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Africa: Senegal opens an Islamic window

The country is forging ahead in its aim of becoming a regional Islamic finance hub, issuing its debut sukuk in July. However, questions remain as to exactly how dedicated it is to reaching this goal.

Le Monument de la Renaissance africaine
Photo credit: Sbreitinger 

On top of the Mamelles, the twin hills outside Senegal’s picturesque coastal capital city of Dakar, sits Le Monument de la Renaissance africaine.

Some 49 metres tall, the Soviet-style bronze statue of a scantily clad family of three emerging from a volcano is the tallest in Africa, and it is taller even than New York’s Statue of Liberty. It was unveiled in 2010 to mark 50 years of independence for the country, and built by North Korean company Mansudae – the company also responsible for similar projects in Botswana and Namibia.

The statue came with a hefty price tag of $27 million; a questionable investment in a country where the lack of infrastructure hampers development and nearly half of the mainly Muslim population lives in poverty. To its critics, the monument was an un-Islamic, colossal waste of money.

However, its supporters take inspiration from it. “People thought the Eiffel Tower was hideous at first,” says a banker based in Senegal. “Now it’s an iconic landmark drawing people in from all over the world.

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