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It’s nice in the volunteer-room at the Senegal Winrock office. Here in Senegal, electricity is expensive because it all comes from burning fossil fuels, so hallways and large spaces in buildings are not air conditioned, but individual offices and bedrooms have AC units that keep the spaces at a frosty 24 degrees celsius. So, when you visit someone’s office, be sure to close the door behind you to keep the nice air in.

Billie, Ruben, and I have been in Dakar since Sunday. Yesterday afternoon we got informed that early tomorrow morning we will leave Dakar for six days so we can make field visits to M’bour, Silane, Linguere, and Richard Toll where vocational training farms and business incubation centers are located. We only have so many pairs of undergarments and laundry service has a 48 hour turn around, so last night we picked up a bucket and some detergent at a local shop so we could handwash some garments in our hotel showers. It was humbling and made our hands sore, but we will have enough clean clothes for the field visits.

In Linguere, ANPEJ runs a center that is somewhat of a hybrid between a vocational training center, a business incubator, and value-chain networking info station. At Linguere, groups of 10 people can apply to spend a few months learning the trade of dairy processing, management, sales/marketing, and basic finance. We are excited to be able to spend two days assessing this center to determine how its business model might be improved upon so that ANPEJ can structure more incubation centers to both teach valuable skills to Senegalese as well as produce a revenue stream that makes the youth/female development organization sustainable without further government funds. It is a tall order, but we are determined to figure out the best way for ANPEJ to use its current resources and expertise to create jobs, teach skills that employers value, and help entrepreneurs write business plans that get the approval of micro-finance banks.

Accompanying us on all of our interviews, quests for data, and field visits are Sane and Pape of Winrock International. They have been 110% invaluable. Both of these men are a wealth of culture and business information that we would be lost without.

Yesterday we met with PAPEJF (Projet d’Appui a la Promotion de l’Emploi des Jeunes et des Femmes), a government project that began in May of 2014 with a grant from the African Development Bank. PAPEJF has just this year been brought under the control of ANPEJ. We learned that in 2014 PAPEJ had 4 billion CFA set aside to loan to to entrepreneurs with solid business plans in the agriculture industry. They have currently loaned out about 560 million CFA of that fund at an interest rate that is half of that charged by a private bank. Furthermore, they have had 2,000 Senegalese youth and women complete skills training programs in the last two years. This project has made a real positive difference. ANPEJ wants us to advise them on the best way to guide the resources of PAPEJF so that it makes the biggest economic and employment contribution possible. We have some ideas, but these field visits should help us to determine if we are on the right path. Stay tuned for our next update.