Thursday 4 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 4/4/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Walking the line: Bassirou Diomaye Faye is inaugurated as Senegal’s president

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Mary Fitzgerald

One for the ages

Even before his inauguration this week, Senegal’s incoming president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, was being hailed as the new face of democracy in West Africa. The region has been buffeted by a series of coups in recent years and some observers fretted that long-stable Senegal might be next. Enter Faye, a 44-year-old whose popularity among Senegalese youth was key to his sweeping victory in the first round of the 24 March election. Since then, foreign capitals have been scrambling to discover more about how the political neophyte might steer this strategically important nation. Faye’s decision to appoint his mentor, firebrand opposition figure Ousmane Sonko, as prime minister suggests that significant change – at home and abroad – might be in the offing.

A former tax inspector, Faye campaigned on a reformist platform, promising to tackle corruption. He also promoted a left-wing pan-Africanist vision and pledged to reset the country’s relationship with France, the former colonial power in Senegal. His predecessor, Macky Sall, was often criticised for prioritising foreign interests and businesses over local ones. Faye wants to change the controversial CFA currency system of the so-called “CFA franc zone”, which is pegged to the euro and is considered a colonial relic by many Senegalese. But he has also sought to reassure Paris that he favours bilateral co-operation, not rupture. It’s a wise move given the scale of French investment in the country.

“We are not against France but for Senegal,” he told Le Monde last year. “What we want is a win-win partnership.” Faye’s political party might have dropped its demand for the departure of the 350 French soldiers based in Dakar but the fact that he has not ruled out seeking new partners, Russia included, for security co-operation has not gone unnoticed in the Élysée. During my last visit to Senegal, it was clear that the Russians saw opportunity amid growing anti-French sentiment tied to frustrations over Sall, who had been in power since 2012. Faye takes office as Africa’s youngest democratically elected head of state at a time of intense geopolitical competition across the continent. Navigating those rivalries while managing expectations at home will be no easy task.

Mary Fitzgerald is Monocle’s North Africa correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Defence / Nato

Building support

Nato leaders will convene in Brussels today to celebrate 75 years since the founding of the alliance and prepare for a summit in Washington in July. Plans for long-term military support for Ukraine, including a proposed relief fund of €100bn over the next five years, will be discussed during the two-day meeting. Proposals by Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg to “Trump-proof” aid to Kyiv would give the alliance more responsibility in co-ordinating military equipment and allow for better collaboration between members. As the US presidential election draws closer and member states grapple with domestic difficulties, a sustainable plan to organise support for Ukraine is a welcome proposition.

Watchful eye: President Yoon Suk-yeol gears up for elections

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / South Korea

Party politics

With six days to go until South Korea’s general elections, most opinion polls point to a bruising defeat for president Yoon Suk-yeol’s People Power Party. A coalition of left-wing opposition parties is expected to retain control of the National Assembly and extend its parliamentary majority, frustrating Yoon’s ability to implement his conservative agenda.

A lack of domestic achievements during the president’s first two years in office has been compounded by rising inflation, a scandal involving the first lady and an ongoing walkout by junior doctors. Yoon’s staunch defence of his medical reforms this week showed scant regard for public opinion, causing dismay among members of his own party. The president might still be in the first half of his constitutionally limited five-year term but for many voters in South Korea, it’s already game over.

Image: Shutterstock

Mobility / Greece

Right on track

After almost 20 years of waiting and myriad difficulties along the way, Thessaloniki is expected to have its own metro network by November. Initially launching with a 13-station line, the network will help to alleviate traffic in Greece’s second-busiest city, in which quality of life has long been marred by clogged roads. Construction for the €3.5bn project began in 2006 with a completion date of 2012.

The works have faced a series of hurdles, ranging from archaeological discoveries during digging to funding problems caused by the country’s economic crisis. The metro’s inauguration this autumn will be an important first step in dealing with the city’s notorious congestion but authorities will then need to find ways to incentivise motorists to ditch their cars.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Marcus Brown

Secret ingredients

London-based culinary and lifestyle magazine Picnic celebrates the people behind every step of food production. Marcus Brown, its editor in chief, tells Monocle about what inspired the publication, why he wanted to experiment with iPhone photography and celebrating the processes that go into what we eat and drink.

What does ‘Picnic’ cover?
It documents restaurant and dining culture. We focus less on food and drink than on the people working hard at every step of their production, such as winemakers, beekeepers or chefs. When I go into a kitchen, I don’t necessarily know who I’ll photograph. It might be the kitchen porter instead of the head chef.

What inspired you to launch it?
I used to run a blog called Bistro Boys Magazine, which initially consisted of pictures of food and short write-ups about how nice the spots that I was covering were. Then I thought, “Hang on, that isn’t good enough.” I started to think about interviewing chefs, actually talking to people. There were millions of accounts on social media that simply assessed how good a restaurant was but that approach wasn’t very interesting. So we started a series during lockdown called “Chewing the Fat”. We would interview those who were on the food scene at the time: the people behind Willy’s Pies, Top Cuvée, Ombra and more.

How is your latest issue different from the previous four?
The images in the first four were shot on film. For our fifth one, I wanted to do the opposite, shooting everything on an iPhone. I didn’t want to become overly reliant on a film aesthetic. You can take a bad film photograph and people will still like it because it’s got that orange tinge. Digital photography is far less forgiving. If you want to take a picture that stands out, it has to be flawless. That was a new challenge for us.

For our full interview with Brown, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Peter Flude

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Design

Designing for timelessness

Nic Monisse presents highlights from recent panels held at V-Zug shops in London and Hong Kong. Architects and designers discuss the notion of timelessness and how this informs their practice.


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