Senegal has had an important historic role in creation of the International Organization of La Francophonie.

Senegal’s minister of tourism, Thierno Lo, came to Atlanta March 7-8 with a small delegation to celebrate the opening of the West African nation’s tourist office in Buckhead and to encourage his countrymen and women who have moved to Georgia to visit their homeland.

Although Delta Air Lines Inc. has discontinued the nonstop flights between Atlanta and Dakar, Senegal’s capital, Mr. Lo is confident that there are enough Senegalese living in Atlanta and elsewhere in the Southeast to justify the opening of the office. Delta still flies to Dakar from New York three times a week.

Atlantans have shown an active interest in developing Senegal’s tourism since the mid-1990s. At that time, the Atlanta Economic Development Corp., an investment arm of the city during the administrations of Mayors Maynard Jackson and Bill Campbell, participated with the University of Georgia, the United Nations, and others, to develop Goree Island.

The island is a former slave trading post two miles off the coast of Senegal and now is a main tourist attraction. Jacob R. Henderson, the former honorary consul of Senegal in Atlanta who recently died, helped to promote the restoration of the French governor’s mansion and the development of the island.

During a video interview with GlobalAtlanta, Mr. Lo was enthusiastic about the upcoming celebration of Senegal’s National Day on April 4 celebrating the country’s independence from France.

This year’s celebration, he said, would be exceptional because political leaders from throughout the continent would attend a ceremony on behalf of the Monument of the African Renaissance, a 1,600-foot monument, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty, and which has been built to symbolize a positive future for Africa. The statue, built by North Korean workers, is of a scantily clad woman and an imposing man holding up their child.

Mr. Lo’s view is that the enormous structure towering over the city will draw tourists from around the world and boldly speaks to the continent’s aspirations for a better future. The edifice, however, has been severely criticized both at home and abroad as a waste of the $27 million that has been spent to build it.

Unfazed by the controversy, Mr. Lo said that the upcoming National Day celebration would draw attention to Senegal’s diverse attractions including its bird sanctuary, beaches, game parks, villages and many cultural attractions.

Mr. Lo’s full title is minister of craft industry and tourism.  On the craft side, Senegal is famous for its traditional and current music with a wide variety of instruments and many artists; its tradition of fashionable dress, especially for women; its jewelry; its painters and basket weavers.

While the April 4 celebration will highlight Senegal as a tourist destination, the follow through will occur in May when the country hosts its tourism fair inviting tour operators and promoters to see its sites for themselves.  The Saint-Louis jazz festival is also held during the month of May and is considered by some as the continent’s top jazz festival. The festival dates back to the 1930s.

Senegal has game preserves, but most tourists go there for the culture, according to Janet H. Russell, president of the Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa for Atlanta and the Southeast.

“Dakar is considered the Paris of Africa,” Ms. Russell told GlobalAtlanta. “Most go to Senegal for an amazing cultural experience not just to see wildlife.”

Ms. Russell organized the luncheon for the visiting delegation at La Petite Maison, a French restaurant in Sandy Springs, which was attended by 40 people including 15 Senegalese nationals living in the Atlanta area, members of the delegation and representatives of Atlanta’s arts and cultural communities.

For more information about Senegal, call Hadji El Aziz at (404) 995-6628 or send an email to