(SenePlus) – French mass distribution has experienced meteoric growth in Senegal in recent years, revolutionizing consumption habits in this West African country. As reported in an article in Le Monde Diplomatique, French giants such as Auchan, Carrefour, Super U and Casino have embarked on an aggressive conquest of the Senegalese market, increasing the number of store openings in the Dakar region but also in other cities like Thiès, Mbour and Saint-Louis.

These brands are no longer confined to the wealthy neighborhoods of capitals, but are now establishing themselves in the heart of working-class neighborhoods, offering fresh products at “competitive or even cheaper prices”, as admitted by Xavier Desjobert, former general manager of CFAO Retail , in the columns of Le Monde Diplomatique. To achieve this, they reduce the number of intermediaries by dealing directly with local producers and import certain products, thus bypassing traditional circuits.

Ousmane Sy Ndiaye, executive director of the National Union of Traders and Industrialists of Senegal, deplored in 2018 this ability of multinationals to “accumulate the profits of the wholesaler, the semi-wholesaler and the retailer”, placing them “at the head of the race to charge the prices they want.

A threat to traditional commerce

Faced with this fierce competition, small Senegalese traders came together in 2018 within the “Auchan get out!” coalition. to request protective measures. Some, like this retailer from the Kermel market in Dakar, saw their livelihood threatened: “Knowing that we buy for 700 francs and that Auchan manages to sell for 400, even 300, this is not normal. We don’t earn anything. We’re poor now.”

This movement included among its ranks the Front for the Popular and Pan-African Anti-Imperialist Revolution (Frapp), denouncing the inconceivable competition of “one of the most important global groups” with “the apron traders of one of the poorest countries of the world”.

Auchan, for its part, affirms “to promote and encourage local products” and “to build links with local actors”, but the NGO GRAIN warns: if the establishment of large supermarkets offers opportunities, it “particularly targets farmers capable of supplying large volumes” meeting draconian standards.

A social debate

Beyond economic issues, the strong arrival of mass distribution raises questions of food sovereignty and societal model. The Citizen Association for the Defense of Collective Interests in Cameroon is concerned about a change in eating habits, with the population abandoning “traditional dishes” in favor of ultra-processed products.

Frapp denounces “a loss of sovereignty of Senegal over its internal trade”. Its coordinator Guy Marius Sagna, now a deputy, is asking for an impact study and the organization of national meetings.

Minimal reaction from the authorities

Faced with the scale of the protest, President Macky Sall signed a decree in 2018 regulating the establishment of large stores. But this measure, which does not concern already established supermarkets, authorizes retail sales, leaving significant room for maneuver for distributors.

Alternatives are emerging despite everything, such as the Senchan brand launched by Rijaal Holding, a Mouride investment company. We are also seeing efforts to modernize traditional markets, such as the project supported by the WHO at the Grand Dakar market.

This offensive by French mass retailers in West Africa, and particularly in Senegal, crystallizes the expectations and fears of a society in full change. An economic issue certainly, but also a profound social debate.



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