nation’s reputation as a bastion of stability in West Africa. At least eight people died in the violence, with stores looted and torched.

Sarr is also planning to propose a so-called “youth bond” of $500 million that would be used exclusively to support Senegal’s young people, he said.

The protests were mainly in support of Ousmane Sonko, who came third in the 2019 presidential vote. He was accused of rape by a beauty salon employee and summoned to court after his parliamentary immunity was revoked. He denied any wrongdoing, saying it was politically motivated. He was arrested while on his way to his court summons.

Public anger was also stoked by the economic hardship wrought by the coronavirus as well as a curfew and other restrictions initially put in place to curb its spread.

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