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AFCON: Why Senegal’s Local Businesses Have the Last Laugh

Senegalese fans were heartbroken after losing 1-0 to Algeria in Friday’s ill-tempered Africa Cup of Nations final in the Egyptian capital Cairo. But off the pitch, the Senegalese business owners had the last laugh thanks to big profits buoyed by strong sales.

Across the capital Dakar, retailers who sold replica national team shirts and other AFCON merchandise reported jump in profits during the competition which kicked off on June 22 and ended on July 19.

Aby Dieng is a retailer with two stalls at Dakar’s popular Sandaga market. She was never interested in football, but following Senegal’s quarter final success, she noticed that the profit of her business was going up. “To be honest I never paid attention to football before. But the day Senegal qualified for the semi-final I was surprised that one of my three vendors sold more national team jerseys within the next 24 hours than we did the whole year,” she tells The Chronicle in Dakar.

A jersey seller in the street of Dakar

“Then magic happened; when Senegal beat Tunisia in the semi-final, we sold out our replica shirts. I thought I was dreaming but it was real. Fans were coming in and buying like crazy. It wasn’t just the Senegalese people but everybody else, including white people in Senegal.”

The next day, ahead of the final against Algeria, Aby went to a wholesale store and ordered not just more jerseys but also Senegalese flags, caps, wristbands and hats. “Normally I’d be nervous to invest so much for a competition that was coming to an end. But I was inspired by the sales during the previous days. And by the eve of the final, I already made enough profit to not worry about the rest of the merchandise. It was just amazing. I can’t wait for the next competition.”

Macoumba Diop alias Macou is a street vendor fairly known in Dakar for selling football jerseys, hats, balls and flags. His initial plan ahead of the commencement of AFCON in June was to try and sell a few dozen items he was unable to sell in the previous months. But once the tournament kicked off and Senegal won their first match, he felt he’d do more than what he planned to do.

a official Senegalese jersey

“I remember I had up to 13 jerseys the day Senegal played the first game,” he says. “I went to the street at around midday and by 10pm I sold everything. There was a lot of excitement and euphoria. People were hopeful for the team and everybody was talking about it.”

The next day, Macou returned to his supplier and took a few dozen replica shirts and whistles. “I wanted to take just the shirts but luckily I met with other vendors and I overheard them talking about how they sold dozens of whistles and other stuff in just one day. So I took 50 whistles. Everything was gone quickly.”

“It was no longer about Senegal winning the trophy,” Macou tells The Chronicle. “For me it was about our boys playing hard and staying in the competition to the last minute and that’s what happened. By the end of the game on Friday, I already made enough money to pay my debt, settle my rent and invest some little money into European team jerseys ahead of the football seasons in Europe. I want to thank our players very much for going all the way.”

Bichou Wade, a restaurant owner in Dakar’s Colobane area is also full of praise for the Teranga Lions for boosting her business.

“My restaurant is not far from the AFCON village where tens of thousands would gather to watch Senegal’s matches on the big screen. We made huge profits every time Senegal played. The fans would always come to us and have lunch before they headed to the place to watch the game.”

“I was continuously praying so that Senegal could go to the final. When we lost to Algeria, my friends and colleagues were crying. I didn’t cry because they got to the final and that’s the last stage. That was good for my business. I was asking my son when the next tournament would start. I can’t wait.”

Welcoming the Senegalese team home

Over the weekend, an estimated hundred thousand people trooped at the Leopold Sedar Senghor airport to welcome them. Among them was Fallou alias Casilas, a street café vendor. “I heard some people on TV saying Senegal should have won the trophy. For me they already won. Though the team didn’t come with the trophy, the entire Senegal won. We all earned some extra money from our customers and the fans because the team went to the final. We all won,” he says, handing coffee to a customer.

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