On Monday, the Cervantes Institute took a giant step forward in its strategy to establish itself in sub-Saharan Africa: it presented its next centre in Dakar, which will absorb the current Aula Cervantes in the Senegalese capital, teach Spanish to students from 2021, provide training courses for teachers and offer cultural activities. It also announced the forthcoming opening of a "support centre" in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and the creation of an Observatory of Spanish in Sub-Saharan Africa to analyse the progress of our language in the sub-continent, a large "absolutely strategic" area where more than 1.5 million people study Spanish.
The Secretary General of the Cervantes Institute, Carmen Noguero, announced these decisions at a press conference held in the Aula Cervantes in Dakar. The director of the institution, Luis García Montero, spoke by videoconference since, for reasons beyond his control, he was unable to travel to that country.
For García Montero, the presence of the Cervantes in Dakar "has a special importance". "There are economic, human and cultural reasons for consolidating these (bilateral) relations" (...). He said that "culture is the area in which to create human links", and therefore "we want to bring Spanish culture to Senegal through cultural activities and a large Spanish library, and we want to bring Senegalese culture to Spain". The Cervantes Institute's priority is "that the wealth and value of Senegalese culture is recognised in Spain" and to build bridges that improve the links between the two peoples.
At a time of "deep concern about illegal immigration and the pateras", the director of the Cervantes Institute advocated promoting the teaching of Spanish because "its knowledge is fundamental for normalising relations from a labour and human point of view". We must "humanise migratory movements", aspire to make them legal, normalise them and be concerned about people's safety.
The Aula Cervantes in Dakar has been operating since 2010 on the campus of the Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD), whose Spanish Section of the Department of Romance Languages has around 4,000 Hispanic students. The director of the Cervantes centre is the Congolese nationalised Spanish national Néstor Nongo Nsala.
The location of the new centre will be determined shortly (several options are under consideration) and the staff will include teachers and a cultural manager, as well as other collaborators. It will offer classes to students and teachers (training courses), promote certification (DELE Spanish diplomas) and organise cultural and library activities. An initial programme is already being drawn up in contact with social agents in Dakar, who are "very dynamic", said Carmen Noguero. Funding is expected to be requested from Europe through EUNIC (the EU's network of cultural institutes) when the programmes are closed.
The centre will spread its influence to many countries in the area and will work in partnership with Spanish institutions: embassies, AECID, universities, Casa Asia and associations (especially Women for Africa).
The future centre aims to begin to compensate for the "imbalance" that exists in the implementation of the Cervantes programme with respect to the north of the continent: in the Maghreb it is present in around twenty cities (between centres, classrooms and extensions) spread over Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.
Abidjan will be a "support centre" located in the Spanish Embassy in the Ivory Coast from February. It will not be a Cervantes Classroom, but "another embryo for the future", explained Carmen Noguero, a "presence" that will give greater weight to the Spanish language and culture in the economic and financial capital of Côte d'Ivoire, the former capital of the State.
"We want to develop new models of presence" in the various countries, said Noguero, "less constrained" than at present. The intention to open an Observatory of Spanish in Sub-Saharan Africa is also in line with this. It would be the second Cervantes observatory (there is only one, at Harvard University in the United States) and would bring together researchers and hispanists to study the present and future of Spanish in an area with great expectations for the language's growth and enormous interest in studying it among the population.
The working agenda of the Cervantes delegation, also comprising the Academic and Culture Directors, also included a meeting this afternoon with Minister of Culture and Communication Abdoulaye Diop and his team. The Senegalese minister stressed his interest in strengthening cultural relations between the two countries, links which are also based on the considerable economic weight of the Spanish language in the world. At the session, which was attended by Spanish Ambassador Olga Cabarga Gómez, Diop guaranteed his Ministry's full support for the new Cervantes Centre. An agreement was also signed with the Spanish Chamber of Commerce to provide Spanish language training to local staff.
This Tuesday, the Tribune of Senegalese Hispanism will be held, which will be inaugurated (10:30 am, Spanish mainland time) by the rector, Ahmadou Aly Mbaye; the Spanish ambassador and the director of the Cervantes in Dakar. Professors Ndioro Sow, Georgette Ndour and Nzachée Noumbissi will speak, moderated by the Academic Director of the Cervantes Institute, Carmen Pastor. It will be broadcast on the Cervantes Institute's channels (Directo 1 on the homepage and YouTube channel).