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A Commitment to International Development

"Giving mosquito nets is like giving a bandage where surgery is needed. You distribute mosquito nets and then you leave, and you have to come back next year and do it again. I want to do surgical procedures, not first aid." - Seyni Mbaye, Senegal, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

In Senegal, Seyni Mbaye saw humanitarian assistance at work. NGOs all over the country deliver food, distribute medicines, and provide people with mosquito nets.

But Seyni realized this approach to development work is not sustainable.

“Giving mosquito nets is like giving a bandage where surgery is needed,” he said. “You distribute mosquito nets and then you leave, and you have to come back next year and do it again.”

Instead, Seyni wants to create more structured interventions that allow people to help themselves. He points to economic programs that enable people to find jobs so they can afford to purchase mosquito nets on their own, make their environments healthier, or even be able to afford to move to an area less conducive to mosquitoes’ development.

“I want to do surgical procedures, not first aid,” he said.

Gaining experience around the world

Seyni is graduating with a Master of Development Practice degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, but he started his career in the development sector even before coming to the University of Minnesota.

In 2015, Seyni co-founded a nongovernmental organization to help Senegalese high school students applying to college. Senegalese high schools do not have guidance counselors to help students through the college selection and application process. His NGO, the Senegalese School of Success, now fills that void and helps students access quality universities around the world.

Seyni has also trained business managers in Malawi, worked with women farmers in Kenya, and helped with a water filtration system project in Colombia.

“As I have more in-field experiences, my desire to stay in the development field increases,” Seyni said.

Effecting change at home

Seyni is moving back to Senegal, where he plans to find a job in program design and evaluation. He’s looking forward to doing work in the field and making an impact.

But he will miss the connections he’s made here in Minnesota.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “They have been preparing me for this day—to go back home, do the best that I can do to effect the change that I want to see.”

Seyni wants to make sure his work leads to policy changes. He plans to eventually run for office.

“Influencing policies is how I define development—having interventions to make sure you have a sustainable impact on people’s lives.”

Date Published: May 2019

GPS