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Republic of Senegal

République du Sénégal


FLAG: The flag is a tricolor of green, yellow, and red vertical stripes; at the center of the yellow stripe is a green star.

ANTHEM: Begins "Pincez, tous, vos koras, frappez les balafons" ("Pluck your koras, strike the balafons").

MONETARY UNIT: The Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA Fr) is the national currency. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs. CFA Fr1 = $0.00191 (or $1 = CFA Fr522.78) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Independence Day, 4 April; Labor Day, 1 May; Day of Association, 14 July; Assumption, 15 August; All Saints' Day, 1 November; Christmas, 25 December. Movable religious holidays include 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', Milad an-Nabi, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension, and Pentecost Monday.



Situated on the western bulge of Africa, Senegal has a land area of 196,190 sq km (75,749 sq mi), extending 690 km (429 mi) senw and 406 km (252 mi) nesw. Comparatively, the area occupied by Senegal is slightly smaller than the state of South Dakota. It is bordered on the n and ne by Mauritania, on the e by Mali, on the s by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, and on the w by the Atlantic Ocean. Its westernmost point is also that of the African mainland. On the ne the boundary is set by the Senegal River, and on the e by the Falémé River. Senegal surrounds the long, narrow Republic of The Gambia on three sides. The total boundary length of Senegal is 3,171 km (1,970 mi), of which 531 km (330 mi) is coastline.

Senegal's capital city, Dakar, is located on the Atlantic coast.


The northern part of the Senegal coast has dunes from Cap Vert to Saint-Louis, but to the south are muddy estuaries. Behind the coast is a sandy plain, which extends north to the floodplain of the Senegal River. The Casamance region in the south, isolated from the rest of Senegal by the Republic of The Gambia, is low but more varied in relief, while to the southeast lie the Tamgué foothills, which rise to a maximum altitude of 581 m (1,906 ft). Much of the northwest of Senegal (known as the Ferlo) is semidesert, but the center and most of the south, except for the forest of Casamance, are open savanna country. The major riversthe Senegal, Saloum, Gambie, and Casamanceflow from east to west.


Temperatures are lowest along the coast and highest inland; rainfall is highest in the south and lowest in the north. The wet season, which lasts from June to October, is shorter in the north and longer in the south, especially near the southwest coast. The average annual rainfall ranges from 34 cm (13 in) at Podor in the extreme north to 155 cm (61 in) at Ziguinchor, in the southwest. At Dakar, the average is 57 cm (22 in); at Tambacounda, in the interior, it is 94 cm (37 in). Temperatures vary according to the season, with the highest temperatures registered in the northeast. At Dakar, during the cool season (DecemberApril), the average daily maximum is 26°c (79°f) and the average minimum 17°c (63°f); during the hot season (MayNovember), the averages are 30°c (86°f) and 20°c (68°f).

An unusually heavy season of rain beginning in August 2005 caused severe flooding in Dakar and the surrounding region. At least 50,000 people had to abandon their homes for makeshift shelters. Unsanitary conditions brought about by flood damage sparked a cholera epidemic that affected over 27,000 nationwide; at least 400 people died from the disease.


Vegetation varies in different areas of Senegal, depending on the average rainfall. The most tropical part of southern Casamance has mangrove swamps and remnants of high forest, including oil palms, bamboo, African teak, and the silk-cotton tree. The dry thornland of the northeast has spiny shrubs, especially acacia, including the gum-bearing species. Most of Senegal is savanna. Trees, which are widely spaced in this region, include the African locust bean, tallow tree, and gingerbread plum, along with cassias and acacias.

The lion and leopard are occasionally found in the northeast, as are chimpanzees, elephants, hippopotamuses, and buffalo. The wild pig, hare, guinea fowl, quail, and bustard are widely distributed. Insects and birds are abundant, and there are numerous lizards, snakes, and other reptiles. As of 2002, there were at least 192 species of mammals, 175 species of birds, and over 2,000 species of plants throughout the country.


Much of the land is threatened with desertification because of overgrazing, inadequately controlled cutting of forests for fuel, and soil erosion from overcultivation. In 2000, about 32.2% of the total land area was forested. Dakar suffers from such typical urban problems as improper sanitation (especially during the rainy season, when sewers overflow) and air pollution from motor vehicles. The nation has about 26 cu km of renewable water resources with 92% of annual withdrawals used for farming activity and 3% used for industrial purposes. About 90% of the nation's city dwellers and 54% of the people living in rural areas have access to improved water sources. Senegal's cities have produced about 0.6 million tons of solid waste per year. Important environmental agencies include the Ministry of Scientific and Technical Research, which is responsible for coordinating all research and development in Senegal.

Senegal has at least six national parks, covering about 4% of the country's total area; game in forest reserves is classified by law as partially or completely protected, but poaching remains a problem. As of 2003, 11.5% of Senegal's total land area was protected, including four Ramsar wetlands and two natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 11 types of mammals, 5 species of birds, 6 types of reptiles, 18 species of fish, and 7 species of plants. Threatened species include the western giant eland and four species of turtle (green sea, olive ridley, hawksbill, and leatherback). The Sahara oryx has become extinct in the wild.


The population of Senegal in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 11,658,000, which placed it at number 71 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 3% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 42% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 97 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 2.6%, a rate the government viewed as too high, although progress has been made in reducing the fertility rate. The projected population for the year 2025 was 17,348,000. The population density was 59 per sq km (153 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 43% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 3.61%. The capital city, Dakar, had a population of 2,167,000 in that year. Other important towns and their estimated populations are Thiès, 340,000; Kaolack, the peanut export center, 191,023; and Saint-Louis, 190,000.


There is considerable seasonal migration between The Gambia and Senegal in connection with cultivation and harvesting of peanuts. Estimates of the number of Guineans who had fled to Senegal for political reasons ranged from 40,000 to more than 500,000, but all apparently returned after a 1984 military coup in Guinea. Some Senegalese work in France; others have moved to other African countries in search of work, especially to Côte d'Ivoire. Since relations improved between Senegal and Mauritania in 1996, both countries agreed to the return of Mauritanian refugees. Also living in Senegal are some 50,000 French and Lebanese, about a third of whom have Senegalese nationality.

There was a significant increase in the number of Sierra Leonean asylum seekers due to the outbreak of fighting in Sierra Leone in 1999. Conversely, peace was restored in Guinea Bissau in that year, allowing hundreds of Bissau Guineans who sought refuge in Senegal to return home. In 2000, the number of migrants was 284,000, including 20,000 remaining refugees. Worker remittances for that year amounted to $130 million, or 2.7 GDP. By the end of 2004, there were 20,804 refugees and 2,412 asylum seekers, mainly from Liberia. Refugees were primarily from Mauritania, as they had been since 1994. In 2004, over 7,000 Senagalese were refugees in Guinea-Bissau, and some 900 sought asylum, primarily in Gambia. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated 0.2 per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


The largest ethnic group is the Wolof, who make up about 43.3% of the total population; they live mainly in the northwest. The Pular rank as the second-largest group, constituting 23.8% of the population. Closely related to the Wolof are the Serer (14.7%), in west-central Senegal, who are skilled peanut cultivators, and the Lebu, mostly fishermen and farmers, concentrated in the Dakar area.

Other important groups are the Diola of Casamance, making up 3.7% of the populace; the Mandinka, in the southeast and in Casamance, accounting for 3%; the Soninke constituting 1.1%; the Tukulor, who live predominantly in the northeast; and the Fulani (Peul) and Bambara, scattered throughout the country. Europeans and Lebanese make up about 1% of the total population; other various groups constitute the remaining 9.4%.


French, the official language, is the language of administration and of the schools. Indigenous languages are also widely spoken, the major ones being Wolof, Pulaar, Diola, and Mandingo.


Government reports indicate that about 94% of the people are Muslim, with members of the Tijaniya and Muridiya brotherhoods having great social, political, and economic influence. About 4% of Senegalese are Christians, including Roman Catholics and a number of Protestant denominations. The remaining 2% practice exclusively traditional indigenous religions or no religion at all.

The constitution provides for the freedom of religion and defines the country as a secular state. However, the government does offer grant money to religious organizations through an application process that is open to all. Registration is not required, but most organizations do so in order to obtain full legal status to conduct business. The government encourages and supports Muslim pilgrimages to the Mecca and Catholic pilgrimages to the Vatican. Certain Muslim and Christian holidays are recognized as national holidays.


As of 2004, Senegal had 906 km (562 mi) of railroad, all narrow gauge and all owned by the government. The main lines run from Dakar to Thiès and thence to Kidira on the Mali border, and from Thiès to Saint-Louis. There are also branch lines from Guinguineo to Kaolack, from Louga to Linguère, and from Diourbel to Touba, serving the peanut-growing areas. Of Senegal's estimated 14,576 km (9,058 mi) of classified roads in 2000 (the latest year for which data is available), some 4,271 km (2,654 mi) were paved, including 7 km (4.6 mi) of expressways. There are modern roads from Dakar to Thiès, Saint-Louis, and Matam, and from Dakar to Kaolack and on through The Gambia to Ziguinchor in Casamance. In 2000, there were 70,700 passenger cars and 68,800 commercial vehicles in the combined territory, Senegambia.

Favorably located at the westernmost point of the continent and possessing up-to-date equipment, Dakar is one of the largest deepwater seaports on the West African coast, a major import-export center and a port of call for freight and passenger ships. The port can accommodate ships of up to 100,000 tons. The Senegalese Maritime Navigation Co. (Compagnie Sénégalaise de Navigation MaritimeCOSENAM), a river and ocean freight transport line in which the government has an 84% share, was founded in 1979. However, by 2005 there was no Senegalese merchant marine.

The Senegal River, which has a sandbar across its mouth, is navigable by shallow-draft vessels all year round from Saint-Louis to Podor (225 km/140 mi) and between August and October as far as Kayes in Mali (924 km/574 mi). It is closed to foreign ships. The Saloum is navigable by oceangoing vessels to the important peanut port of Kaolack, 114 km (71 mi) upriver. The Casamance River is navigable to Ziguinchor, although not without difficulty. As of 2003, Senegal had 1000 km (622 mi) of internal navigable waterways.

In 2004 there were an estimated 20 airports in Senegal, 9 of which (as of 2005), were paved. Dakar's Yoff International Airport, a West African air center, is served by many foreign airlines. Air France, Air Senegal, and Air Afrique maintain routes connecting Saint-Louis, Thiès, Ziguinchor, Kédougou, Tambacounda, and 10 other towns with secondary air fields. Air Senegal is 50% owned by the government and 40% by Air Afrique, in which Senegal also holds a 7% share. In 2003, about 130,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights.


Very little is known about the history of Senegal before the 16th century. The major feature seems to have been the gradual movement into Senegal of the Wolof and Sérer peoples from the northeast, who reached their present positions between the 10th and 15th centuries ad. At various times parts of Senegal were included in the empires of Tekrur, Ghana, and Mali. At the height of its power at the beginning of the 14th century, Mali controlled the Falémé and Upper Senegal. That century saw the emergence of the Jolof empire, controlling the six Wolof states of Jolof, Kayor, Baol, Walo, Sine, and Salum. In the middle of the 16th century, Kayor revolted and conquered Baol, but the other Wolof states continued to admit a shadowy suzerainty of Jolof. As the power of Kayor and Baol increased toward the end of the 17th century, however, Jolof power declined, probably because it was cut off by those states from access to the sea and European trading. The 18th and early 19th centuries were marked by struggles among the northernmost Wolof states and by sporadic Mauritanian attacks on them.

European activities in Senegal began with the arrival of the Portuguese at the Cap Vert Peninsula and the mouth of the Senegal River in 144445. The Portuguese enjoyed a monopoly on trade in slaves and gold until the 17th century, when they were succeeded by the Dutch, who virtually dominated all trade by 1650. The later 17th century brought the beginnings of the Anglo-French rivalry, which dominated the 18th century in Senegal as elsewhere. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the main trading activities were the export of slaves and of gum arabic. Peanut cultivation by African peasants, the foundation of Senegal's modern economy, began in the mid-19th century.

French rule was confined to the old trading posts of Saint-Louis (founded in 1659), Gorée, and Rufisque until its expansion under the Second Empire, during the governorship of Gen. Louis Faidherbe (185465). The French occupation of Senegal was consolidated and extended under the Third Republic during the last three decades of the 19th century. In 1871, Senegal was again allowed to send a deputy to the French parliament, a right that had been abolished under the Second Empire. In the following decade, municipalities on the French model were established in Saint-Louis, Gorée, Dakar, and Rufisque, and only the inhabitants of these towns took part in the elections of the deputy.

Between 1895 and 1904, a series of decrees consolidated eight territories into a French West Africa federation, of which Dakar became the capital. In 1920, a Colonial Council, partly elected by the citizens of the old towns and partly consisting of chiefs from the rest of Senegal, replaced the elected General Council previously established for the four towns. All the elected bodies were suppressed in 1940 but restored at the end of the war, and in 1946 Senegal was given two deputies in the French parliament. Under the constitution of 1946, the franchise was extended and a Territorial Assembly was established in Senegal. Universal suffrage was established in 1957. In 1958, Senegal accepted the new French constitution and became an autonomous republic within the French community.

On 17 January 1959, in Dakar, representatives of French Sudan (now Mali), Senegal, Dahomey (now Benin), and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) drafted a constitution for a Federation of Mali, but only the assemblies of French Sudan and Senegal ratified it and became members of the federation. The Mali Federation became a sovereign state on 20 June 1960, but conflicting views soon led to its breakup. On 20 August, the Legislative Assembly of Senegal proclaimed Senegal's national independence and announced its withdrawal from the federation. A new republican constitution was adopted on 25 August, and on 5 September, Léopold-Sédar Senghor was elected president and Mamadou Dia became prime minister, in effect retaining a position he had held since 1957.

After an attempt by Dia to avoid a vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly by calling out the national police, the legislature met in special session on 17 December 1962 and overthrew Dia's government by a motion of censure. Dia was arrested, and Senghor was elected by unanimous vote of the deputies as head of government. Less than three months later, the electorate approved a new constitution that abolished the post of prime minister and made the president both chief of state and head of the executive branch. A constitutional amendment in 1970 reestablished the office of prime minister, and Abdou Diouf, former minister of planning and industry, was appointed to the post on 26 February 1970. Dia, in detention since 1962, was released in March 1974 as part of an independence celebration.

Having been reelected president in 1968, 1973, and 1978, Senghor resigned as president at the end of 1980 and was succeeded by Diouf. In the summer of 1981, 2,000 Senegalese troops were sent to The Gambia to put down an attempted military coup there. The Confederation of Senegambia was constituted in February 1982 with Diouf as president. Under the terms of confederation, the two countries pledged to integrate their armed and security forces, form an economic and monetary union, and coordinate foreign policy, communications, and possibly other endeavors. The Senegambia agreement was dissolved on 30 September 1989. Diouf was elected to a full term as president on 27 February 1983, receiving 83.5% of the vote in a five-candidate contest. All parties were guaranteed equal access to the media, but the secret ballot was optional, and independent observers reported widespread electoral irregularities. The office of prime ministerconstitutionally regarded as the president's successorwas once again abolished in April 1983.

The ruling Parti Socialiste Sénégalais (PS) was victorious in municipal and rural elections held in November 1984, although 12 of the 15 registered parties boycotted the polls. Diouf liberalized the political process and restructured his administration, making it less corrupt and more efficient. Government advocated modulated reform in the face of reactionary elements in the PS.

In the 1988 national elections, Diouf carried 77% of the vote and the PS took 103 of the 120 seats in the National Assembly. Despite a generally fair election, opposition protests escalated into rioting in Dakar. The city was placed under a three-month state of emergency. Diouf's principal opponent, Maitre Abdoulaye Wade of the Democratic Party, was among those arrested and tried for incitement. Afterwards, Diouf met with Wade and tensions eased.

In April 1989, a nationwide state of emergency was declared and a curfew imposed in Dakar after rioters killed dozens of Mauritanians. Protesters had been enraged by reports of the killing of hundreds of Senegalese in Mauritania. Relations with Mauritania were broken and armed clashes along the border and internal rioting led to the expulsion of most Mauritanians residing in Senegal. Diplomatic relations were reestablished in April 1992 and the northern border along the Senegal River was reopened.

In April 1991, Wade accepted the post of Minister of State in Diouf's cabinet. Diouf appointed Habib Thiam as prime minister on 7 April 1991, who then appointed the Council of Ministers in consultation with President Diouf.

Diouf and PS again won reelection in February 1993. His margin of victory, however, shrank to 58% versus 32% for Wade. The PS took only 84 seats in the May legislative elections and the PDS increased its representation from 17 to 27 seats. The Jappoo Leggeeyal Senegalese Party and the Democratic League won three seats each. Two other parties took the other three seats. Wade and other opponents denounced the elections as fraudulent, though international observers declared them generally free and fair. When the vice president of the Constitutional Court was murdered after the elections were officially certified, Wade and other PDS members were charged in the slaying. He and MPs with parliamentary immunity were later released. Political discontent followed these events and an opposition party demonstration in 1994 left six police officers dead and many civilians injured.

In November 1996, the government initiated a decentralization policy that devolved considerable political and administrative authority to the provinces. In July 1998, it undertook a major reshuffling of ministers and ministerial posts, and in November, it signed a peace accord with Guinea-Bissau that was intended to establish a buffer zone along the southern border. In keeping with the accord, the Senegalese army withdrew its 2,500 troops supporting then president, Joao Bernardo Vieira. Togolese, Gambian and Nigerian soldiers under ECOMOG replaced the Senegalese troops.

Since December 1983, the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC) has waged a lowlevel separatist war against the Senegalese government. The Movement splintered in 1991 and signed peace accords with the Senegalese government in 1991, 1993 and in December 1999 in Banjul. In 1992 and 1995, Senegalese warplanes bombed rebel bases in Guinea-Bissau suspected of providing safe havens and resupply points for the rebels. In March 1996, the two governments reached an accord. President Jammeh of The Gambia, who belongs to the same dominant Diola ethnic group of the Casamance, and officials in Guinea-Bissau have mediated the conflict. Despite Abdoulaye Wade's campaign promises to end the insurgency through negotiations and military means, by June 2003 the fighting continued unabated. A deal reached in December 2004 has held up reasonably; but it could be undermined by in-fighting in the ruling PDS or between groups in the Casamance region.

In January 1999, the PS won highly controversial Senate elections by a landslide taking all 45 elected seats. However, a boycott by the two largest opposition parties undermined the Senate's credibility. The bill to create the Senate had been pushed through by the PS-dominated National Assembly in February 1998, thereby increasing the ruling party's representation. The voting rules also ensured a majority of PS politicians in the electoral college.

In April 2000, Abdoulaye Wade was inaugurated as Senegal's third president. The FebruaryMarch elections were the first in Senegal's history to result in a change of government. Although Diouf won 41.3% of the vote on the first round, PS defectors Moustapha Niasse (AFP) and Djibo Leyti Ka (URD) threw their support behind Wade to give him 58.5% on the 19 March second round. His victory not only ended 40 years of rule by the Parti Socialiste, but it also ended speculation that Senegal's quasi-democracy was moribund. Using their cell phones, Senegalese youth called in results, which were broadcast by electronic media to prevent fraud.

Wade's record over his first three years in office was mixed. In December 2001, he became head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest-Africane (UEMOA). In April 2002, Senegal hosted an international conference on the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). As promised, he has begun building primary schools around the country. However, strikes by postal workers, bank employees, and teachers indicate considerable social unrest owing to unmet wage and benefits demands. The government's delay of local elections in the fall of 2001 and the replacement of elected officials with appointees (délégations spéciales) were widely criticized as antidemocratic.

Wade has also fallen out with some of the young bright stars with whom he rode to power in 2000. One example is Idrissa Seck. As prime minister, Seck claimed to know Wade's vision intimately; so he needed no prodding to work seamlessly with the president. Yet Seck's dismissal in April 2004 seemed questionable. In July 2005, he was arrested for inflating public contracts; when this spurred protests, he was jailed and then charged for undermining state security. Seck's supporters believed however that his travails were all political; that he had become influential in the PDS and announced his candidature for the 2007 presidential elections. All this, they argue, made him a threat to Wade's political ambition. In February 2006, Seck was released from jail after charges against him were dropped.

The Wade government released a poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) within the specified timeframe. It reduced the budget deficit, and improved relations with the IMF.


Under the 1963 constitution, as amended, the president of the republic determines national policy and appoints the prime minister and his council of ministers. As presently constituted, the constitution does not give the president the authority to dissolve the National Assembly or to veto legislation. However, if the National Assembly is requested to reconsider a measure it has enacted, the bill must be passed again by a three-fifths majority before it becomes law. The president also may ask the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of a proposed law. With the consent of the president of the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, the president of the republic may submit any proposed law to national referendum. In his first two months of office, Abdoulaye Wade created a presidential council to coordinate and to execute policy decisions taken by his council of ministers.

Legislative power is exercised by the 120-member (formerly 140-member) National Assembly, elected to serve five-year terms. The Assembly elects the 16 members of the High Court of Justice from among its ranks. Members of the Council of Ministers may not be Assembly members, and are appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the president. The former senate, established in 1998, had 60 members, 48 elected by an electoral college (legislators and local, municipal and regional councilors), and 12 appointed by the president. Major opposition parties boycotted the Senate elections on 24 January 1999, and since 2001 it no longer functions. The next presidential election was due in 2007, and parliamentary elections soon thereafter. Wade seemed certain to run for reelection; and he would have to contend with younger politicians including Idrissas Seck.


The Senegal branch of the French Socialist Party (SFIO) won the first postwar elections largely because its leaders constituted the only organized party that had contacts in all parts of the colony. It sought to establish political and juridical equality between French and Senegalese citizens. In 1948, however, its leaders, Ahmadou Lamine-Guèye and Léopold-Sédar Senghor, quarreled. Senghor left the SFIO and founded a new party, the Senegalese Democratic Bloc (Bloc Démocratique SénégalaisBDS), which was based more in the rural areas than in the old communes, from which Lamine-Guèye derived his political support. The new party emphasized social and economic rather than juridical issues and geared its program closely to peasant interests and grievances. In 1951, it won both Senegalese seats in the French National Assembly and, in 1952, 43 of the 50 seats in Senegal's Territorial Assembly.

