It is the first thing you will see when you land at Dakar Airport. It sits atop a hill and is 'larger than the Statue of Liberty,' as Senegalese president Abdoualye Wade loves to crow. It's his idea, he claims – others are less sure. And he firmly believes that millions of tourists will flock to his country once his Monument for the African Renaissance opens to the public, next April. The date will coincide with Senegal's ascension to Independence, 50 years ago.
The Monument points somewhere. Nearest point of call if you follow its directions is Canary Islands, a main destinations of those who seek to exile themselves from Senegal in those small dangerous “pirogues” (small wooden boats), because one decade of “liberal” rule under this president has made life unsustainable. So much for renaissance.
But there are other points of contention. They include female nudity (she should cover up properly say the critics); religion (human representations are banned under Islam, I wrote this piece about the presidential reply); tradition (the woman is behind and below the man, what’s African about that…?) – and indeed: why did the government hire North Koreans to do the job? (They were the cheapest, is the answer to that.)
And so on and so forth.
Anyway: my invitation: come over here and see it for yourself. Go there, climb the hill, get inside (it will have conference rooms, a vantage point from where you can see all of Dakar and much more besides) and check if it does indeed point to one of Europe’s favourite tourism destination. As of April 4.