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Prime Minister’s speech at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal

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Students, friends –

Rector, distinguished guests – Hello.

First of all, thank you for welcoming me to UCAD, a place steeped in history that has trained countless leaders who have left their mark on Senegal.

I arrived a few days ago, and now I fully understand why the Senegalese “teranga” is legendary.

You know, before I made the jump into politics, I was a teacher.

And I must admit that I sometimes miss the classroom and the young people. Events like this one, where I have the chance to speak with students, are among my favourite.

So I am very happy to be with you here today.

A few weeks ago, we all celebrated the start of not only a new year, but a new decade.

2020 marks a real turning point in our shared history.

Many people are wondering about the future that awaits them.

About the trends, challenges, and opportunities that will define our era.

Many are asking to whom the next 10 years will belong.

I tend to think that the future will belong to those who can innovate and make new ideas a reality.

To the daring and the ambitious.

At the dawn of the new decade, the challenges the world faces transcend borders.

Climate change. Terrorism. Epidemics. Cyberattacks.

Social divides that persist and grow.

These are the issues that affect us all, in one way or another.

Your generation knows it better than anyone.

To begin with, these challenges are part of your everyday life. You study them in class. You see them in the news. In some cases, you have even experienced them.

But beyond the challenges and issues, those who grew up in the age of information also have the opportunities that this new era offers.

You don’t need me to tell you that you master new technologies better than your elders.

Technology and innovation play an even more important role in the global economy.

Around the world, young people are reaping the benefits.

Here in Senegal, this connected generation – your generation – has emerged as a driving force of growth.

You’re starting new businesses. You’re innovating. You’re building the future to which you aspire – 

A future that is more just, more prosperous, and more promising.

In recent years, Senegal has become a major trade hub not only on the African continent, but on the world stage.

Senegal has many strengths – and it is in part because of its educated, motivated young workforce.

Countries around the world are paying attention. Canada is no exception.

Young people are already leaders who have shown us the way forward in many respects.

Young people in Senegal, and more broadly African youth, have demonstrated this.

But to rise to the great challenges of our time – to fully seize the opportunities of tomorrow – young people must be able to count on governments that are also ready to innovate.

In Canada, in Senegal, and everywhere, leaders must work together to ensure the success of those who elected us.

It is up to us to create the conditions that will help you thrive.

It is up to us to give you the necessary tools for the jobs of tomorrow, to strengthen our communities, to challenge you.

And that is what brings me here today.

Canada and Senegal have strong ties – historic ties that are based on common values and a shared language.

I think, for example, of religious diversity. Muslims and Christians live here not only in harmony, but also in friendship.

Like you, Canadians know that diversity is our strength.

We are both visionary advocates for the contemporary Francophonie, and we work together in a number of multilateral organizations.

That said, I believe that a large part of the potential between Canada and Senegal – and between Canada and French-speaking Africa in general – remains untapped.

The African continent is where I have made my first international trip of the year, and of the decade, because I want things to change.

I want Canadian entrepreneurs to discover the talent, knowledge, and market in Africa.

I want even more for you to attend our universities, and for our young people to attend yours.

I want to increase the partnerships in areas like artificial intelligence, the fight against climate change, the sustainable use of natural resources, innovation, health care, and aerospace.

I want to take our partnership to the next level.

Canada’s commitment to becoming an even stronger partner to Senegal and to African youth can happen in two ways: on the bilateral level and on the world stage.

The purpose of our visit this week is to celebrate the very special relationship that Canada has with Senegal, and above all, to strengthen our partnership.

Yesterday, for instance, I took part in the inauguration of the new International Development Research Centre office for West Africa.

Our goal is to support innovation and research that is being done here.

To make sure that young scientists and entrepreneurs can put their ideas into practice.

In 2018, we also announced the OR Tambo Africa Research Chairs initiative, which aims to advance research and innovation on the African continent.

We just announced the names of 10 African researchers who will benefit from this new program aimed at supporting their work.

These days, both Canadians and Senegalese are concerned about the same issues.

We are worried about the gaps that persist.

The gaps – between men and women, between rich and poor, between urban and rural – that create barriers to our shared prosperity.

President Sall and I have spoken a lot over the years, and we have strengthened our collaboration to combat them.

Since the start of my mandate, one of the key priorities of my government has been to advance gender equality at home and abroad.

Because no country can hope to reach its potential without the participation of all its citizens.

We have made significant progress in recent years.

In Canada, we have a gender-balanced cabinet, and nearly 50% of Parliamentarians are women.

But still today, women are refused opportunities simply because they are women.

What is more, we must remember that the barriers women face are not always the same.

People whose identity is at the intersection of different groups face additional barriers. I think, for example, of the experience of women with disabilities.

Gender-based discrimination happens in our workplaces, in our schools, and in our everyday lives.

Women know this all too well.

That’s unacceptable. We must do better.

Often, gaps begin in the classroom or even earlier – when we decide who deserves an education, who deserves the opportunity to succeed.

But education should be the right of all and not the privilege of the few.

That is why my government is committed to supporting gender equality at all levels and in all fields.

Yesterday, we announced a new investment in education for young Senegalese women who work in fields like science, mathematics, and innovation.

Areas where women are still under-represented.

We’re also making similar investments for young Canadian women because we know that innovation and technology will play an even bigger role in tomorrow’s economy.

Creating jobs is just one part of the equation. We also have to make sure young people have the right skills to take on those new opportunities.

On the world stage, along with our partners, Canada is tackling the big challenges our world faces.

The fight against terrorism. Cyberattacks. Poverty.

But the greatest threat we are facing, not as a country, but as the world, is climate change.

We are working with African countries to mitigate the consequences of global warming, protect the environment, and build economies that are greener.

During our G7 Presidency, I worked closely with President Sall and all of the partners at the G7 table to develop the Ocean Plastics Charter.

This initiative brings governments, companies, and members of civil society together around the health of our oceans.

This is good news not only for the environment but for the economy, as thousands of jobs depend on our coasts and waters.

Global warming, plastic pollution, rising sea levels, overfishing – these all threaten the livelihood of countless workers.

This is not a Canadian or a Senegalese issue. This is a global issue.

Before coming to Dakar, I was in Ethiopia to attend the African Union Summit.

And one of the things we talked about was the blue economy and how we can work together to harness the economic potential of oceans in a way that is sustainable.

To ensure the prosperity of our communities and our economies well into the future, countries around the world must rethink the way they do things.

And once again, young people are paving the way forward.

You know, when my government came to power in 2015, we were committed to renew our relationship with Senegal and with the whole of the African continent.

I am here today because I want to further deepen the ties that unite us.

As we say in hockey, we have home-ice advantage.

We speak the same language. We have the same values.

And above all, we share the same goals.

Like you, we want to combat the effects of a climate that is out of balance.

Like you, we want to bridge the gaps, create jobs, encourage innovation, and ensure the safety and well-being of everyone.

Nowadays, there are many countries who focus on their differences.

Who define themselves by issues that are their own, by strengths that make them special.

At first glance, Canada and Senegal may appear to be two very different places.

Located on different continents, separated by an ocean.

But to adopt such a narrow vision of the world is to misunderstand the challenges we are facing.

It deprives us not only of solutions, but of the opportunities that are within our reach.

Young people know this better than anyone.

My friends, this new decade can be the start of a new chapter for Canada and Senegal – for young Canadians and young Africans.

Canada wants to be your full and equal partner.

And so I encourage us to be bold in our collaboration.

To show imagination and ambition.

The future to which we aspire is at our fingertips.

We have to seize it not only as partners, but as friends.

Once again, thank you for the warm welcome.