In the French National Assembly, Senghor had meanwhile taken a leading part in creating a new parliamentary group, the Overseas Independents (Indépendants d'Outre-MerIOM), emphasizing African and colonial problems. It was, however, confronted by another African party, the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique AfricainRDA), founded in October 1946 by African deputies hostile to the provisions of the constitution of 1946 regarding the overseas territories. Although the RDA substantially reduced the number of seats held by the IOM in the French parliament, in Senegal it made no inroads on the two established parties, the BDS and the SFIO.

Senghor and his associate Mamadou Dia secured overwhelming majorities at the parliamentary elections in 1956 and launched a campaign to unite all Senegalese parties. They faced the opposition of Lamine-Guèye, who sponsored a first attempt to create an African Socialist movement loosely associated with the SFIO, and of the RDA leadership, which aimed at bringing about the unity of all parties within the RDA.

In 1956, Senghor's party, the BDS, was reorganized to become the Popular Senegalese Bloc (Bloc Popular Sénégalais), which took a strongly nationalistic stance. In the Territorial Assembly elections in 1957, the first held under complete universal suffrage, it won 47 seats, while the SFIO won only 12. Lamine-Guèye and Senghor were reconciled in 1958 and their respective parties fused in April 1958 to form the Senegalese Progressive Union (Union Progressiste SénégalaiseUPS). The UPS supported the new French constitution in the referendum of September 1958, and in the elections to the Senegal legislature in 1959 it won all 80 seats. After independence in 1960, the UPS remained the dominant political party. President Senghor was its secretary-general, and the party's National Council was responsible for major national policy decisions. In 1976, the UPS changed its name to the Senegalese Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste SénégalaisPS), after joining the Socialist International.

There was no legal opposition party from 1966 until 1974, when Abdoulaye Wade obtained permission from Senghor to create the Senegalese Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique SénégalaisPDS). The PDS won 17 Assembly seats in 1978, compared with 83 for the PS.

In 1981, the constitution, which had restricted the number of political parties to four, was amended to end all restrictions. In 1982, the government amended the electoral law for the legislature so that half the deputies would be elected on a basis of proportional representation, while the remaining members were chosen by direct suffrage. This helped the regime win the 1983 presidential and legislative elections in which Diouf received 83.5% of the votes cast. Presidential and legislative elections held in 1988 were marred by rioting in cities and minor conflicts in rural areas, but Diouf officially received 73.2% of the votes cast.

Seven parties contested the National Assembly elections of 9 May 1993. The PS won 84 seats; the PDS won 27; the Jappoo Leggeeyal ("Let Us Unite") Party and the Democratic League won three seats each; the Independence and Labor Party (PIT) won two seats; and the Senegalese Democratic Union/Renewal party got one.

Although many people have lamented Senegal's "stalled" democratic transition, democrats may be encouraged by the growth of party competition. From 1983 to 1993, the PDS increased its share of representation in the Assembly from 8 to 27 seats, while the number of PS seats declined from 111 to 84. In presidential elections over the same period of time, Abdoulaye Wade's percentage of the vote climbed from 15% to 32%, while Diouf's dropped from 83% to 58%. The number of officially recognized parties in Senegal has gone from one in 1973 to 26 in 1997. From 1978 to 1996, the number of parties contesting legislative elections went from 4 to 14.

In the FebruaryMarch 2000 presidential elections, eight parties presented candidates. Diouf's PS enjoyed the support of several tiny parties, and a coalition of four parties known as the Convergence Patriotique (CP). The CP comprised the Bloc des Centristes Gainde (BCG) led by Jean-Paul Dais, the Parti Liberal Senegalais (PLS), led by Ousmane Ngom, Serigne Diop's Parti Démocratique Sénégalais-Renovation (PDS-R), and the Parti Africain de l'Indépendence (PAI) of Majmouth Diop. The PAI was once Marxist, while the three others emerged from splits in the PDS. On the other hand, Wade's PDS claimed the backing of the Pole de Gauche, a left-wing coalition of the And-jeff/Parti Africain pour la Démocratie et le Socialisme (AJ/PADS), and the Ligue Démocratique-Mouvement Travail (PIT).

However, the real difference in the outcome of the 19 March second round was the support of Moustapha Niasse (AFP) and to a lesser extent, Djibo Ka (URD), both defectors from the PS who formed their own parties. President Wade's subsequent appointment of Mr. Niasse as his prime minister all but confirmed the belief among Mr. Niasse's supporters that they were voting for a Wade-Niasse ticket. On the first round, Diouf obtained 41%, Wade 30%, Niasse 17%, Ka 7%, with four other candidates picking up the remaining 4% of the vote. Wade's second round alliance gave him an easy victory over Diouf with 58.5% of the vote.

The most recent parliamentary elections were held 29 April 2001 giving Wade's SOPI coalition an overwhelming victory with 89 seats to 11 for the AFP, 10 for the PS, and 10 for other parties. In the municipal and local elections 12 May 2002, Wade's coalition, the Convergence des actions autour du Président en perspective du 21ème siècle (CAP 21) captured a majority of the 433 posts. The opposition joined forces under the Cadre Permanent de Concertation (CPC), which included the Parti de l'indépendence et Travail (PIT), the Parti Socialiste (PS), the Union pour le Renouveau Démocratique (URD), and Alliance des Forces de Progrès (AFP). They attacked the government for failing to privatize the electric utility, for bungling groundnut sector reforms, and for mishandling relations with unions and multilateral lending institutions. The next elections were to be held in 2007.


Senegal's local administrative organization consists of ten regionsFatick, Kaolack, Kolda, Ziguinchor, Tambacounda, Saint-Louis, Thiès, Diourbel, Louga, and Dakareach headed by an appointed governor and an elected local assembly. The regions are divided into 28 departments, each headed by a prefect, who is assisted by two special secretaries. The departments in turn are divided into 99 districts (arrondissements ), each headed by a sub-prefect. In rural areas the basic administrative unit is the rural community, usually made up of a group of villages with a total population of about 10,000.

In 1996, the assembly passed a comprehensive decentralization law that devolves significant authorities to lower levels of government for taxation, service delivery, and local management of resources, although implementation has been slow and uneven.


The High Council of the Magistrature, founded in 1960 and headed by the president, determines the constitutionality of laws and international commitments and decides when members of the legislature and the executive have exceeded their authority. A 16member High Court of Justice, founded in 1962 and elected by the National Assembly from among its own members, presides over impeachment proceedings. The Supreme Court, founded in 1960, is made up of members appointed by the president of the republic on the advice of the High Council of the Magistrature. In June 1973, a Court of State Security was set up to deal with political offenses. Criminal cases are essentially subject to French criminal law. Petty offenses are dealt with by justices of the peace in each department; ranked next in the judicial system are courts of first instance in each region. There are assize courts in Dakar, Kaolack, Saint-Louis, and Ziguinchor and a Court of Appeal in Dakar. There is also a military court system and a special court for the repression of the unlawful accumulation of wealth.

The constitution declares the independence of the judiciary, from the executive, the legislature and the armed forces. Judges are appointed by the president after nomination by the minister of justice. In practice, low pay and political ties make magistrates vulnerable to outside pressures.

Criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and are afforded public trials, and the right to legal counsel, among other procedural rights. Muslims have the right to choose customary law or civil law for cases involving family inheritance.

The legal system is based on French civil law. In 1992 the Supreme Court was replaced by the Council of State for Administrative Questions, the Constitutional Council, and a Court of Appeals.


Senegal's armed forces totaled 13,620 active personnel in 2005. The Army's 11,900 personnel included nine infantry or armored battalions, one artillery battalion, and one engineering battalion. The Navy had 600 members, whose major units were 10 patrol and two landing craft. The 770-member Air Force had no dedicated combat aircraft. Equipment included fixed wing transport, training and reconnaissance aircraft, and three support and two utility helicopters. There was also a paramilitary force of some 5,000 gendarmerie personnel. In 2005, the defense budget totaled $99.6 million. Senegal supplied troops for service in four UN peacekeeping efforts. France maintains an estimated 1,100 military personnel in Senegal.


Senegal was admitted to the United Nations on 28 September 1960 and is a member of ECA and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, IAEA, the World Bank, ILO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the WHO. Senegal was a member of the UN Security Council in 198889. Senegal is a member of the ACP Group, the African Development Bank, ECOWAS, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), G-15, G-77, the WTO, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Community of Sahel and Saharan States (CENSAD), and the African Union. The nation is also a part of the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River (founded in 1975) and the Organization for the Development of the Gambia River (founded in 1978). Senegal remains in the Franc Zone. It was one of the founding governments of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Senegal has sent troops to Côte d'Ivoire as part of an ECOWAS peacekeeping force. The country has also offered support to UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), Liberia (est. 2003), Burundi (est. 2004), and the DROC (est. 1999). Senegal is part of the Nonaligned Movement.

In environmental cooperation, Senegal is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Senegal's economy is based on its agricultural sector, primarily peanut production, a modest industrial sector, and a growing services sector. Agriculture and the fishing industry, which employ over 70% of the population and accounts for two-thirds of export revenues; is highly vulnerable to declining rainfall, desertification, and changes in world commodity prices. When the first of a series of droughts struck in the latter part of the 1960s, the economy deteriorated rapidly. As of 2005, 45 years after achieving independence, Senegal's resource-poor economy remained fragile and dependent upon foreign donors for continued viability. The country became eligible in 2000 for $800 million in debt relief from the IMF/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

In 1979 Senegal began a long term structural adjustment program under the direction of the World Bank, the IMF, and bilateral donors. The program was aimed at reducing government deficits, the rate of inflation, and the negative trade balance. The government carried out a major program of privatization of the parastatal enterprises, reducing or eliminating its holdings in 30 of the approximately 40 institutions targeted. Some success was realized and from 1991 to 1992 the economy grew 2.5% on average in real terms. However, due to depressed economic conditions, low world prices for its exports, and its lack of international competitiveness, Senegal failed to meet most of its 1992 structural adjustment targets. Consequently, the country sank deeper into debt and low or no growth was predicted for 1993. In February 1993 President Diouf was reelected for a seven-year term, and his socialist party won a large majority of the legislative seats later that year. In deference to the labor unions and a possibility of political unrest, the government's 1993 budget failed to cut civil service wages. In addition, implementation of legislation to allow employers more flexibility in making layoffs was postponed.

In January 1994, France devalued the CFA franc, causing its value to drop in half. Immediately, prices for almost all imported goods soared as the inflation rate hit 32%. The devaluation was designed to encourage new investment, particularly in the export sectors of the economy, and discourage the use of hard currency reserves to buy products that could be grown domestically. In the face of raising prices, thousands demonstrated against the government. The government responded by imposing temporary price controls in an effort to prevent price-gouging by local merchants and halt the sharp rise in inflation.

