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Senegal’s Faye Pledges to Tackle Rising Cost of Living, Corruption

(Bloomberg) -- Senegal’s new president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, pledged to tackle corruption and use the West African nation’s resources to improve the living conditions of its citizens.

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The 44-year-old former tax inspector, who was freed from prison less than two weeks ago, said he’ll devote himself to strengthening state institutions and maintaining friendly relations with Senegal’s partners, while using its natural resources to deliver on the aspirations of its people.

“I commit myself to govern with humility, transparency, and to fight corruption at all levels,” Faye said in a speech late Monday, hours after former Prime Minister Amadou Ba conceded defeat to him in Sunday’s presidential election. Senegal will remain an ally to anyone that commits to “respectful and mutually productive cooperation,” he said in the capital, Dakar.

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Results released by Senegal’s electoral commission late on Monday showed that with ballots from 90% of polling stations counted, Faye had 54% of the vote, compared with 36% for Ba. The outcome gives Faye “a very strong mandate,” said Tochi Eni-Kalu, Africa analyst at Eurasia Group.

Faye is the hand-picked candidate of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, who’s been repeatedly jailed in recent years, like many of outgoing President Macky Sall’s political rivals. The pair captured the energy of Senegal’s large youth population — the median age is 18 — fed up with a political elite that’s done little to raise their living standards. Many took to the streets on Monday to celebrate Faye’s impending victory, singing “Happy Birthday” to mark his 44th birthday.

Investors had been nervous about Faye winning the election because of concerns he’ll change policies implemented by Sall that generated average economic growth of more than 5% over the past decade. Senegal is on the cusp of becoming a major oil and gas producer that may result in growth accelerating to 8% this year — one of the fastest rates in Africa.

Faye has pledged to review deals signed with international investors including BP Plc, Endeavour Mining Plc and Kosmos Energy Ltd. He’s also questioned whether Senegal should continue using the CFA franc — a euro-pegged regional currency — and pledged to review the nation’s business and economic ties with former colonial ruler France.

Initial apprehension about a Faye presidency has eased, after he toned down his plans for the CFA franc, and bonds rallied on Monday after Ba conceded the election. The yield on Senegal’s 2033 dollar debt fell 29 basis points to 8.88%.

Investors will now be looking for more details on Faye’s economic policies, as well as the team he assembles around him to implement his plans.

“We’ll probably see some action towards renegotiating oil and gas contracts,” said Eni-Kalu. “He’s likely to introduce a greater focus on revenue based fiscal policy and get rid of energy subsides but try to balance those through other measures.”

(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected Faye’s age in the second paragraph.)

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