In the West African nation of Senegal, an entrepreneur is trying to succeed where the continent's leaders have so far failed. He has a new board game that he hopes will create a United States of Africa. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton went to meet him in Senegal's capital, Dakar, and to find out more about the game called Let's Unite.

(Soundbite of dice rolling)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Salif Tidiane Ba is passionate about Africa. Surrounded by his children and nieces at his cramped headquarters here in Dakar, Ba showed off his latest venture. It's called Jekaben, which means, let's unite and work together, in the local Bambara language.

Enthusiastically shaking the dice, the kids showed me the game.

(Soundbite of dice rolling)

Unidentified Child: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Picture a colorful and rather busy playing board - a foot square in dimension, give or take - with a green jigsaw map of Africa, bang in the middle. Ba says the game is to educate the players about the continent and steer them towards achieving the United States of Africa.

Mr. SALIF TIDAINE BA (Creator, Jekaben): (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Ba says players use traditional African cowry shell notes and to play the game, they also use cards that ask questions about the continent. At the end of a sequence of moves and a series of correct answers, one of 25 small jigsaw pieces is added to eventually construct the map of the continent.

Then there are the trump cards, the wise leaders of Africa, which allow players to move faster towards their goal. But some of the sages featured may not be universally popular choices.

Mr. BA: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Ba's wise leaders include some considered dictators, such as Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, in power for the past 40 years. Another, the late Omar Bongo of oil-rich Gabon, was an autocratic, old-style president and Africa's longest-serving leader when he died in June.

Ba says his choice of sages is entirely personal and symbolic.

Mr. BA: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: He says any African leader is eligible to become a sage, as long as they share the common goal of the United States of Africa — hence the continent's independence founding fathers, like Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah; Nelson Mandela, with impeccable Pan-African credentials; and more contentious choices as wise men like Gadhafi, a more recent convert to African unity.

(Soundbite of children speaking in foreign language)

QUIST-ARCTON: back to the game and the players, Aminata(ph), Aby, Neffe(ph), Miriam and 11-year-old quiz master Ousmane. OK, Ousmane, question time.

OUSMANE: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: The question is, which country in Africa was never colonized? And she's thinking very hard, very hard, looking around for some help.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Ethiopia, correct?


(Soundbite of applause)

QUIST-ARCTON: The game already exists in French, English and Arabic. Salif Tidiane Ba wants it translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili, Hausa and other African languages. He hopes his new board game will encourage a new generation of Pan-African champions who will put the interests of their continent first.

The final question now - and this one's for you. Quiz master, please?

OUSMANE: (Foreign language spoken)

QUIST-ARCTON: Who was Felix Houphouet Boigny? Was he a Cameroonian footballer, president of Ivory Coast, or a famous African film director? Your answer, please?

(Soundbite of applause)

QUIST-ARCTON: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar.

INSKEEP: Fortunately, I have it written on a page for me here, so I can tell you the answer to that question is the president of Ivory Coast. But you knew that, right?

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