After the initial shock, the devaluation began to pay dividends. Senegal was also helped by debt rescheduling and over $1.5 billion in financial aid from the World Bank and other international donors. In 1995, foreign assistance represented almost 40% of the government's budget. This inflow of foreign aid, which was closely tied to progress on donor mandated economic reforms, helped the economy grow at a rate of 4.5% in 1995 and 1996, and over 5% in through late 1990s. Between 2001 and 2005 GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5% with a high of 6.5% in 2003 and a low of 1.1% in 2001. The inflation rate, which rose to 32% in 1994, fell to 1.6% in 2005.

As of 2005, over 80% of GDP represented private activity, and significant parastatal companies had been privatized, including water, telecommunications, mining, and aviation. However, the government still remained the country's largest single employer. The information technology sector had experienced a boom, as Senegal became fully connected to the Internet in 1996 and Senegalese have become experienced users of that service. Tourism is increasingly a source of foreign exchange, although the fishing sector remained Senegal's chief earner of foreign exchange in 2003 accounting for 46% of exports.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Senegal's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $20.6 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $1,800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 1.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 16.1% of GDP, industry 21.4%, and services 62.5%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $344 million or about $34 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $450 million or about $44 per capita and accounted for approximately 7.0% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Senegal totaled $5.03 billion or about $493 per capita based on a GDP of $6.5 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.2%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 46% of household consumption was spent on food, 13% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 15% on education. It was estimated that in 2001 about 54% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Senegal's workforce was estimated at 4.82 million for 2005. According to a 1990 estimate (the latest year for which data was available), 77% of the labor force was in agriculture. The unemployment rate was estimated at 48% in 2001. The unemployment rate among urban youth was placed at 40%.

Senegal's fundamental labor legislation is based on the French overseas labor code of 1952, which provides for collective agreements between employers and trade unions, for the fixing of basic minimum wages by the government on recommendation of advisory committees. The code also provides for paid annual leave and for child allowances. The right to strike is recognized by law, and there are special labor courts. The largest trade union organization is the National Confederation of Senegalese Workers, which since 1970 has been the official union affiliated with the ruling PS. Its major rival is the National Union of Autonomous Labor Unions of Senegal. The industrial workforce is almost totally unionized. Although the relative number of union members is small, they have considerable political power due to their control of vital segments of the economy.

The minimum working age is 16, when minors may work in apprenticeships. The prohibition of child labor is strictly enforced in the formal sector, but somewhat less so in the informal and traditional economies. The labor law provides for a workweek of 40 to 48 hours and minimum occupational and safety and health regulations. However, these labor regulations are not effectively enforced outside of the formal economy. The minimum wage was $0.37 in 2001.


Most of Senegal lies within the drought-prone Sahel region, with irregular rainfall and generally poor soils. With only about 5% of the land irrigated, the heavy reliance on rainfed cultivation results in large fluctuations in production. About 70% of the working population is involved in farming. Agriculture (including forestry, livestock, and fisheries) accounts for 17% of GDP. Most Senegalese farms are small (1.52.4 hectares/3.75.9 acres), and about 60% are in the so-called Peanut Basin, east of Dakar. Much of the agricultural land is still tribally owned. Only about 13% of Senegal's total land area is cultivated; millet took up 27% of the cultivated land in 2004.

Since independence, the Senegalese government has developed a system of generally small cooperatives to rationalize agricultural production and marketing and to free the farmers from chronic indebtedness to private traders; these were replaced in 1984 by a network of "village sections" with financial autonomy. Parastatal agencies guarantee minimum prices of major agricultural crops, including peanuts, millet, sorghum, rice, and cotton.

In theory all peanuts are processed locally, and prices of processed peanut oil and other peanut products are set by parastatal agencies. Production of unshelled peanuts varies widely because of periodic drought, and production is frequently underreported because of unauthorized sales to processors in neighboring countries. In 2004, the reported production was 465,000 tons (95% for oil). Cotton, Senegal's other major export crop, is produced and marketed under the direction of the Society for the Development of Textile Fibers (Société de Développement des Fibres TextilesSODEFITEX). Seed cotton production was 58,000 tons in 2004. Other oil seed crops in 2004 included sesame seed, 24,000 tons; palm kernels, 5,900 tons; and melonseed, 1,800 tons.

Production of food crops, some of which are grown in rotation with peanuts, does not meet Senegal's needs. Only in years of favorable rainfall does the country approach self-sufficiency in millet and sorghum, the basic staples. Production amounts in 2004 included (in thousands of tons): corn, 423; millet, 379; rice, 265; cassava, 180; and sorghum, 132. Market gardening takes place largely in the Dakar region and to a lesser extent around Thiès. Sugarcane, grown on about 8,000 hectares (19,700 acres), yielded 850,000 tons of sugarcane in 2004.


Raising livestock is a primary activity in the northern section of Senegal and a secondary one for farmers in the southern and central regions. Cattle are raised mainly by the Sérer and by nomadic Fulani. Sheep and goats are important in parts of the southwest. Cattle imported from Mauritania meet part of the nation's meat requirements, but livestock are also exported to neighboring countries.

In 2005, the estimated livestock population included 3.1 million head of cattle; 4.7 million sheep; 4 million goats; 509,000 horses; 412,000 donkeys; 315,000 hogs; 4,000 camels; and 46 million poultry. The slaughter in 2005 yielded an estimated 47,800 tons of beef and veal and 32,000 tons of sheep and goat meat. Hides are exported or used in local shoe production and handicrafts; 9,550 tons of cattle hides were produced in 2005. Substantial quantities of cheese, butter, and canned and powdered milk are imported.

The poultry sector consists of a few commercial producers and an important informal sector that also raises the chicks produced by the commercial sector. Production of poultry meat totaled 65,300 tons in 2005. Egg production was 34,000 tons in 2005. In 1996, an outbreak of Newcastle disease disrupted local egg production, and producers began vaccinating chicks at the breeding farms. Due to the large size of the traditional poultry sector, there is always disease present.


Senegal has a flourishing fishing industry, and Dakar is one of the most important Atlantic tuna ports. In 2003, fish exports amounted to $282.7 million. The total catch in 2003 was 448,271 tons, 24% of it was round sardinella and 33% Madeiran sardinella.


Senegal has about 6.2 million hectares (15.3 million acres) of classified forest, most of it in the Casamance region. Timber production is small, with firewood and charcoal being the most important forest products. About 6.04 million cu m (213 million cu ft) of roundwood was cut in 2004, of which about 87% went for fuel. Senegal is highly vulnerable to declining rainfall and desertification.


Phosphate rock, fertilizer, petroleum refining, and the production of construction materials were among the minerals produced by Senegal in 2004. Mining has taken on added importance for Senegal's economy in the postindependence era, with phosphate rock, phosphoric acid, fertilizer production, artisanal gold, and petroleum exploration playing key roles in the country's economy. In 2004, production of aluminum phosphate was estimated at 4,000 metric tons. Calcium phosphate production that same year was estimated at 1.8 million metric tons, up from 1.761 million metric tons in 2003. Calcium phosphate-based fertilizer production was 210,000 metric tons in 2004. In addition to the Taiba phosphate rock mine already exploited northeast of Dakar, the government has identified deposits at Matam, whose 40.5 million tons of reserves would likely remain unexploited under existing phosphate market conditions.

Salt output was estimated at 240,000 metric tons in 2004. Also produced were hydraulic cement, fuller's earth (attapulgite) and other clays, natural gas, crude oil, limestone, and sand. The government's estimate of unreported gold production in 2004 was placed at 600 kg unchanged for 2002 and 2003. Many foreign companies had active exploration permits in Sabodala and Kanoumering, where Precambrian (Birimian) metamorphic rocks were exposed and significant reserves of gold have been reported. Iron ore reserves of 600 million tons have been identified in the Faleme, Farangalia, and Goto deposits, with a forecast capacity of 12 million tons per year; their development, though, could not justify the cost of creating the extensive port shipping and rail infrastructure needed to exploit the deposits. Eastern Senegal also had 350,000 tons of marble, as well as deposits of peat, uranium, titanium, serpentine, and other minerals.

In 2000, a newly elected government included among its top priorities the development of the country's inadequate infrastructure by improving the highway system, modernizing railroads, and constructing a new airport. In 2001, the African Development Bank Group approved an $18.7 million loan to help finance the 148-km Diamniadio-Mbour-Kaolack road project. The 25-month project was expected to revitalize economic growth in the region. The Ministère des Mines, de l'Energie at de l'Hydraulique was responsible for the administration over natural resources, and the Direction des Mines et de la Géologie was responsible for the mining sector.


Senegal's electric power generation is based entirely on conventional thermal or fossil fuels. Electric power generating capacity was 239,000 kW in 2002. Production in that year totaled 1.438 billion kWh. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 1.337 billion kWh.

Although Senegal had proven crude oil reserves of 700 million barrels, and a crude oil refining capacity of 27,000 barrels per day, as of 1 January 2003, there was no recorded crude oil production in 2002. However, imports of crude oil totaled 18,540 barrels per day. Refined oil production averaged 18,890 barrels per day. Refined petroleum imports in 2002 averaged 12,640 barrels per day. Demand for refined oil products in that year averaged 30,050 barrels per day.

Senegal does possess modest natural gas reserves, that as of 1 January 2003 were put at 106 billion cu ft. Natural gas production in 2002 came to 1.77 billion cu ft, all of which went to meet domestic demand There are also extensive reserves of peat along the coast between Dakar and Saint-Louis.


Senegal's manufacturing sector contributed 21.4% to GDP in 2005, registering annual growth increases consistently during the 1980s, 1990s, and into the 21st century. Agroindustry (oil mills, sugar refineries, fish canneries, flour mills, bakeries, beverage and dairy processing, and tobacco manufacturing) plays a key role and accounts for some 40% of value added. Especially important are groundnut-processing mills. The textile industry includes four cotton-ginning mills, factories for weaving, dyeing, and printing cloth, and plants that produce mattresses, thread, and hats. Cement, refined petroleum products, fertilizers, and phosphoric acid are produced. Other industrial products include plywood, boats, bicycles, soap, leather goods, paints, acetylene, sulfuric acid, and cigarettes.

Senegal's oil potential has yet to be completely ascertained. There is a refinery at Dakar, with production capacity of 27,000 barrels per day. Petrosen, the state-owned oil company, is encouraging exploration. One natural gas field has been discovered.


The African Regional Center for Technology, with 30 member states, has its headquarters in Dakar. Most research facilities in Senegal deal with agricultural subjects. Dakar has centers for mining and medical research and a research institute on African food and nutrition problems. An institute of research for oils and oilseeds is at Bambey. The Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research, with headquarters at Dakar, operates a national center of agronomical research at Bambey, a national laboratory of livestock and veterinary research at Dakar, an oceanographic center at Dakar, and numerous other technical facilities throughout the country.

The University Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, founded in 1949, has faculties of medicine and pharmacy and of sciences, and research institutes in psychopathology, leprosy, pediatrics, renewable energy, applied tropical medicine, applied mathematics, health and development, environmental science, adontology and stomatology, applied nuclear technology, and the teaching of mathematics, physics, and technology. The University of Saint Louis has an applied mathematics unit. Other facilities for scientific training include a polytechnic school at Thiès; an international school of sciences and veterinary medicine, representing 13 French-speaking countries, at Dakar; and an institute of nutritional technology at Dakar. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 21% of college and university enrollments. For the period 19902001 there were three technicians and two scientists and engineers engaged in research and development per million people. In 2002, Senegal had high technology export of $15 million, or 4% of the country's manufactured exports.


