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Entrepreneurs Make Money From African Migrants' Dreams

Entrepreneurs are making money from Africans dreaming of migration. These include businessmen who have set up tents to facilitate the application process for the yearly United States "green card" lottery. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar in this third report in a five-part series on migration-related issues.

A generator next to a roadside tent churns throughout the day in a busy part of Dakar, amid this year's recurrent power outages.

The generator powers up laptops, printers and the Internet for passersby waiting in line to apply for the U.S. green card lottery.

Togolese national Magloire Assih explains how his business is run.

"When someone comes, we make them fill a form and we take a digital photography that we put in a specific format," he said. "We have software here that does all that very fast. If everything is correct, automatically, we have confirmation the application is received."

Business is brisk. The tent is open seven days a week, teeming with dozens of people waiting in line, morning to night.

The cost to get this help to apply is about $6, equivalent to a week's wage for many Senegalese. But Assih says his service is very valuable.

"We say that this can be hope for them," said Assih. "At least they know there is something legal and easy that they can do to immigrate. That is why we want to bring this to them."

Momodou Camara already has family in the United States. He has already applied and now he is helping his wife do the same.

"My wife came to play the lottery," he said. "I am an engineer, a civil engineer. It is not my objective to go and stay definitely in the United States. But, if I get approved, I will be there to see if possible I can stay there."

Another applicant, Fatou Ndiaye, says she is trying the lottery for her children.

She says, if ever her children could go to university in the United States, their diplomas would be so much better than elsewhere and they could choose where they want to live.

Other women tell stories of their brothers and cousins getting a green card and immediately enlisting into the U.S Army. Some were sent to Iraq. They say it is dangerous, initially, but that, if they survive the war, then they can get an assisted education afterward and a better life.

Adama Kaneh, a grandmother in her 50's, also hopes to go to the United States, even though she says, if she does, she knows there will be culture shock and hard work ahead.

Some applicants say they have applied many times before. They say, even if they win the lottery, it is no guarantee they will go because of the stringent screening process that blocks many lottery winners at the U.S embassy in Dakar.

But, they say they will try and try again, even if it costs time and money and creates many disappointments.