SENEGAL: University project left to sheep, goats and cows

The University of Future Africa, a grand project launched five years ago by President Abdoulaye Wade with an estimated cost of 24 billion FCFA (currently US$52 million), is a "vast, abandoned building site" occupied by sheep, goats and cattle, although African heads of state paid for buildings to be erected in their names, reports Wal Fadjri of Dakar. And the construction company has departed, taking all the machinery.

The paper's reporter Najib Sagna visited the site of the UFA near Dakar. It has been described as a 'white elephant' by critics of the project, including members of the opposition.

From a distance, "four buildings in the shape of a sphinx were visible but once arrived, there was not a soul", wrote Sagna. Attention was caught by a bright yellow arc-shaped building, destined to house the university's administration; opposite was the library in the form of a pyramid, "a very complex construction which President Wade had explained to visitors ... will be one of the biggest libraries in Africa".

But the three-storey building was completely shuttered.

Heads of state from other countries visiting Senegal had been taken to inspect the university site by Wade himself and had undertaken to pay for buildings which would bear their names or those of their countries.

"But for now, the site of the University of Future Africa is an enormous pasture where sheep, goats and cows compete in their search for greenery," wrote Sagna. "The Zakhem company which was commissioned to carry out the construction works has disappeared, taking with it all its machinery. Only a caretaker remains to keep an eye on the building site."

At a total cost of 24 billion FCFA, the 300-hectare project was initially financed by Taiwan, with the first phase of the programme 15 billion FCFA, said Sagna. The UFA complex was planned to include an administrative building, a library, six faculties, a Grecian-style 7,000 square metre lecture hall with capacity for up to 2,000 students, a restaurant, a common room, and four student residential blocks.

Facilities included video-conferencing equipment in several classrooms and projection rooms with simultaneous translation.

Sagna reported that Wade, who initiated the project, had said the university would cater for African students who through new technologies would receive the same education as that given at internationally renowned universities.

Diplomas would be "recognised as identical to those of the greatest institutions in the world".

Nearby the site is the village of Dény Malick Guèye whose population had their land requisitioned to build the future university.

Sagna interviewed a young man who said: "This temple of knowledge will be built on 300 hectares which used to consist of our fields. And it is the most fertile parts of these fields which have been taken."

Although the land that had belonged to the villagers for generations was unoccupied, nobody dared to plant a single peanut seed there, wrote Sagna.