Dakar is not only the capital and largest city of Senegal but also the nation's largest consumer market and a major commercial and industrial center of West Africa. Many large trading firms have headquarters in France. Lebanese residents also play an important role in trade, however, many of their businesses are gradually being replaced by Senegalese merchants. A small number of supermarkets and larger retail stores deal primarily in imported goods. A few foreign franchise firms have made their way into the country.

Smuggling of goods from The Gambia is a serious problem, since such illicit imports undercut Senegalese products in price. A large informal domestic trade takes place in the Dakar marketplace known as Sandaga. Here, street vendors sell a wide variety of goods from cosmetics and shoes to stereo equipment.

Since Senegal ratified the WTO agreement in 1995, the government's role in domestic trade has been reduced. Subsidies for rice, sugar, wheat, and flour have been eliminated.

Normal business hours are from 8 or 9 am to noon and 3 to 6 pm, MondayFriday, and 8 or 9 am to noon on Saturday. Banks are usually open 7:45 am to 12:15 pm and 1:30 to 3:45 pm, MondayFriday.


Export revenues doubled between 1997 and 2000. The most important commodity exports for Senegal are shellfish (20%), fish (14%), refined petroleum products (11%), peanut oil (9.7%), inorganic

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 1,151.2 2,391.5 -1,240.3
Bunkers, ship stores 154.6 154.6
India 147.2 52.6 94.6
France-Monaco 137.5 588.9 -451.4
Mali 114.9 114.9
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 95.6 86.1 9.5
Côte d'Ivoire 61.4 86.1 -24.7
Guinea 59.9 59.9
Spain 56.3 103.5 -47.2
Gambia 42.8 42.8
Mauritania 33.3 33.3
() data not available or not significant.

chemicals (6.7%), and fertilizers (crude and manufactured, 6.2%). Main destinations of exports in 2004 were India (14%), France (10.2%), Mali (10.2%) and Italy (5.8%). During the same year imports came from France (25%), Nigeria (12.1%), Italy (4%) and Thailand (3.8%).


Since independence, as in colonial times, Senegal's balance of payments has generally run a deficit on current accounts, mainly covered by foreign aid from France (and, more recently, from other EU members). Remittances from Senegalese working in France, together with small inflows of private capital, have also helped cover the shortfalls.

The Economist Intelligence Unit reported that in 2005 the purchasing power parity of Senegal's exports was $1.53 billion while

Current Account -317.0
   Balance on goods -537.4
     Imports 1,603.9
     Exports 1,066.5
   Balance on services -18.2
   Balance on income -129.9
   Current transfers 368.6
Capital Account 126.8
Financial Account -88.2
   Direct investment abroad -36.2
   Direct investment in Senegal 80.3
   Portfolio investment assets -25.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities -13.1
   Financial derivatives -2.2
   Other investment assets 11.9
   Other investment liabilities -103.8
Net Errors and Omissions 30.9
Reserves and Related Items 247.3
() data not available or not significant.

imports totaled $2.41 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $88 million.


In 1959, the Central Bank of the West African States (Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'OuestBCEAO) succeeded the Currency Board of French West Africa and Togo as the bank of issue for the former French West African territories. In 1962, it was reorganized as the joint note-issue bank of Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania (which left in 1973), Niger, Senegal, Togo, and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), members of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). BCEAO notes, known as CFA francs, are guaranteed by France without limitation, formerly to the French franc and now to the euro. Foreign exchange receipts of the member states go into the franc area's exchange pool, which in turn covers their foreign exchange requirements. In 1973, the member states of the BCEAO signed new statutes that, among other things, provided for increased Africanization of bank personnel, transfer of headquarters from Paris to Dakar, and greater participation of the bank in the development activities of member states.

Commercial banks operating in Senegal include the International Bank for Occidental Africa (French-owned), Banque Internationale pour le Commerce et l'Industrie du Senegal, Credit Lyonnais, Banque Senegalo Tunisienne, Ecobank, Societe Generale, Citibank, and Banque Islamique du Senegal. The most significant development bank is the government-controlled National Development Bank of Senegal, which participates in development projects and provides credit for government organizations, mixed societies, and cooperatives. Another development financing institution is the Housing Bank of Senegal. A new credit institution, the National Fund for Agricultural Credit, was created in 1984.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $727.1 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $1.2 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 4.95%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 6.5%.

There are no securities exchanges in Senegal.


As of 1997, at least 14 companies provided insurance in Senegal. Third-party motor insurance is compulsory.


Although Senegal's finances are recorded as being in balance each year, in fact the country has run persistent deficits since 1976, generally covered by foreign aid which represented 32% of the budget in 2000. Senegal qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. Progress on the structural reforms required for the program is on track, but slow. From 1987 to 1998, Senegal's fiscal deficit fell from 12% of GDP to 7% of GDP. Donor mandated economic reforms have helped the government to restrain spending while the closing of tax loopholes has increased revenues helping Senegal to reduce the deficit.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Senegal's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.6 billion and had expenditures of $1.9 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$269 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 46.5% of GDP. Total external debt was $3.61 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2000, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were CFA Fr612.2 billion and expenditures were CFA Fr641.2 billion. The value in US dollars was revenue us$860 million and expenditures us$900 million, based on a official exchange rate for 2000 of us$1 = CFA Fr711.98 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 34.2%; defense, 7.3%; economic affairs, 2.4%; housing and community amenities, 2.8%; health, 3.5%; and education, 13.7%.


The corporate income tax rate in Senegal in 2005 was 33%. There is also a 10% withholding tax on those profits realized in Senegal by foreign companies that have not been reinvested into the country. Generally, capital gains are taxed at the corporate rate. However if the gains are used to acquire new fixed assets in Senegal within three years, or arise from a merger or other acquisition, the tax can be deferred. Dividends and royalties are subject to withholding taxes of 10% and 20%, respectively. Interest income from long term bonds is subject too a 6% withholding tax. Interest from bank interest or other sources are subject to withholding taxes of 8% and 16%, respectively. Senegal has double-taxation treaties with about 18 countries.

Individual taxes include a salary tax on the employee (3% for a Senegalese worker, and 6% for a foreign worker) and a general income tax with rates ranging up to 50%.

Revenue and Grants 612.2 100.0%
   Tax revenue 537.4 87.8%
   Social contributions
   Grants 49.9 8.2%
   Other revenue 24.9 4.1%
Expenditures 641.2 100.0%
   General public services 219 34.2%
   Defense 47.1 7.3%
   Public order and safety
   Economic affairs 15.5 2.4%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 18.1 2.8%
   Health 22.2 3.5%
   Recreational, culture, and religion
   Education 87.9 13.7%
   Social protection
() data not available or not significant.

Indirect taxes have long been the mainstay of Senegal's tax system, with import duties by far the most important. Other indirect taxes include the business license tax, export taxes, a real estate tax, and registration and stamp taxes. The value-added tax (VAT) has a standard rate of 18%. An equalization tax is applied to local purchases at 2% and to importations at 5%.


In January 2000, Senegal put into effect a new tariff scheme that conforms to the common external tariff (CET) scheme agreed on by member nations of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Under this new tariff structure, Senegal has four simple tariff rate categories: 0% on cultural and scientific goods, agricultural inputs, and capital goods and computer equipment not available from local production; 5% on raw materials, crude oil, and cereals for industry; 10% on semifinished products, intermediate goods, diesel and fuel oil; and 20% on consumer goods, capital goods and computer equipment available from local production, and vehicles. However, there also exists an array of other import tariffs, with a maximum combined rate of 52% and a value-added tax (VAT) of 18% applied to all imports.

In 1982, Senegal abolished its import licensing system, opening the market to all countries on an equal basis; previously, only products from the franc zone and the European Union (EU) could be imported without a license. Certain import restrictions exist on agricultural and industrial products that support the Senegalese economy.


Following independence, Senegal's economic policy shifted from a largely laissez-faire, noninterventionist stance to a policy of increasing government participation in economic affairs. By 1975, the government had effectively nationalized groundnut trade and processing, assumed majority control of the two main phosphate companies, and nationalized water distribution and electricity production. Half a generation later, in 1991, a slow privatization of the parastatal sector was under way.

In spite of its parastatal tradition, Senegal encourages private investment, which remains substantial. The investment code, enacted in 1962 and significantly revised in 1972, 1978, and 1981, encourages both domestic and foreign private investment in industrial, agricultural, mineral, transport, tourist, and other enterprises that conform to the goals of the national development program. Incentives include tax advantages and exemptions from customs and duties.

An industrial free trade zone located outside Dakar offers preferential access to West African Economic Community, ECOWAS, and European Economic Community countries. Aside from exchange-control regulations, there are no restrictions on the repatriation of capital and earnings for amounts up to CFA 200,000; above this amount, prior government approval is required. By the beginning of 1992, 15 firms had begun operations in the zone. In December 1983, Senegal signed a bilateral investment treaty with the United States, becoming the first sub-Saharan African nation to do so.

Foreign investment rose steadily from 13.8% of GDP in 1993 to 16.5% in 1997. In 1997, annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows peaked at $176 million, but have declined since, with some ups and downs. In 2001, FDI inflow was $125.5 million, up from $88 million in 2000. In the period 200104, FDI inflows totaled $239 million at an average rate $59.75 million per year. Most private investment in Senegal has come from France, and the telecommunications sector has attracted the most foreign investment.


Senegal's development program addresses the basic problems encountered by Senegal's economy: lack of diversified output, the inefficiency of investments, the role of state in economic activity, and the excessive expansion of domestic consumer demand. These problems have been partly addressed by programs focusing on food self-sufficiency, fishing, and tourism, and by strengthening high-return activities. Projects such as the Manantali irrigation project, the phosphate-to-fertilizer recovery project, and the trawler modernization program are examples of what Senegal is doing within this policy framework. In the area of manufacturing, capacity utilization improvement, equipment modernization, and low-capital production are emphasized. Since 1994, the government has made progress in privatizing state-owned enterprises, reducing labor costs to improve competitiveness in the manufacturing sector, and liberalizing trade by eliminating export subsidies and removing restrictions on certain strategic imports. Private economic revenues accounted for roughly over 80% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005, but trade liberalization had not progressed as much as planned.

In 2000, Senegal became eligible for around $800 million in debt service relief under the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. In 2003, the IMF approved a $33 million three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) Arrangement for Senegal, to support the government's economic reform program. In September of 2005, the World Bank and the IMF backed a deal to cancel about $55 billion of debts owed by 18 of the world's poorest countries, 14 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa including Senegal. The government is committed to continue the donor-supported economic reform program as outlined in the IMF's three-year poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF). Senegal's Agency for the Promotion of Investment (APIX) aims to promote foreign investment.


Since 1955, a system of family allowances for wage earners has provided modest maternity and child benefits. The system is financed by employer contributions at the rate of 7% of gross salary; an additional 15% contribution finances a fund for occupational health and accident coverage. Shared equally by employer and employee is a 6% contribution to a fund for general medical and hospital expenses. In addition, employees contribute 4.8% of gross salary to a retirement fund and employers contribute 7.2%. The retirement age is 55. This program covers employed persons, including domestic, seasonal and day workers.

According to the UN only 20% of women participate in the work force. Discrimination against women is widespread in both education and employment. Although prohibited by law, female genital mutilation is practiced by ethnic groups in rural areas. Women in urban areas, however, are making progress in the workplace. The government adopted legislation mandating fines and prison terms of up to three years for sexual harassment. Although minority religions are protected under law and are free to practice their religions, non-Muslims may face discrimination in civil, political, or economic matters.

Despite the vigorous multiparty political activity, there have been charges of human rights violations and electoral irregularities, as well as restrictions on freedom of press and association. Security forces commit abuses including arbitrary arrest and detention, beatings, and torture.


As of 2004, there were an estimated 7 physicians, 3 pharmacists, 1 dentist, 7 midwives, and 22 nurses per 100,000 people. Approximately 78% of the total population had access to safe drinking water and 70% had adequate sanitation. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.5% of GDP.

Major health problems include measles and meningitis along with such water-related diseases as malaria, trypanosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and schistosomiasis. There were approximately 258 cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people. Malnutrition was prevalent in 23% of all children under age five. Goiter was present in 41 of 100 school-age children. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were: tuberculosis, 80%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 65%; polio, 65%; and measles, 65%. Infant mortality was 54.12 per 1,000 live births in 2005; maternal mortality was 560 per 100,000 live births in 1998. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 37 and 8.1 per 1,000 people. Only around 11% of married women (ages 15 to 49) used contraception. The total fertility rate in the same year was 5.1 children per woman living through her childbearing years. In 2005, life expectancy was 58.90, an improvement over the previous years.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.80 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 44,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 3,500 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Most housing in Dakar is like that of a European city. Elsewhere, housing ranges from European-type structures to the circular mud huts with thatched roofs common in villages.

Since World War II, the growth of Dakar and other towns has been rapid, with government activity largely concentrated on improvement of urban housing and sanitation. In 1952, the city of Pikine was chosen as a place to rehouse about 100,000 people who were evicted from the slums of Dakar. In 2002, there were about one million people in Pikine. The town of Dalifort, between Pikine and Dakar, has since been chosen as a new site for government projects of rehousing. According to the latest available information for 198088, the total housing stock numbered 1,350,000 with 4.9 people per dwelling.


Education is compulsory for six years of primary school, for students between ages 6 and 12. For those attending secondary school, there are options for a seven-year general education (in two cycles of four years and three years) or a five-year technical or vocational program (in two cycles of three years and two years). The academic year runs from October to July.

In 2001, about 3% of children between the ages of four and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 69% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was less than 19% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 47.8% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 49:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 27:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 11% of primary school enrollment and 25% of secondary enrollment.

The University of Dakar has two graduate schools and numerous research centers. For over 30 years, the University of Dakar offered free tuition and generous subsidies to students. However, in 1994 it began implementing new austerity measures aimed at scaling back enrollment, raising academic standards and getting students to pay for more of the cost of their education. A polytechnic college opened at Thiès in 1973. Other colleges include a national school of administration at Dakar and a school of sciences and veterinary medicine for French-speaking Africa. Universities and equivalent institutions had about 29,000 students in1998. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 39.3%, with 51.1% for men and 29.2% for women.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.6% of GDP.


There are four major libraries in Senegal, all located in Dakar. The oldest is the Archives of Senegal, founded in 1913, which has a collection of more than 26,000 volumes. The largest is the Central Library of the University of Dakar, founded in 1952, which has over 306,000 volumes. The Basic Institute of Black Africa (Institut Fondamental d'Afrique NoireIFAN) and the Alliance Française maintain libraries of over 70,000 and 7,000 volumes, respectively. In addition to these major facilities, there are specialized libraries attached to various research institutes. In total, Senegal had 10 libraries associated with institutes of higher education in 2002.

The Museum of African Art in Dakar and the History Museum and the Museum of the Sea on Gorée Island are operated by IFAN. There are natural history museums in Dakar and Saint-Louis and a local museum in Saint-Louis.


Telephone and telegraph services, publicly owned and operated, are good by African standards, particularly in the coastal area and in the main centers of peanut production. In 2003, there were an estimated 22 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 9,800 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 56 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people. French submarine cables connect Dakar with Paris, Casablanca, Conakry (Guinea), and Recife (Brazil), and radiotelephone facilities are also in operation. The postal system provides international telephone facilities.

The government-operated radio and television service has transmitters throughout the country. The two national radio networks based in Dakar broadcast mostly in French, while the regional stations in Rufisque, Saint-Louis, Tambacounda, Kaolack, and Ziguinchor, which originate their own programs, broadcast primarily in six local languages. In 2004, there were over 25 privately-owned radio stations. There are no privately owned television stations in the country, but French and South African satellite services are available. In 2003, there were an estimated 126 radios and 78 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 21.2 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 22 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were three secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

The constitution guarantees freedom of opinion, which the press is generally free to exercise. In 2004, there were about 15 independent dailies and three government dailies. The main papers with 2002 circulation were: Le Soleil du Sénégal, the PS party newspaper, with an estimated 45,000 circulation, and Sud Quotidien (30,000). There are also several weekly newspapers and magazines.


There are chambers of commerce, industry, and agriculture in the principal cities. Professional and trade associations also exist. The Consumers International Subregional Office for West and Central Africa is located in Dakar.

The Alliance Française sponsors lectures and concerts. Of the many sport and social associations in the towns, those for soccer are especially popular, but racing clubs, aero clubs, and automobile clubs are also active. National youth organizations include the Democratic Youth Movement, the Socialist Youth Movement, Young Workers Movement, YMCA, and the Senegalese Scout Confederation. The John F. Kennedy Center Dakar encourages youth participation in volunteer efforts.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs International, are also present. The Daniel Boitier Center in Dakar is a Roman Catholic organization for the study of social and economic problems. Panos Institute networks with community groups and organizations to encourage community development projects. The African Council of AIDS Service Organizations is based in Dakar. Other social action groups include the Femmes Developpement Entreprise en Afrique, Goree Institute, and Hope Unlimited. International organizations with national chapters include Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, Caritas, Habitat for Humanity, UNICEF, and the Red Cross.


The comfortable climate, variety of cultural attractions, attractive physical features such as the coastal beaches and the 5,996sq-km (2,315-sq-mi) Niokolo-Koba National Park, and the relative proximity to Europe have all combined to make Senegal an increasingly popular vacation area and international conference center. Gorée Island, near Dakar, has many former slave houses, where perhaps 20 million slaves were kept before being shipped to America between 1536 and 1848. Wrestling and fishing are popular, and hunting is allowed from December to May on an 80,000hectare (198,000-acre) reserve.

All visitors arriving from infected areas must have a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. Visas are required for all foreign nationals except those of: Algeria, Mauritius, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, Canada, the European Economic Community (EEC), the United States, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Visas are valid for up to 90 days.

In 2003, there were 353,539 tourists who arrived in Senegal, a 17% increase from the previous year. Hotel rooms numbered 10,268 with 20,437 beds and an occupancy rate of 37%. The average length of stay was four nights.

According to 2005 US Department of State estimates, the daily cost of staying in Dakar was $213. Other areas were less at $114 per day.


Blaise Diagne (18721934) was the first African to be elected to the French parliament and to hold office in the French government as an undersecretary of state. Léopold-Sédar Senghor (19062001), president of Senegal from 1960 until his retirement in 1980, was a French-language poet of distinction; in 1984, he became a life member of the French Academy, the first black African to receive that honor. Abdou Diouf (b.1935) was president of Senegal (19812000), after serving as prime minister (197080). Abdoulaye Wade (b.1926) became president in 2000. Among Senegalese writers are Birago Diop (190689), author of short stories, and David Diop (192760), an internationally known poet. Ousmane Sembene (b.1923) is a film director and writer of international repute. Cheikh Anta Diop (192386), RND leader, wrote many works of distinction on African history.


Senegal has no territories or colonies.


Berg, Elizabeth L. Senegal. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1999.

Boone, Catherine. Merchant Capital and the Roots of State Power in Senegal, 19301985. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Clark, Andrew Francis. Historical Dictionary of Senegal. 2nd ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

Gellar, Sheldon. Senegal: An African Nation between Islam and the West. 2nd ed. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995.

Getz, Trevor R. Slavery and Reform in West Africa: Toward Emancipation in Nineteenth-century Senegal and the Gold Coast. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004.

Lambert, Michael C. Longing for Exile: Migration and the Making of a Translocal Community in Senegal, West Africa. Portmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 2002.

Robinson, David. Paths of Accommodation: Muslim Societies and French Colonial Authorities in Senegal and Mauritania, 18801920. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2000.

Zeilig, Leo and David Seddon. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

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Republic of Senegal

Major Cities:
Dakar, Saint-Louis

Other Cities:
Diourbel, Kaolack, Louga, Rufisque, Tambacounda, Thiès, Ziguinchor


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated August 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


For the American coming to sub-Saharan Africa for the first time, Dakar, capital of the Republic of Senegal, affords a moderate and agreeable introduction to the developing world. It is not a place of extremesof climate, geography, culture, or political ideology. It is in many ways similar to a European city but still maintains its African atmosphere. Dakar lies midway between Arab-Mediterranean North Africa and tropical rain forest countries along the Gulf of Guinea. Senegal's main crop, peanuts, is characteristic of the sandy, dry soil and climate. Senegal is composed of various African populations. Superimposed on their black African traditions and cultures are two major external influences: Islam, which arrived in the 11th century, and French colonial rule, which began in the 17th century and ended in 1960. Senegal is now over 94 percent Moslem. Its institutions are largely French in character. The official language is French, but Wolof is the lingua franca. Senegalese society offers unusual opportunities for friendly and enterprising French-speaking Americans. Senegalese are interested in the U.S. as the increasing number of visitors and students attests. A widespread genuine curiosity exists about America. In addition to its still close ties with France, Senegal, politically moderate and democratic, enjoys friendly relations with many other countries. Dakar offers a fascinating opportunity to gain insight into a way of life shared by millions of Africanspeople with whom the U.S., as a matter of national interest, will be increasingly concerned in the future.



Dakar, Senegal's capital and metropolitan center, is one of the great seaports and industrial centers of West Africa. It is the most European city between Casablanca and Abidjan. First occupied by the French as a military post in 1857, Dakar soon developed as a seaport and administrative center to replace Saint-Louis as Senegal's principal city. When the Federation of French West Africa was formed, Dakar became the seat of federal government. Following independence from France, the city remained the cultural center of French West Africa. Dakar occupies the southern end of the Cap Vert Peninsula, the western-most point of the continent. On a plateau about 30 meters (100 feet) above sea level on either side, are the tall, modern buildings, handsome residences, and tree-lined avenues of the business and administrative district. A crowded neighborhood, housing about 100,000-110,000 people, adjoins the business district. To the north are residential districts and suburbs including: Grand Dakar, Colobane, Baobabs, Point E, and Liberte. Although some communities are randomly developed, others are carefully planned residential areas with modern homes, surrounded by trees and gardens. Industrial areas are on the peninsula's southeastern side, along the railroad to Rufisque and the interior. On the western side, beyond Medina and facing the open sea, is the impressive University of Dakar complex and the fashionable suburb, Fann. Dakar-Yoff International Airport is about 16 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of downtown, not far from Pointe des Almadies, the western-most point on the African continent. Dakar has most of the public utilities and services usually enjoyed by any large city. However, because of the city's growth and the vast quantities of water used by visiting ships, available water supply is sometimes insufficient for the city's needs. Diesel-generated electricity voltage fluctuates, and power failures occur but are usually short-lived. Most apartment facilities are not equipped with emergency generators. No sewers exist outside the downtown area.


