News

    Lebanese Immigrants Boost West African Commerce

    In West Africa, multiple generations of Lebanese have been vital members of the community since the early 1900s. Today, many say they retain a strong emotional connection to Lebanon, but, that Africa, where most were born, is home. Naomi Schwarz has more from Dakar in this second report of a five-part series on diaspora communities in West Africa. 

    Church chants waft through a downtown street on a Sunday morning. The style is Middle Eastern, but the location is Dakar, Senegal, in the heart of West Africa.

    Emile Chehouane attends church service here, at Notre Dame du Liban.

    He was born in Senegal more than 70 years ago.

    He says his parents emigrated from Lebanon in the 1920s looking for work. He has other relatives who ended up in America and elsewhere in the world.

    It is estimated today that about 16 million Lebanese live outside Lebanon. Only about four million live in the country itself.

    But they retain strong ties to the small middle-eastern country.

    Zeina Zeidan chats with her mother in Arabic as she drives through downtown Dakar on her way home.

    During the war last summer between Israel and Lebanon, Zeidan says, the Lebanese community watched the news avidly to find out what was happening back home.

    As she speaks, her young son interjects from the back seat, showing that the emotional connection to Lebanon is ingrained at an early age.

    Hezbollah made the Israelis run away, he says.

    Zeidan is quick to say that she does not support terrorism or suicide bombers.

    She says expatriate Lebanese supported Hezbollah because they defended her country when the government and army did nothing.

    But despite her interest in Lebanon, Zeidan and other Lebanese in Senegal say they also feel very strong connections to their African home.

    Like many Lebanese, Emile Chehouane speaks Wolof, Senegal's predominant African language, as well as he speaks French and Arabic.

    Today the Lebanese embassy estimates there are more than 30,000 Lebanese in Senegal, as well as significant Lebanese populations in other countries throughout the region. Most are Shi'ite Muslim, but there are also Sunnis, and Protestant, Orthodox, and Maronite Christians. The community is close-knit across the diverse faiths.

    The population is growing, but not because of new immigrants. The new Lebanese in West Africa are the third generation, children born here to parents also born in West Africa.

    The first generation were key farmers and traders in peanuts, still one of Senegal's largest exports.

    Today the majority of Lebanese work in commerce.

    They own stores that sell clothes, hardware, groceries, fabric, furniture, and everything else. In some cases, the stores serve equally as venues for catching up with friends.

    Many hold dual citizenship in Senegal and Lebanon, but participate in politics here.

    Chehouane says he has served in several elected and unelected public service roles in Senegal, including member of his departmental council and president of his local Red Cross.

    But despite the many ways African Lebanese have integrated into Senegalese life, they remain a community apart.

    They marry within the Lebanese community, and form most of their closest friendships there too. It is not a question of discrimination they say, but a way to hold on to and share the culture they continue to hold dear.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora