TBY talks to Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, on Central Asia's relations with Africa, sustainable energy, and EXPO 2017.

How does this event open a new chapter in relations between Kazakhstan and Senegal, and with Africa as a whole?

First of all, I would like to thank President Nazarbayev for his invitation and for the hospitality of the Kazakhstani people during my official visit to the country in May 2016. This is an historic visit as I am the first Head of State of a non-Arab African country to have made an official visit to Kazakhstan. This visit, part of the growing relations between Africa and Central Asia, demonstrates a common will to strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries in areas of the economy and security on a regional and international level, and a common respect for the principles of equality, partnership, and dialog in international relations. Without a doubt, we have opened a new chapter in the relations between our two continents and particularly, between our two countries. I would like to mention, for example, the values of tolerance and respect for diversity in our two countries, where Islamic majorities coexist peacefully with other religions. Both countries are animated by a spirit of openness and dialog. There are many links that give us every reason to cooperate. Senegal embodies religious coexistence. We are a country in which imams and priests live side-by-side, and where political choices or the conduct of public affairs transcend ethnic and religious considerations. I would like to express my thanks to the Kazakhstani authorities for their support of our candidacy to the United Nations Security Council, where we are serving as a non-permanent member for the period 2016-2017. Senegal supported the admission of Kazakhstan to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, convinced that Kazakhstan would contribute to the spread of the religion in the world. I would also like to appreciate all the expertise of this country in the fields of energy and agriculture, which are of common interest to us in Senegal as we recently discovered gas and oil reserves.

In what areas of economic activity do you see a particular potential for cooperation between the two countries?

Kazakhstan, independent since 1991 and predominantly Muslim, is a country rich in oil and gas. It is also very respected for its leading role in the dialogue of religions and cultures, as I mentioned earlier. In our country, although small in size, population, and natural resources, we recently discovered oil and gas. There is already enormous potential for cooperation and sharing of expertise and know-how. The sectors of energy, mining, tourism, agriculture, infrastructure, and industry have been identified as key areas of the economy where I reiterate our commitment to cooperation with Kazakhstan. We have discussed with President Nazarbayev the forms of cooperation between our two countries in commercial, economic, and investment matters, as well as trade in different sectors of the economy. I want to highlight energy, of course, but also agriculture and infrastructure. Kazakhstan's great achievements, ambition, and know-how coincide with the Emerging Senegal Plan (ESP), which is the frame of reference for public policies launched since February 2014. The priority is to improve the performance of our economy with average growth of 7% per year. Because of this, we aim for a productive revitalization based more on partnerships than aid, and the optimal utilization of strategic sectors such as agriculture, energy, mining, infrastructure, tourism, ICT, and habitat. Major projects are underway, including highways, a new city, an international airport, and a high-speed. It should be noted that in 2016 Senegal achieved a GDP growth rate of 6.5% for the first time in 12 years. Between Senegal and Kazakhstan, the ESP offers an additional reason to cooperate aside from our existing affinities. We also hope to increase our cooperation in the fields of security and military technical assistance in the fight against international terrorism to combat and prevent religious extremism, and other forms of international crime, that represent a global challenge concerning us all today.

Senegal is among the 100 countries that have confirmed their presence and expressed their enthusiasm for EXPO 2017 in Astana. How does Senegal intend to contribute to the event and what is your vision of its long-term impact on the Kazakhstani economy?

It is with great pleasure that we confirmed our participation in the 2017 International Exposition in Astana to President Nazarbayev. I had taken part in the Exposition in 2015 in Milan where I met the organizers of future expos. I had visited the stands of friendly countries, including Kazakhstan, which I remember had centered its presentations on the problem of energy, and particularly, the energy of the future. This was a theme in tune with the climate challenges we face. Senegal intends to actively participate in Expo 2017 in Astana under the theme “Energy of the Future," aiming to promote alternative sources of energy. This initiative is aligned with the overall objectives set in Paris and Marrakech at COP 21 and COP 22 in which Africa, and therefore Senegal, stood at the forefront of the international commitment on the issue of climate. It is thus relevant to resolve the issue of energy and access to electricity on our continent, objectives that can be achieved with new technologies. We recently inaugurated a number of solar power plants, including the Bokhol power plant, which is now the first solar power plant in West Africa. On the environmental front, the contribution of solar energy is undeniable. For the Bokhol power station alone, energy production avoids an annual emission of 25,000 tons of CO2 compared to other more pollutant modes of production. Our strategy is to opt for a more sustainable energy mix and innovative, environmentally friendly ways to develop this sector.

How do you envisage the future of diplomatic, economic, and trade relations between Senegal and Kazakhstan?

First of all, this first historical visit to Kazakhstan was marked by a perfect convergence of views on all the subjects mentioned. This allowed us to lay the foundation for a new relationship between Senegal and Kazakhstan in trade, economic, and investment matters. I hope that we will continue our cooperation and that we will also extend it to the educational and scientific associations of our countries, for example, in order to facilitate the exchange of our qualified students and specialists. We also pursue dialog and coordination of efforts to find solutions for urgent problems through bilateral consultation mechanisms, and within the framework of regional and international organizations like the United Nations, the Organization Islamic Cooperation, the African Union, and other international institutions. In the pursuit of our cooperation, it was with honor and satisfaction that I accepted the invitation of President Nazarbayev to help Senegal become a member of the Islamic Organization for Food Security, to be headquartered in Astana. Finally, I would like to reaffirm my support for the candidacy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, proactive in the resolution of regional and international problems, for a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the period of 2017-2018. I have invited His Excellency, Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, to pay an official visit to Dakar to continue and consolidate this stable cooperation. That invitation was accepted, and the date of the visit shall be fixed shortly via diplomatic channels. We have the common ambition to establish a cultural dialogue and to broaden the components of this dialogue in order to strengthen the bonds of friendship and economic, commercial, and security cooperation between our two countries.