Business Advising Volunteer

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Peace Corps domestically and internationally.

The information provided for each assignment is subject to change, including the tentative departure date.

Project Description

The Community Economic Development (CED) project in Senegal was redesigned in 2017, with the goal of ensuring that “household members, especially women and youth, achieve economic security and upward economic mobility.” The project is community-centered, and shares the values of Peace Corps while serving the national economic interests as a whole. As a Business Development Service Agent, you will inspire and support households’ ability to achieve economic security by undertaking roles as a trainer, facilitator, change agent, mentor, and coach to foster and support entrepreneurial behaviors and the adoption of basic business skills both in youth and women entrepreneurs.

Primarily focusing on agribusiness and solid waste management, integrating norms of gender equity and positive youth development, you will:
• Develop individuals’—especially youth’s and women’s—entrepreneurial potential. You will contribute to the national strategy of youth and women entrepreneurship geared to improve jobs and wealth creation through training, coaching, and organization of business events. Youth clubs are one important activity that CED Volunteers lead to help develop entrepreneurial skills and capacities.
• Improve individuals’—especially those in women’s groups—capacity to implement small-scale economic activities. In addition to training on basic business skills, in partnership with local and national partners, you will support access to technical training in agribusiness and solid waste management as well as to financial services through the creation or enhancement of savings and loan groups.

Information and communication technologies for business (ICT4B) play an increasingly important role for Senegalese micro- and small-enterprises, and thus are of increasing importance for Business Development Service Agents.

Peace Corps Senegal includes gender equity and empowerment efforts throughout all our work, and strives to make these efforts more sustainable. As such, you will receive training on gender challenges in Senegal and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ and women’s sense of agency.

As an actor in the development of Senegal, and a part of the wider Peace Corps effort to share our story with our counterparts and host governments as well as to bring that story home to the U.S., you will monitor and report on your work activities throughout your service.

COVID-19 Volunteer Activities

In the past year, the world has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Volunteer, you will be trained in how to best protect yourself from COVID-19 exposure and understand the impact of and steps to reduce stigma related to COVID-19. You may also have the opportunity to engage with your community on implementing or enhancing COVID-19 mitigation activities, such as COVID-19 prevention and risk reduction strategies including social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, addressing myths and misconceptions related to these practices, and vaccine hesitancy. Activities will be tailored to address the COVID-19 circumstances in the communities where you will serve.

Required Skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline
• Experience as the manager of a business for at least 6 months
• Bachelor of Science in any discipline with 1 year work experience in cooperatives, small business, or credit unions

Desired Skills

Competitive candidates will have demonstrated experience in one or more of the following areas:
• Business planning and/or project management
• Basic business skills such as networking and information and communication technology
• Experience working with entrepreneurs, small businesses or school-based entrepreneurial programs
• Skills in or knowledge of basic business topics such as cost analysis, financial planning, inventory control, bookkeeping, and/or marketing
• Experience in agribusiness and/or solid waste management

Required Language Skills

Candidates should meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.

A. Completed 4 years of high school coursework within the past 8 years in a Romance language.
B. Completed a minimum of 2 semesters of college level coursework within the past 6 years in a Romance language.
C. Native/Fluent Romance language speaker.

While knowledge of the French language is preferred, candidates who have not studied French, but who have studied a Romance language are encouraged to apply.

Candidates with intermediate and higher fluency in French are highly desirable. Candidates speaking other Latin-based or Romance languages who are committed to learning French through self-study are also eligible. Candidates should note that Peace Corps Senegal only teaches local Senegalese languages, not French, as Volunteers need local language to integrate into their host communities and to undertake their work. Candidates should have either a willingness to take a French course or commitment to self‐study prior to departure.

Living Conditions

Senegal Volunteers live with families. You will share meals and camaraderie with your host family, affording you opportunities to understand the culture, enjoy the security of family life, and learn the language of your community. While most Business Development Service Agents live in cities or towns, many live in more rural areas. You will either have your own room or a small hut in your family’s compound. Your room or hut will include a private latrine or bathroom. Adjusting to family life can be a challenge, albeit one that also brings many benefits.

Senegalese dishes are tasty, usually consisting of a staple of rice, millet, or corn with vegetable sauces, sometimes with meat or fish. There is far less variety than many Americans are accustomed to having. Determined vegetarians are able to maintain their diet, but this further decreases variety.

Utilities vary widely across Volunteer sites. Many Volunteers do not have running water or electricity. Water is collected at a community pump or well, and light comes from oil lamps, candles, or small solar lights. Cell phone coverage is inconsistent or non-existent in some areas. You will be issued a simple cell phone for texting and calling. Internet can sometimes be accessed through 4G for those Volunteers who own a smart phone, although coverage is inconsistent. We recommend that CED Volunteers come with a laptop. Heat and dust take their toll on electronics, so an inexpensive, hardy machine is recommended. Solar chargers are available in large cities.

You will travel in crowded, shared taxis and buses over rough roads for long distances, and by bike, foot or donkey cart for shorter trips.

Peace Corps Volunteers are role models in Senegal. As such, you are expected to model respectful, responsible behavior throughout your 27 months of service. Alcohol, for example, must be used responsibly, especially in any public places and in the community in which you live.

Senegalese pride themselves on being well dressed and a neat appearance will say a lot about your desire to be accepted. During Pre-Service Training, the dress code is business casual and as a Volunteer, you will continue to dress in business casual attire for your work. There is a great deal of beautiful cloth available in Senegal, and many Volunteers enjoy having clothing made by local tailors. Clothing should not be overly tight and should cover you to below the knee. Long shorts (with leggings underneath for women) are acceptable for manual labor and sports, but otherwise are rarely worn. Neither suits nor ties are required.

In order to build trust with the people you are here to serve, you must respect cultural norms and practices. For example, greeting everyone in the office every morning is essential to gaining the respect of your co-workers and community members.

Through inclusive recruitment and retention of staff and Volunteers, the Peace Corps seeks to reflect the rich diversity of the United States and bring diverse perspectives and solutions to development issues. Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority may experience curiosity and unwanted attention from Senegalese nationals. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Volunteers are welcomed within the Peace Corps Volunteer and staff community, and many LGBTQ Volunteers have served here successfully. However, same-sex sexual activity is criminalized by Senegalese legal code and punishable by imprisonment in Senegal. Culturally, LGBTQ people are not well accepted in Senegal, and LGBTQ Volunteers cannot safely serve openly. Please refer to the Local Laws and Special Circumstances of the U.S. Department of State’s travel page for more information.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Senegal: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Couples Information

Senegal is able to accommodate couples serving together. One partner must work in the Health sector and the other in the Community Economic Development sector. Therefore, your partner must apply and qualify for the following position:

Community Health Support Agent

Couples will live together throughout Pre-Service Training as well as throughout Peace Corps service. Couples, just like all other Volunteers, are required to live with a host family for the entire 27-months.

Medical Considerations

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.

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