A wide variety of food is available locally, but prices are frequently more expensive than in the U.S. Locally produced and French-imported products are well stocked in the markets or super marchés. Beef, lamb, pork, and veal are considerably leaner than U.S. cuts. Seasonal seafood is excellent, plentiful, and inexpensive. Garden vegetables are abundant in winter but scarcer during the hot, humid, rainy summer weather. Fresh fruits are available all year. Fresh milk is available from a Danish-Senegalese enterprise and provides an alternative to the long-life (sterilized) milk products. However, both products offer many varieties. Also available are good varieties of imported dairy products such as butter, yogurt, cream, and cheese. Fresh bread specialties and delicious pastries are baked daily by numerous French, Lebanese, and Senegalese bakeries. Specialty items such as prepared baby food and pet foods are available but extremely high priced.


Bring washable clothes since local dry-cleaning is expensive and does not match U.S. standards. Imported, expensive but fashionable, Western-style, ready-to-wear clothing and shoes are available locally in limited supplies. Dress in Dakar is informal, but not casual except at home or at the beach. Senegalese men and women are fashion conscious and dress well. Bring sport clothing, footwear, and beach accessories to post. An umbrella is very useful during the rainy season.

Men: For the hot, humid summer (July-October) lightweight suits and slacks are worn with short-sleeved white and colored shirts. For winter, heavyweight summer suits or lightweight tropical worsted suits, long-sleeved shirts, and a few sweaters are useful.

Women: During the summer season, women dress as they would in the Mid-Atlantic, in July and August. Washable, lightweight cotton and linen fabrics are best. Cool, sleeveless dresses are worn during the day, both in the office and in public. Tailored slacks are also worn. Shorts are not appropriate in public unless engaged in athletic activities. Most entertainment is informal or casual. Dakar's winter season compares with late spring and early fall in Washington, D.C.warm days with cool evenings. Because houses and offices are not heated, lightweight warm clothing is required for indoors. Dark cottons, knits, and light woolens are useful. Shawls are often worn since entertaining continues outdoors, even in winter. Some cold-natured individuals wear heavy knits and medium-weight woolens. Since the cool season is short, a large amount of heavy clothing is unnecessary. Light sweaters or jackets are recommended for the few cool and windy months. Many people purchase material and hire local tailors to make clothing. The quality of work is quite good but can be very expensive.

Children: During the winter months in school, most boys wear long or short washable pants or blue jeans with long-sleeved shirts or sweatshirts, whereas in the summer months shorts and T-shirts are preferred. Throughout the school year, girls wear dresses, skirts and blouses, or jeans. Bring an initial supply of tennis shoes. Local purchases are expensive and do not wear well. Several sweaters, corduroy jackets or Windbreakers are good for winter. For infants and toddlers, bring a large selection of warmer clothing since most houses have cold, ceramic tile floors, and no heating systems. During summer, children may change underwear and playclothes often; bring an adequate supply as frequent washing can cause wear and tear. Cottons are cooler and more comfortable than polyester. Locally purchased disposable diapers are expensive when available.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: All local purchases are expensive. Lightweight cotton or wool blankets or lightweight comforters are used during winter. French personal products are available. If you prefer certain American brands, bring them. Prescription glasses are filled here, but are expensive. Sunglasses are recommended. Contact lens wearers should bring ample cleaning and disinfecting supplies. Bottled water is available. Backup glasses should be brought since dust may cause some contact lens wearers difficulty. Wide selections of imported and African material for clothing, draperies, and upholstery are available. Locally produced cottons include tie-dyes, African prints, and intricately woven "jacquards."

Basic Services: Dakar has laundries, dry-cleaners, and shoe repair shops. Service quality varies. Numerous French-operated barber-shops and hairdressers offer good quality service at moderate to expensive prices. Experienced tailors are available to help you expand your wardrobe quickly.

Religious Activities

Dakar, although predominantly Moslem, has several churches and missions. Catholic churches offer Mass, in French, regularly during the week and on Sundays. A few priests and nuns speak English. Other Sunday services in French include one by French Protestants and one by the United World Mission. The Southern Baptist Convention holds an English-language interdenominational service and Sunday School service. Dakar does not have a synagogue; however, the small French-speaking Jewish community attends services in each other's homes.


Senegal's schools, private and public, are open to Senegalese and foreign children. The public elementary school system is overcrowded and not recommended. Catholic and Protestant churches operate several private French schools. The International School of Dakar (ISD) is a nonsectarian English language school in Dakar. Supported by the Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools, ISD is an independent, coeducational day school offering an American educational program reflecting the diverse international background of the student body and faculty. Classes are currently offered in pre-kindergarten through grade 9. The pre-kindergarten class offers a morning program and is located on the campus but is self contained. The class caters to students 4 years old at the start of the school year with a few places available for 3-year-olds. The kindergarten, for 5-year-olds, offers a full-day program. ISD is accredited in the U.S. by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges. The school calendar year is from early September to mid-June. ISD follows an American curriculum including math, reading, science, social studies, and writing. At all grade levels, French, music, art, computers, and physical education are required.

Each full-time teacher at ISD is certified by a school system in his/her country of origin; several hold Master's Degrees (or equivalent) in their subject area. ISD is conveniently located in a quiet residential suburb of Dakar known as Fenetre Mermoz, overlooking the ocean. The new facility, opened in January 1989, includes 20 classrooms, a library, science and computer labs, and changing rooms. In addition to the school's playground, a regulationsize sports field, and an multipurpose gymnasium/auditorium; the student body has access to the American Club pool and playing courts. The school is governed by a seven-member Board of Directors elected by the International School Association of Dakar, the sponsoring body of the school.

The ISD's mailing addresses are as follows:

International School of Dakar
B.P. 5136
Dakar, Senegal
Telephone numbers: Tel.: (221) 23-08-71
Fax: (221) 25-50-30

The Dakar Academy, which was founded in 1961, is sponsored by three missionary groups. Today, an open enrollment includes students of many nationalities. An American curriculum is offered for kindergarten through grade 12. Bible class and weekly chapel attendance is compulsory for all grades. French, music, art, and physical education are offered at all grades. Science and computer lab classes using state-of-the-art equipment are also offered. English-as-a-Second-Language instruction is required for all students with inadequate English comprehension skills.

The school is accredited by ACSI and the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges. The large campus located in Hann (near the zoo) includes surfaced sports/tennis/basketball, track and field areas, and a newly refurbished auditorium. The faculty consists of fully certified teachers holding bachelor's degrees or higher. Most have had teaching experience before coming to Dakar Academy. Children must reach the age of 6 by October 31 before entering the first grade. Sometimes exceptions are granted if the child will be 6 by December 31 and achieves a satisfactory score on a readiness test. School begins in late August and continues until early June. Progress reports with letter grades are given four times a year. Parents seeking enrollment in the academy should write the academy principal at the following address:

Dakar Academy
Route des Maristes (HANN)
B.P. 3189
Dakar, Senegal
Tel. (221) 32-06-82

Other options available to parents with older children include sending teenagers to boarding schools abroad or seeking enrollment in a French-language lycee. French schools commence in late October and continue to mid-July. Students should not enroll in a local French-language high school without thorough French fluency. Non-French-speaking students are placed in a special class or have several months of private French tutoring.

Several good private French-language nursery schools are located in Dakar.

Special Educational Opportunities

The University of Dakar offers a French language and civilization course (20 hours a week from late October through mid-June) for serious students only. Placement tests are given the third week in October.


A variety of clubs and private facilities for athletics include: For flying enthusiasts, the Aero club de Dakar offers flying lessons and rental of private planes. The archery club uses facilities at the Cercle de l'Etrier (CED). (Bowhunting is illegal in Senegal.) A 12-hole golf course is located near Dakar at Camberene. The Meridien President Hotel has an 18-hole and 9-hole course and very good facilities. Horseback riding is popular; Dakar has six riding clubs. Membership and riding fees are comparable to U.S. costs. Boarding and lessons are available. Dakar has 11 tennis clubs. Some are equipped with showers and a bar.

The Senegalese Tennis Federation sponsors one or two world-class exhibitions a year. Two squash clubs also exist. An active softball league includes teams of Americans, Canadians, French, Koreans, and Japanese. The season runs from October through March with a break over the Christmas holidays. Games are held on Saturday or Sunday alternating on the fields of ISD, the Ambassador's lot, and the French military base. In February each year, Dakar invites softball teams from other West African posts to come to Senegal for the annual West African Invitational Softball Tournament (W.A.I.S.T.). The Association Dakaroise de Tir offers a range for European-style competition target shooting. The club is licensed by the Senegalese Government, and membership is limited to 50 persons for the entire country. Only serious and dedicated target shooters are welcome. Classical ballet, gymnastics, aerobatics, yoga, karate, and judo instruction are available at various locations. Sports enthusiasts should bring appropriate clothing and equipment. Several local sports shops have good selections but prices are high.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The Senegalese Government actively encourages tourism. Opportunities for interesting excursions exist in Dakar and throughout the country either by car or on an accompanied bus tour. Accommodations range from Class A deluxe resort hotels to village encampments offering primitive lodging and the opportunity to experience village life up close. During the year, several traditional festivals are held throughout the country. The ocean is undoubtedly Dakar's main recreational asset. Excellent swimming, boating, fishing, skin diving and scuba diving are available. Dakar has a multitude of white, sandy beaches along both sides of the peninsula. However, not all beaches close to town are safe or clean enough for swimming. Waterskiing, wind surfing and sailing equipment rentals are available at some boating clubs and hotels in Dakar. The ocean off the coast is unpredictable with sporadic surf, undertow, currents, and storms. Prudence dictates safety first for all water activities. Boaters and deep-sea enthusiasts should be well informed on local weather reports and air-sea rescue procedures. For these activities, bring safety equipment, including lifejackets. The Cap Vert Peninsula has many beaches along its coastline. N'Gor Island, 3-4 minutes off the coast by pirogue, has an excellent beach and some cottages. Historic Goree Island, 20 minutes by ferry, has a small beach, three restaurants, and two museums. Both islands have areas suitable for skin diving.

