Between March and April 2023, a cohort of eight Senegalese entrepreneurs set forth on a journey to Belgium with the mission of forging and securing business partnerships with Belgium businesses. Facilitated by the PEM WECCO project, this marked the first group of entrepreneurs to participate in a circular mobility scheme aimed at transferring knowledge and good practices between Belgian and Senegalese businesses. The PEM WECCO project is funded by the European Union and contracted by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) through the Migration Partnership Facility (MPF).
At its core, PEM WECCO aims to bolster the capacities of Senegalese entrepreneurs, connecting them with their Belgian counterparts through short-term migration opportunities designed for business purposes. In parallel, the project aims to construct a sustainable economic link between the two countries by engendering an enabling environment for institutional dialogue around professional mobility, thereby establishing entrepreneurial mobility pathways as a safe and reliable channel for temporary migration.
For the inaugural mobility, PEM WECCO attracted entrepreneurs from diverse sectors including agriculture, logistics, catering, transportation, water management, cosmetics, and the food industry. Serving as an anchor for forging partnerships with Belgian companies interested in expanding their operations into Senegal, the project places a strong emphasis on the matchmaking process, facilitated by Senegalese and Belgian Business Support Structures. These structures have been instrumental in sourcing Senegalese entrepreneurs and rapidly identifying and addressing gaps in business development services for Small-and-Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) looking to internationalise.
The collaboration between Senegalese and Belgian Business Support Structures serves as a foundation for operationalising the short-term mobility scheme, facilitated under the PEM WECCO project. Notably, Yeesal Agrihub, a Senegalese Business Support Structure focusing on supporting young entrepreneurs working in the agriculture and green sector, exemplifies the success of the collaboration model. Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, the Coordinator of Yeesal Agrihub, highlighted how the strengthening of ties with Belgian Business Support Structures facilitated the cultivation of a robust network of businesses on both sides and the forging of long-term partnerships.
Entrepreneurs from both Senegal and Belgium, alongside representative of the West African diaspora, benefitted from PEM WECCO’ support. They received training to strengthen their business ideas and partnerships prior to and after the mobility to Belgium, establishing strong business partnerships with Belgian entrepreneurs. Video testimonials capture the transformative journey of entrepreneurs like Awa Caba, founder of Soreetul, who formed a partnership with Suzanne Badiane, a Belgian-Senegalese chef to promote local food products in both Senegal and Belgium.
In April 2023, the full suite of business-to-business links was showcased during the PEM WECCO night organised by Enabel in Brussels. Attended by the Senegalese Ambassador, European Commission representatives, the Enabel project team, and MPF representatives, the event celebrated the partnerships forged by Senegalese and Belgian entrepreneurs.
While the first cohort strengthens ties with the Belgian ecosystem, 39 new Senegalese participants have been selected and have been already matched with Belgium companies. Mobilities across a diverse range of sectors, including agri-food sector, B2B services, ICT, Transport and logistics, education, cosmetic, waste management, are expected to take place before the end of the year. Notably, 19 of these enterprises are led by women, and 20 are run by men.