Youssou N'Dour: Singing for people power

Regulation & Policy

Youssou N'Dour feels his candidacy to be Senegal's president can bring the world's attention to the West African nation's election at the end of next month.

"Now people are going to pay attention to this election, which is in danger of not being free and fair," he says.

His critics say he is running for president to protect his businesses.

The Grammy-award winning singer - the golden saxophone statuette sits in a glass display case in his office - has established himself as a fine entrepreneur. "I used to never allow journalists in my office, but now I have to show the people how I can sit behind a desk," Mr N'Dour tells the BBC.

Apart from two music studios, and a stake in Senegal's famous Thiossane nightclub, the musician owns a micro-finance company and above all, an influential media group. His daily L'Observateur is one of the most read newspapers in Dakar while he has built a strong audience for his radio and TV stations.

"I am new to politics but the people are fed up with career politicians who almost all enriched themselves with the state's money," he says.

"My hands are clean," he adds, as he tries to distinguish himself from a dozen other presidential candidates, including former prime ministers and ministers in President Abdoulaye Wade's administration.

Mr N'Dour - who has become the icon of the Senegalese self-made-man - strongly believes his management skills will make the difference if he gets the country's top position.

"I have more than a thousand people working for me, do you think I can't manage this country?" he asks.

It is the big question - can the Senegalese superstar-turned-businessman, who does not even have a school certificate, rule Senegal?

There are dozens of presidential candidates, which may split the opposition vote against Mr Wade In the streets of the capital, Dakar, his candidacy gets a mixed reception. "He's proven that he's capable of doing it," says 25-year-old Moustapha Seck.

Leaning on a wall, he is chatting with his friends in the crowded sea-side neighbourhood of Gueule Tapee.  He adds: "I don't trust politicians. But Youssou N'Dour, I like him a lot - not just because I love the musician but I mean him as a person."

A little bit further down the road, Ndengole Ndiaye, in her early 40s, is also enthusiastic. "We, the women, are very happy that he's running for president because he's done so much for our country, he's invested here." Asked whether she would vote for him, she replies: "Of course I will!"

But this is far from being a unanimous reaction. Djibril Tal, 29, a taxi driver, argues that "music and politics are two different realities". "Of course we love him as a singer, but it's a bit pretentious of him to think he can rule this country," he says.

Abou Soumare, who intends to vote for the first time next month, gives me the same sort of comment as he makes his way to a local dusty field for evening football training. "He clearly doesn't have the political maturity and experience to be a president," the 19 year old says.