Senegal President Macky Sall unveiled his new cabinet on Sunday, having dismissed the entire ministerial line-up last week in a surprise move that analysts say reflects a strategy to shore up support for his bid to stay a third term in office.
Mines and Geology Minister Aissatou Sophie Gladima has replaced Mouhamadou Makhtar Cisse as Minister of Petroleum and Energy, while Finance Minister Abdoulaye Diallo and Economy Minister Amadou Hott both retain their portfolios.
The reason given by the presidency for last week’s sackings was the need to reform a team to manage economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the International Monetary Fund predicts will cause Senegal’s economy to contract by 0.7% this year, against 6.8% growth posted in 2019.
A geology and geophysics professor at Dakar’s Cheikh Anta Diop University, Gladima has a background in ecology, water management and wetlands conservations, and previously served as technical advisor on mining and hydraulics at the National Soil Institute.
Gladima hails from Senegal’s Christian minority and is loyal to Macky Sall, also a geologist and a contemporary.
With Gladima in pole position, Sall is expected to exert direct influence over petroleum affairs through state-owned Petrosen managing director Mamadou Faye.
In May, Sall retired his father-in-law, Abdourahmane Seck, from the chair of Petrosen’s board, appointing mathematician and former education minister Mary Tew Niane to that role, effective from September.
In a bid to shore up personal support, Macky Sall allowed 23 ministers to keep their portfolios, transferred three others and made seven new appointments to cabinet, also appointing former prime minister Idrissa Seck as President of the Social, Economic and Environmental Council.
Sall’s chances of changing Senegal’s constitution to permit a third term in 2024 will depend on backing from the powerful Islamic marabout leading the independent Mouride communities, based in Touba, and the Sufi leadership of the more restive Tidjane brotherhood.
Offshore oil and gas field developments operated by BP, Kosmos Energy and the Woodside Petroleum-led SNE consortium will reverse economic decline, boosting growth to 13.7% in 2023, Sall told an industry forum in Dakar last month.
The Senegal government and Oslo-listed PetroNor E&P are also expected before end-January to reach an out-of-court settlement to resolve an ongoing arbitral dispute over revoked title to deep-water blocks, likely enabling PetroNor to retain acreage offshore Casamance.
Resolution of this dispute will shore up investor confidence in Senegal's thrice-delayed offshore licensing round, offering near-shore and deep-water acreage, with bids for 12 blocks now slated for submission by 15 December.