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Financial Crisis Not Changing West African Desire to Migrate to US


As the dates approach to win a green card to the United States through the "diversity lottery," many thousands of West Africans are dreaming of moving there. Naomi Seck reports from Louga, a small city in Senegal, that some residents say despite the financial crisis and rising unemployment in the United States, they would still jump at the chance to immigrate.

In a small room in the back corner of the Louga cultural center, a group of young men are chatting about life, politics and philosophy.

This is the American Corner, a small library and Internet cafe run in partnership with the United States Embassy and the Senegalese government.

The director of the center, Ann-Marie Faye, says people of all ages come to use the center's resources. They do research for school or practice English.

But once they hit a certain age, around twenty years old or so, Faye says, they pretty much all want to move to America.

Abdou Aziz Ndiaye, a twenty-year-old student, explains why. "We want to go there for two things," he said. "We want to go there to live what we want to know, English. Also we go there to make money, because life is better there than here."

He says last year, he tried to apply for a visa through the diversity lottery, but did not get one. He says he will try again.

Thousands of young people from West Africa try to emigrate to richer countries, legally and illegally, every year. Hundreds have died in dangerous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean attempting to reach the United States and Europe.

Ndiaye says he wants to go there to earn enough money to help his family. "We live for our family, we live in unity, we work for them," he said. "Here, young people before thinking to marry a woman, or something like that, you think to help out others."

Ndiaye is the youngest of six children, and the only one to graduate high school. When his father passed away more than ten years ago, his older siblings had to leave school.

But some immigrants from West Africa are finding things in developed countries tougher than they expected.

The economy in Europe and the United States is suffering. Unemployment in the United States is at more than six percent, more than a percentage point higher than last year at this time. The International Monetary Fund has warned that the U.S. economy is in a recession that they say the country will not recover from before 2010.

Ndiaye says news like this does not stop him from wanting to go to America. "I have heard it from the radio and television that there is economic problem there," he said. "But I think that they will overcome, because they have always found a solution to their problems."

Besides, says Pape Ibrahima Guèye, another student at the American corner, any problems in the world economy will hit developing countries much harder than the United States or Europe.

In West Africa, unemployment estimates reach as high as 70 percent. Millions of people struggle to survive on less than $1 a day.


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