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The “Ramadan basket”, a tradition that is expensive for Senegalese women

LETTER FROM DAKAR

At a market in the historic center of Rufisque, Senegal, on April 3, 2022.

At the start of Ramadan, the shelves of supermarkets in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, are overflowing with wicker baskets filled with sugar, coffee, milk, dates or chocolate. On social networks, it is the offers of boxes including fabrics, perfume, scarves, prayer mats and Koran that abound. Originally, these Ramadan baskets, called soukeurou koor, was a tradition by which married women offered food to break the fast to their in-laws. But over time, the gifts have diversified and become more expensive – including jewelry, dishes, even sometimes a car or a plane ticket to Mecca – to the point of becoming a burden for some wives, especially in this period of price increase.

Stuck between piles of wax fabrics in her cramped shop in Dakar’s Soumbédioune craft market, Adji Daba has already decided she won’t be offering soukeurou koor to his in-laws this year, for lack of means. “At the beginning of my marriage, I did it every year because it is a gesture to spoil my mother-in-law or my sister-in-law”, explains this mother of an 11-year-old boy. But since the Covid-19 epidemic and the desertion of foreign tourists, its income has collapsed. Adji Daba stopped distributing the baskets filled with sugar, milk, clothes and an envelope containing money in 2021 – up to 100,000 CFA francs (150 euros). “And it’s not this year that I’m going to resume, when everything has become even more expensive because of the war in Ukraine “, she laments.

“I have to raise my prices”

In a context of general price increases (+1.9% for imported products in January), already well under way before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Senegalese fear a further increase in the price of bread, an essential food in the ndogou, the meal for breaking the fast. Senegal imports more than half of its wheat from Russia. At the beginning of March, the president of the Millers’ Association had assured that the country had stocks for at least two months. But the price of the baguette began to climb in December 2021, rising from 150 to 175 CFA francs.

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At the end of February, President Macky Sall announced the reduction in the price of certain basic necessities, such as oil or sugar, to relieve Senegalese households. However, even if the Head of State has “invited the government, importers and traders to ensure the effective and immediate application” By this measure, many consumers complain about the high cost of living and find that the trend is only getting worse.

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