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Power cuts

Question from Julie:

I am coming to Dakar for a 2 week vacation later this month, visiting a friend from home who’s been living there for 5 years. I heard there have been a lot of power cuts recently, and I am concerned, especially that sleeping at night without a fan or AC, and with a mosquito net, sounds pretty rough, especially given the season. Am I right to be worried? Is the power cut situation that bad?

Answer by Alex (Dakar expat):

Hey Julie – Well, if you want an honest answer, and assuming your friend does not have a power generator, the answer to both your questions is yes. The only ‘good thing’ is that so far, it hasn’t been as hot this season as it usually gets (still not cool by any means though…).

The electricity situation has been unbearable over the past few months. Cuts have easily exceeded 5-6 hour a day average, to such a point that we no longer point out when there is a cut, but rather when there is electricity. At least, that is the case in the Dakar area. I know that some places a bit further out (but still technically in the Dakar region), such as Thiaroye, are okay. Finally, they tend to rotate zones. For instance, I had terrible cuts for two months up until three weeks ago. The situation had gotten so bad that I decided to buy a power generator. Ever since I bought it, my zone has been ‘rotated’, and I’ve probably only used it for a total of 45 minutes (my neighbors find this very funny and keep thanking me for having ‘broken the curse’).

In case you’re interested in knowing why it’s been so bad, well, there are three reasons that people talk about. The first is that with the price of petrol, the national electricity company (Senelec) is no longer able to purchase enough petrol to stock up for demand. From my very limited understanding, the reason for that is that the price of electricity is limited by the government, but the government does not subsidize the electricity company enough to make up for it. The company therefore has no incentive to purchase enough petrol, because it runs an operational loss. The second factor is that one of the company’s main suppliers, a private power plant, had major technical issues. Finally, the rumor has it, but I don’t really believe in it, that a group very close to power wants to privatize and buy the company, and are therefore trying to bring its value down as much as possible.

Finally, fyi, there are some cheap and good second hand power generators, starting at 150 euros, which are sufficiant for a frige, a tv, and a couple of fans (not A/C though). Your friend might want to look into that…

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A good real-estate agency

Question from Sean:

I am off to Dakar for a 9 month mission – I need to find a furnished place to stay. Can you recommend a good real-estate agency?

Answer by Alex (Dakar expat):

Hey Sean -Compared to the size of the market, there are a lot of real estate agencies in Dakar. That is a problem in the sense that it means that the offer is highly disseminated… The good thing however is that agencies tend to work together, by bringing each other clients, and then sharing the commission. From the experience I and people around me have had, Partners Immobilier seems to gather the most favourable opinions. It is run by a friendly and experienced local team. They are a bit specialized in the popular Almadies/Mamelles/Virage area, so if you are looking for something downtown, a good one is Agence Immobiliere du Senegal. It is run by a Lebanese family, and most of them speak fluent English (I believe they studied in the States or something). The downside is that they don’t have a website, so best is to call. They should be able to send you some pics via email though if you want to choose ahead of time, but I strongly recommend you see for yourself, especially that factors that won’t show on a pic such as noise or security are particularly important when you’re living in an environment that you’re not familiar with.

Because they take commissions and are not always that useful, a lot of people have stopped using agencies, and revert to private brokers. There is an excellent one my friends and I consistently use now, called Modou, whom I highly recommend. Whereas agencies take a month of rent commission, he takes half, and is extremely efficient. Another popular way of finding a place is via the classified ads on  Senegalaisement.com.

Details

Partners Immobilier (no website) – Address: Route de l’Aéroport Ngor, Dakar – Tel: +221 820 64 50

Agence Immobiliere du Senegal (no website) – Address: Route de l’Aéroport Ngor, Dakar – Tel: +221 820 64 50

Modou Diop – 77 253 39 23

www.Senegalaisement.com

Making a gift to a local family

Question from Irene:

I will be coming to Senegal for two weeks on vacation, and will be staying with the family of a friend from University (in the US), but my friend won’t be there. They will be hosting me for a week (I’ll be traveling the other one), and I want to make them a nice gift. From what I understand, they are sort of local middle class (the father is a retired high school teacher, I don’t think the mother works – there are a lot of brothers and sisters). What can I bring that would please them and not be offensive?

Answer by Alex (Dakar expat):

Hi there Irene – Although there is probably a large difference between you and them in terms of buying power, you don’t want them to think that you primarily see them as being poor. You should therefore stay away from basic necessities, such as toothpaste. On the other hand, going for a gift that would be totally out of touch with the reality of their life, e.g. a box of Nespresso refills, would obviously not be ideal either. Also, as Senegal is 95% Muslim, the odds are that they do not drink alcohol, so it’s always safer to stay clear from that.

From my experience, the best thing to bring is fragrance. People take great care of their appearance, and fragrance is an essential part of it. There is a lot of cheap fragrance available, and when it’s the good stuff, they can tell the difference. Moreover, fragrance is extremely expensive in Senegal, about 30% more than what you would pay in a shop, and about 50% than what you can get at the airport. Therefore, I would buy a bottle of good designer fragrance for the mother and, if you can afford it, one for the father too.

Regarding the brothers and sisters, an easy way out could be to find something kind of nice, cheap and that suits everyone, such as H&M accessories that cost about $5 each.

In addition to that, a nice thing to do can be to bring some clothes you and your friends no longer use, but that are still in a decent state (and clean), to give to the kids and other people you meet there. Do make sure however to do this at the end of your trip, so that it looks more like something you leave behind, rather than that you are just handing down stuff you were about to throw away (which could be slightly offensive). If you want to avoid getting involved in distribution, you can leave the clothes with the parents, for them to do it. I suggest you be casual about the whole thing, and humble: it is better to ask if by any chance they could use those clothes which you will not be taking back, rather than proudly say: “Look! I brought you some real clothes (although they’re no longer good enough for me)…”

Best restaurant for business lunch

Question from Tommy:

I will be in Dakar for a week and need to take a potential client out for lunch. I am looking for the absolute best restaurant, ie the one that will impress the client the most. Please note the client is local.

Answer by Alex (Dakar expat):

Hi Tommy – well, there are really 2 places that stand out: Le Mogador and le Terrou-Bi.

Terrou-bi (its “gastronomique” restaurant, not the grill) is the ‘establishment’ power restaurant. It is where cabinet ministers and heads of public companies tend to go for lunch. The food (French) is really exceptional, and the service is great. The restaurant has an amazing ocean view. You should expect it to cost about 60 euros per head for a 3 course meal, without including drinks. It is where I recommend you take your prospective client if he is a government official or an ‘old-fashioned’ business person.

Le Mogador is more on the ‘bling-bling’/trendy side. It is the President’s son, and potential successor, favorite hang out. No ocean view, but sophisticated decoration and excellent service. Great food, more international and creative that the Terrou’s-bi. It is where I suggest you take your prospective client if he is a ‘young/modern/high-tech’ business person. Price is about the same as Terroubi.

Further info & reservations

The Terroubi website is awful.  Just call +221 33 839 90 39 for a reservation, and make sure to specify it is for the Gastronomique restaurant (not the grill). The restaurant is open every day. Adress: Route de la Corniche Ouest (there is no street number).

Le Mogador does not have a website. Call +221 33 820 0402 for a reservation. The restaurant is closed on Sunday. Address: Route des Almadies, near Meridien President Hotel (there is no street number).