23/06/2021

Empire News Africa

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Senegal capital struggles to control horse-drawn carts

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At dawn, Mame Mor Anta Ly washes his chestnut-colored horse beneath a noisy overpass on the outskirts of Senegal’s bustling capital.

Dozens of other horses are tethered to the ground around him, feeding from troughs improvised from oil drums or rusting bathtubs.

Ly, 40, is waiting to be hired for the day to transport iron rods or bags of cement on his horse-drawn cart.

“Sometimes I wait all day,” he said, prayer beads dangling from his neck.

Hailing from a farming region about a hundred miles (160 kilometres) south of the seaside capital, Ly is one of a growing number of rural-dwellers who come to Dakar looking for work with their horses in tow.

Horses are ubiquitous in the booming West African city of 3.5 million people, where carts weave through traffic-clogged streets and squeeze down narrow sandy alleyways.

Drivers carry goods and people at a cheap rate, and increasingly, also collect garbage in neighbourhoods unserved by rubbish trucks.

The work is a lifeline to many rural poor who normally earn little apart from the harvest season, according to Alphonse Sene, the director of equine development at Senegal’s livestock ministry.

He estimated the number of cart drivers in Dakar at about 7,000 — and rising.

“It’s growing because there’s an employment problem in rural areas,” he said.

Though part of the fabric of the city, many motorists and municipal administrators view carts as a nuisance that cause congestion and accidents.

There is a risk municipal authorities will eventually ban them, according to Sene.

Cart driver Malick Seck, standing with his white mare outside a construction supplies depot, said he both struggles to make money and faces hostility from other road users.

“No one considers us. People think we’re low class,” said the 45-year-old.