Abdoulaye Wade brings to his job considerable experience gained as former President Diouf's minister of state. He has extensive contacts across the continent from Colonel Khaddafi to Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Following the March 2002 Zimbabwe elections, he was the sole African head of state to condemn Mugabe for his handling of the elections. Wade is one of four African leaders to champion the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative, which features African ownership of development, and equality with donor-partners in exchange for African peer review of governance practices.
In the sub-region, Wade continued dialogue with Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, and with President Yala of Guinea-Bissau over transport, security at the border, and mediation in the Casamance conflict. Gambia estimates that about 5,000 Casamancais have sought refuge within its borders, while in Guinea-Bissau the number has been put at 6,000. In March 2002, a Senegalese delegation met with leaders of the Movement Des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC) to reestablish their commitment to peace negotiations, but fighting has resumed intermittently. In March 2003, a spokesman for the MFDC claimed that he knew of no concrete proposals by Wade to resolve the 20-year old conflict, while on the ground the Senegalese army continued to conduct mop-up operations. Upon taking office over three years ago, Wade had promised to end the fighting within three months. To the north, Mauratania has periodically expelled Senegalese citizens, most recently over a plan to dam the Senegal River, which Mauritania claimed would seriously reduce its water levels. The plan was withdrawn. The state railroad companies of Mali and Senegal have begun to examine bids from private companies to operate the Dakar-Bamako railway.
Wade has proven himself a tough customer with the West. At the end of December 2001, the government chased all European ships out of Senegalese waters to manifest its complaint about EU overfishing. Senegal was the sole Francophone African country to be visited by Tony Blair, British prime minister, during his February trip in 2002 during which Blair promised to support NEPAD proposals at the G-8 meeting in Montreal in June 2002. Wade visited London in January 2003, where he expressed his renewed commitment to the tenets of NEPAD. In March 2002, French cooperation minister Charles Josselin visited Dakar and reiterated France's support to Senegal for debt relief. Seventy-five percent of foreign investment in Senegal comes from France, and 22,000 Senegalese are employed by 130 French companies operating in Senegal. Under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Senegal is eligible to sell the US some 1,900 products from hair braids to agricultural goods.
Although Wade is no longer the chairman of UEMOA and of ECOWAS, he is expected to continue to be actively involved in negotiating peace between rebel groups and the Gbagbo government of Côte d'Ivoire. Senegal has sent troops there as part of an ECOWAS peacekeeping force. As highlighted during Wade's visit to London in January, he will remain one of the most active supporters of NEPAD. Senegal is a member of the UN, the African Union (AU), the World Trade Organization (WTO), NEPAD, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).