Senegal is Scrabble-mad. Street vendors all over Dakar hawk the board game and now the West African nation is the proud host of the French language Scrabble world championships.
It is one of the first things newcomers to the Senegalese capital notice with the ubiquitous street vendors who sell everything from washcloths to entire sets of china. Oddly, one of their most commonly sold items are bootleg Scrabble games, a testament to the game's popularity.
In Senegal, Scrabble is a source of national pride and the West African country has racked up nine world championship titles since 2000. One of the former champions, Ndongo Matar Sylla, is now one of president Abdoulaye Wade's close advisors.
The 37th championship even has its own official song composed by Senegalese singer Pape Diouf that proclaims "Senegal loves scrabble" and boasts that it became world champion "ahead of some 30 other countries".
This former French colony is proud of its Scrabble prowess and promotes the game in schools. Surprisingly for such a Scrabble-mad nation, the literacy rate is only 41 percent, according to World Bank figures, and most inhabitants consider Wolof rather than French their first language.
"In Africa, Scrabble is considered as a real sports discipline while in Europe, it's seen as a simple game and the government is not really interested," said Patrice Jeanneret of Switzerland, president of the International Francophone Scrabble Federation FISF.
"Here, everybody goes to school at six-years-old and Scrabble is promoted to help with developing their French and their grammar," Sega Diallo, an international Scrabble judge and part of the championship organizing committee, told AFP.
How long will it take for someone to make the connection between illicit word play and global terror?
Via Chris Blattman.