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Far from being a shining beacon of hope for the world’s poorest continent, Dakar’s monument to the African Renaissance has sparked a storm of criticism over Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and his handling of the project.
Declaring himself to be the “intellectual owner” of the bronze family of man, woman and infant – at 50 metres tall just higher than New York’s Statue of Liberty – Wade has decided that he should take a 35 percent cut in the revenues of a site which is expected to be one of Dakar’s top tourist draws when it is completed in December.
Wade - who has long stalked the world stage reminding the rich to make good on pledges of aid to the poor -insists his share would go to a variety of good causes he sponsors rather his own pocket. But for many Senegalese, the affair has left a bad taste. “I have never seen a president being in a business deal with the same state of which he is the highest representative,” said Ousmane Sow, a high school teacher in the capital.
Wade supporters disagree, arguing that he had already drawn sketches for the monument in a book, “A Destiny For Africa”, which he wrote in his early political career.
But others complain it is the latest in a line of glamour projects – including plans for West Africa’s biggest theatre or a four-lane corniche serving Dakar’s wealthy suburbs – that Wade has favoured over urgently needed basic infrastructure.