Excavation begins at historic Dakar market in renovation project

Caterpillars are seen in action at the start of the demolition work of the Sandaga market in Dakar on August 2, 2020. (AFP / Seyllou)
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Updated 04 August 2020

Excavation begins at historic Dakar market in renovation project

DAKAR: Heavy-duty excavators have begun to raze the famed Sandaga market, a sprawling hub of informal trade in the heart of Senegal’s capital Dakar, which the authorities want to rebuild and modernize.

The great hall, built in the Sudanese-Sahel tradition in 1933, has housed hundreds of stalls selling merchandise of all kinds, from food to craft goods. It was closed in 2013 for public safety after the edifice was weakened by several fires.

Under the watchful eyes of city and state authorities, three heavy diggers on Sunday evening began to destroy dozens of makeshift shops that had proliferated at the foot of the hall.

Police deployed in force to keep onlookers well clear of the work.

The machines threw up thick clouds of dust while they smashed market stalls and tipped loads of rubble, beams and corrugated iron into dump trucks.

The traders, whose stands overflowed into neighboring streets, had shut up shop and packed their things after a final deadline from President Macky Sall.

Many stallholders “are in the process of setting up shop at the racecourse,” in a less central part of town, Dakar-Plateau Mayor Alioune Ndoye said. Authorities have laid out 500 stalls there for use by vendors while the renovation takes place.

Shopkeepers voiced opposition over the relocation last month, telling the government that they would lose customers at the new site far from Sandaga, a curiosity for tourists which drew large crowds.

An iconic establishment lying between the old French colonial quarter and more working-class districts, Sandaga has been one of Dakar’s main trading centers for almost a century.

“It wasn’t holding up and so we decided to level it, to build an identical site while modernizing it and adding an underground car park,” Ndoye said.

Frequented daily by residents of the capital, the market also drew people from the provinces and from the West African region. Many tourists came to hunt down artisanal carvings and other artifacts.

“Sandaga cannot continue in its current state of insecurity, the irregular occupation of the public highway and insanitary conditions,” said Minister of Urban Affairs Abdou Karim Fofana, who attended the demolition on Sunday.

“If there are problems, firefighters can’t even reach the middle. The day there is a catastrophe, people would ask where the authorities were,” Fofana recently warned.

Boubacar Dieng, a 47-year-old baker, watched the ballet of the excavating machines with a benevolent gaze from his front door, just opposite the market.

“This is good. There’s no problem, because it had become filthy, not pretty,” he told AFP. “And then there was the risk of aggression by bandits who occupied the abandoned building.”

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Creditors take action against Al Jaber in decade-long saga

Updated 23 September 2020

Creditors take action against Al Jaber in decade-long saga

  • The downturn in the Gulf construction sector has triggered a number of corporate restructurings as companies are forced to reschedule debt, raise fresh borrowing or enter insolvency protection

DUBAI: Creditors have started to enforce claims against Abu Dhabi-based Al Jaber Group, in a dispute triggered by a construction downturn in the UAE more than a decade ago.

Al Jaber, a contractor with interests across a range of sectors, has struggled since building up debt in the wake of a UAE real estate crisis and began talks with creditors in 2011.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which is working as restructuring and security agent, said in a document dated Sept. 21 which was seen by Reuters, that it had instructions from the majority of creditors to proceed with claims against Al Jaber.

A representative for Al Jaber did not immediately respond to a request or comment. ADCB declined to comment.

The move follows delays in restructuring agreements, under which Al Jaber was to appoint a new board and sell companies and assets such as the Shangri-La hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In exchange, creditors had agreed to extend the maturity of a 5.9 billion dirhams ($1.61 billion) loan, cut interest rates, and provide additional revolving debt.

The initial enforcement action now being pursued by creditors includes the “acceleration and demand for payment of amounts outstanding” under the previously agreed debt restructuring, a source familiar with the matter said.

Enforcement will also allow creditors to claim against Al Jaber’s chairman under a 4.5 billion dirham loan to the company.

Several UAE companies have sought to extend debt maturities or agree better terms in recent years to avoid defaults, after an oil price crash hit energy services and construction.

The coronavirus crisis has added to the strain and Arabtec Holding, the UAE’s biggest listed contractor, this week will discuss options including dissolution after the pandemic hit projects and led to additional costs.

Meanwhile, Dubai-listed construction firm Drake & Scull is working to reach an agreement with its creditors in an out-of-court process.