health & active lifestyle

Interview with Soham El Wardini, Mayor of Dakar, Senegal

Dec 10, 2019

Mrs Soham El Wardini, Mayor of Dakar, reveals Dakar’s active city strategy, the city’s involvement in the GAC programme, and the Dakar YOG 2022.

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Dakar, Senegal’s capital and largest city, currently counts over 1.3 million inhabitants. The city is facing the challenge of adapting to a continuously increasing population, especially to the needs of the younger generation.

The City of Dakar will host the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2022. Dakar will, therefore, be under the spotlight during its preparation phase and is determined to be up to the challenge.

The YOG are the perfect opportunity for the city to identify the needs of changing demographics, better allocate its resources, and improve the living conditions of its people with regards to their health, well-being and physical activity.

The momentum generated by the preparation of the YOG 2022 is a unique opportunity to follow in the steps of Buenos Aires’ approach of preparing a major event while establishing the basic blocks of the Global Active City (GAC) model to enhance the quality of life of city dwellers.

Joining the Global Active City (GAC) Programme is well aligned with the city’s agenda and objectives, and therefore makes perfect sense at this stage of the process.

What led the City of Dakar to join the Global Active City Programme?

The current context, which is particularly marked by an upsurge of cardiovascular diseases and cervical, breast and skin cancers, has led the City of Dakar to focus on preventive health, with an emphasis on communication and health awareness. Joining the GAC programme is an opportunity to highlight the central role of our Departments in improving the living conditions of the population and strengthening the engagement of young people.

In this process, we cannot downplay the dimension of sport as a factor of well- being but also of good health. The City of Dakar joining the Global Active City programme is part of this logic.
This option is all the more relevant because, in our country, health financing is a real challenge for local authorities. Therefore, it is appropriate for them to adopt a strategy that pays off by having people fall less ill which puts sport at the heart of the solution.

What are the challenges ahead?

The City of Dakar, with an estimated population of 1’363’444 and nearly 3’500’000 in the Dakar area, is experiencing accelerated population growth due to sustained migration.

With rapid urbanisation, Dakar faces numerous issues and constraints that go far beyond its ability to provide adequate services. Dakar has a young population, with the 15 to 35 age group representing 40.9% of the population. In the context of Act III of Decentralisation (see inset), the City of Dakar has two key responsibilities in the field of health: responsibility for the management of health structures as well as for the management of public health in the city.

Added to this is the fact that in 2022, the City of Dakar will host the Youth Olympic Games. For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, an African city has been designated to host a global event of this magnitude.

We must, therefore, prove to be up to this challenge. Because, beyond the sporting aspect, the YOG are a catalyst for progress. The means to achieve this goal exist and joining the Global Active City programme is one of them..

What are your goals?

The city’s ambition is to bring sports to the entire population. Sport is a unifying force. Practicing sports brings people from diverse backgrounds and different social levels together in healthy competition, which is its strength.

Promotion of women’s sport

This is why we consider the promotion of women’s sport to be a major challenge. Developing and promoting women’s sport contributes greatly to the fight against gender stereotypes. It is a real equality issue between women and men. Women’s access to sports will also help fight against certain sedentary diseases (diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases), which constitute a real public health problem.

We want to encourage the City of Dakar’s clubs and associations to get on a path to gender diversity for sport without discrimination.

Promotion of student sport

Until the 1990s, Senegal was considered to be a country that was very much involved in sports in Africa. This was justified by a tradition of sports practice at school, university and in neighbourhoods. However, in recent years, our country has lagged behind in terms of sports due to the scarcity or even disappearance of sports practice in schools and amongst students. In this sense, we would like to work much more closely with the Union of School and University Sports Associations (UASSU).
The City of Dakar has been able to develop its own sports programmes. But today it is confronted with a redefinition of municipalities’ roles, which are clearly changing the nature of interinstitutional relations between the city and the 19 municipalities.

Today, with Act III of Decentralisation, which aims to create viable, competitive and sustainable development territories by 2022, inter-municipality relations have become a major issue and reality. In this context, sport, which is a factor in bringing people from different areas together, has an important role to play.

What are the projects aiming at increasing sport practice?


Swimming and gymnastics at school are motivating, accessible and instructive tools. KIDS’ ATHLETICS is an opportunity for democratic access to sport for all, the best example being the concept’s gender mixing. The practice of basic Olympic disciplines such as athletics, gymnastics, and swimming, boosts sports participation at the elementary school level.

The neighbourhood sports programme

The programme consists of organising sports events in the various districts of the City of Dakar in partnership with the municipalities and sports leagues. During the holidays, the programme promotes a variety of sports in the hope of encouraging young people to participate and advocate for increased sports participation in neighbourhoods.
The neighbourhood sports programme is intended for children aged 6 to 15 years old and is open to the nineteen communes of the City of Dakar. The activity’s objectives are:

  • Introduce children to the practice of sport
  • Encourage children to play sport
  • Promote sports
  • Detect talent at a young age
  • Instil the virtues of sport in children
  • Encourage sports activities in neighbourhoods

The Head of State’s vision, which guides the implementation of Act III of Decentralisation, is to organise Senegal into viable, competitive and sustainable development territories by 2022.


  • Build territorial coherence through the reorganisation of space and the emergence of development poles
  • Ensure the legibility of the scales of territorial governance by clarifying the relations between actors and by determining the skills to be transferred to technical, financial and human resources
  • Improve financing mechanisms for territorial development and fiscal governance in order to drive the real economic and social development of our territories
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