The Meridien, Teranga, and six other hotels have swimming clubs with excellent facilities. Many have beach restaurants serving snacks and drinks. Several popular beaches and resort areas are within a 2-hour radius of Dakar. Some mission personnel rent beach houses and a few have purchased cottages. Year-round fishing is available. Although surf fishing is the most accessible, the most popular method is trolling. Several local fishermen will rent their pirogues on a half-day basis if you supply the gas. More enjoyable but expensive are the deep-sea Air Afrique charter boats, costing 280,000 CFA per day from June through October. Many deep-sea fishing enthusiasts believe membership at the Club de Peche Sportif de Dakar is a good investment. Affiliated with the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA), the club sponsors fishing contests and various social events. Available equipment costs three or four times U.S. prices. Dakar has four well-supplied fishing shops. U.S. catalog orders can take 5 weeks to arrive, and most fishing rods are not mailable. Skin diving and spear fishing are popular. Compressed air bottles can be charged locally. Waters around Dakar are not as clear as the Mediterranean but are much warmer. Neoprene shirts are necessary only from December to April. Hunting is gaining popularity in Senegal. Imported guns must be registered with the Senegalese government. Prospective hunters are advised to join the Association de Chasse et de Tir du Senegal, licensed by the Senegalese government. The hunting season normally runs from November to May. The only big game hunting is near the national animal reserve at Niokolo-Koba, 300 miles from Dakar. Dakar has two yacht clubs with boats ranging from 20-40 foot "Requins," "Dragons," or smaller "Snipes" to hybrid sail and motorboats.


Dakar has several cinemas. All films are shown in French. Theaters are air-conditioned and showings are 7 days a week. The American Club shows American films during the weekend for members and guests. The Daniel Sorano National theater is open between October and June and presents well-known local and international theatrical groups and singers. The Dakar International Music Society periodically produces choral and musical productions. Interested participants are always welcome. The IFAN museum at Place Soweto has an interesting collection of West African arts and crafts. The main IFAN building on the University of Dakar campus has an excellent, specialized library on African subjects. Another IFAN museum worth visiting is located on Goree Island. An interesting and active art community creates modern and abstract works. USIS, the French Cultural Center and private galleries occasionally schedule exhibitions. Several charity balls and numerous French presentations are held during the social season. The excellent National Troupe Folklorique performs several times a year. Local hotels schedule many performances of the African Ballet troupe which offers traditional dance exhibitions. A few people in the European community play chamber music and are always looking for new talent. Classical guitar and kora lessons are also available. Dakar has several impressive but expensive night clubs, discotheques and a casino. A combination of bands and current records are used. Also a few jazz clubs offer excellent entertainment. Good French, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Italian, and African restaurants are open 6 days a week for lunch and dinner. Numerous restaurants are located in the hotels and along the beaches. Prices range from moderate to expensive.

Social Activities

Among Americans: The American community in Dakar includes U.S. Mission personnel, missionaries, private business people, and students. Americans gather informally for social activities, including picnics, beach parties, and sports events. The Marine House is a favorite meeting place for American families to relax. The Detachment sponsors various informal parties and social events. The American Club is located next to the ISD on the Corniche about 5 miles from the Embassy. The Club is open daily from 10 am to 8 pm and later for special occasions. American direct-hire and U.S. contract employees may become full members; non-official Americans and third-country nationals are associate members through sponsorship by a full member. Facilities include a 10x25 meter swimming pool, two lighted tennis courts, one lighted all purpose (tennis/volleyball/basketball) court, a party room, snack bar for light meals, snacks, and drinks, changing rooms and an outside area for showing movies. The American Club is a facility of the ECWRA whose Board of Directors is also responsible for commissary, cafeteria and video tape club operations.

English-speaking women in Dakar are invited to join two separate English-speaking women's clubs offering a variety of programs, an organization for all wives within the diplomatic community or the organization made up largely, but not exclusively, of French women. The Hash House Harriers (HHH) are universally known. An active international group of joggers and walkers gathers every Saturday night at a predetermined location announced weekly. Scouting activities are encouraged for girl and boy scouts. Troops offer a variety of activities including camp-outs, field trips and international service project participation.

International Contacts: Opportunities for establishing international contacts in Dakar are numerous. The extent of the contacts will depend on your own initiative and ability to meet others. The Senegalese are hospitable and entertain frequently. Americans often attend their social functions and reciprocate the hospitality.

Special Information

Senegal is one of the most stable countries in the region. The internal threat to Senegal is minimal. A separatist insurgency in the Casamance region of Southern Senegal posed serious threats in the late 1980s and 1990s, but fighting calmed when a cease-fire was signed in 1993 between the Government of Senegal and the Mouvement de Forces Democratiques de Casamance (MFDC). However, a resurgence of violence in this region has occurred in recent years. On the crime front, Dakar is subject to the usual problems associated with big cities. Violent crime, although relatively low, is on the rise, but is overshadowed by the frequency of petty crimes. Pickpockets are very aggressive and very good. Bags, briefcases or satchels, left unattended, even momentarily, may be stolen; articles left in plain sight in vehicles are also at risk. Carry as little cash as possible and not all in one place. Do not show money openly on the street and do not wear expensive jewelry. Carry only photocopies of your identification documents, i.e., passport and drivers license. Beware of your surroundings at all times and do not venture into unknown areas.


Saint-Louis, at the mouth of the Senegal River, is a city of about 179,000. It has a long history as the capital of Senegal and also of Mauritania. It was the maritime outlet for waterborne commerce of the Senegal River Basin for many years but, when the Saint-Louis/Dakar railroad was completed in 1885, the city declined as a seaport and commercial center. Today, it remains fairly important as the capital of the Fleuve Region and as a gateway to Mauritania.

The main district is on a narrow, sandy island in the river estuary. On the mainland across the channel to the east is the suburb of Sor, terminus of the railroad to Dakar, and a point on the highway from Dakar to Rosso and Nouakchott in Mauritania. To the west, two bridges link the island with Langue de Barbarie, where the fishing villages of N'Dar Tout and Guet N'Dar are situated. A mile or so east of Sor are the electric power plant and an airfield.

There is a beautiful national park in Saint-Louis, with an interesting wild bird sanctuary. Excursions can be booked at most of the hotels or tourist agencies in Dakar.


DIOURBEL is about 90 miles east of the capital in the western half of the country. The city, with a population over 60,000, produces perfume, beverages, and peanut oil. Diourbel is also the site of an artistic mosque.

KAOLACK , capital of the Region of Sine-Saloum, is the commercial and shipping center of the richest peanut area in Senegal. It has developed during the last 65 years into a city with over 195,000 people, second only to Dakar in size and, in importance, as a port on the Saloum River. A plant that makes salt from evaporated seawater and a peanut oil refinery are nearby.

Situated near the Atlantic Ocean, LOUGA is in the northwest region of the country. The inhabitants of the city are Fulani (nomads), and Wolof (farmers). Louga is a cattle market, connected to the capital and the port city of Saint-Louis by road and rail. The city is known for its sandstone plains in the interior and its dunes on the coast.

RUFISQUE , a city of over 100,000, antedates Dakar by several centuries. It was once the main commercial center and shipping point for the Cap Vert area, and regained considerable importance as an industrial and residential suburb after World War II. Well served by rail and highway, but able to accommodate only shallow-draft shipping, the city has peanut oil refineries, textile and shoe factories, a pharmaceutical plant, and several other enterprises. Natural gas deposits are located near the city. Nearby, at Bargny, is a large Portland cement plant.

Located in the southeast, TAMBACOUNDA is nearly 280 miles east of Dakar. Crops grown in this tall-grass and woody area include cotton, corn, peanuts, and rice. The town is connected by rail to Dakar and the Republic of Mali. Senegal's largest national park, the Niokolo-Koba National Wildlife Park is located 45 miles southeast of Tambacounda. The population is estimated to be over 30,000.

THIÈS , a commercial, communications, and industrial center, has over 200,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of the region of the same name and an important market for peanuts, Senegal's main product. Several processing plants are located here. The railroad from Dakar branches at Thiès to form Senegal's two main lines to Saint-Louis and the Mali border. Reserves of aluminum phosphate found near Thiès are being exploited.

ZIGUINCHOR is the capital of the Casamance Region and the seaport and commercial center for a well-populated area of farms, timber-lands, and fisheries. Its 1994 population of 165,000 has grown from only 6,000 in 1937. Ziguinchor is on the south bank of the Casamance River, approximately 65 kilometers (40 miles) above its mouth, and is connected by river ferry with a road through The Gambia to Kaolack, and a secondary road to Banjul. A fairly good road runs 25 kilometers (15 miles) south to San Domingos in Guinea-Bissau. Barges and small craft ply the numerous waterways of the region. Ziguinchor has a small number of industries, including several sawmills, an ice factory, a peanut shelling plant, and a peanut or palm oil mill. It has an airfield with scheduled flights to Dakar, Bissau, Cap Skirring, and Kolda.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Senegal, located on the bulge of West Africa and covering 196,000 square kilometers (76,000 square miles), is about the size of South Dakota. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and separated from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to the north by the Senegal River. On the east, it is bordered by the Republic of Mali, on the south by the Republics of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. The independent, English-speaking state of The Gambia, straddling the Gambia River, penetrates fingerlike over 320 kilometers (200 miles) into Senegal. Averaging less than 220 meters (650 feet) in elevation, Senegal is mostly flat or rolling plains with savanna-type vegetation. In the southeast, however, plateaus 500 meters (1,640 feet) high form foothills of the Fouta-Djallon Mountains. Marshy swamps, interspersed with tropical rain forests, are common in the southwest.

North of Dakar on the Cap Vert Peninsula, the coast forms almost a straight line; further south it is indented by many estuaries and is often marshy. The country is drained by four major rivers flowing almost parallel from east to west: The Senegal, Saloum, Gambia, and Casamance, each navigable for a good distance inland. Senegal has two well-defined seasons: alternative northeast (winter) and southwest (summer) winds produce the cool, dry winter season (November-June) and the hot, humid summer (July-October). During winter, Dakar days are invariably sunny with temperatures between 17°C and 27°C (63°F and 80°F). During summer, the average temperature is 30°C-35°C (86°F-96°F) with high humidity. Beginning in January, the harmattan brings dust and sand from the Sahara Desert for 2 or 3 months. Between July and October, Dakar receives 400-500 millimeters (16-20 inches) of rainfall a year. Precipitation increases further south, exceeding 1.5 meters (60 inches) a year in parts of the Casamance region in the southern part of the country. Typically, Senegal is considered a dry, almost desert country with a pleasant climate.


Of Senegal's estimated 10.4 million people (2000), 60 percent live in rural areas. In Senegal, there are French and Lebanese citizens, as well as a sizable Cape Verdean community. Dakar has some 2 million inhabitants. Four other Senegalese cities surpass 100,000 in population: Kaolack, Thies, Rufisque, and Saint-Louis. By ethnic group, inhabitants are 43 percent Wolof, 24 percent Peulh or Fulani, 15 percent Serere, 4 percent Diola, and 3 percent Mandingo. Smaller ethnic groups include the Sarakole, Moor, Bassari, and Lebou. The population is young, 44 percent being under 14. Population growth is estimated at 2.9 percent a year. The birth rate is 37 per 1,000. Infant mortality is high; life expectancy is about 63 years. The Senegalese constitution provides for freedom of religion. Religious institutions are autonomous. About 92 percent of the population is Moslem, 2 percent Christian (mostly Catholic), and about 6 percent animist.

Public Institutions

Senegal's constitution, adopted on March 3, 1963, provides for an executive-presidential system. The President (chief of state) is elected by universal adult suffrage to a 7-year term. In 2000, Abdoulaye Wade was inaugurated as president. Senegal's legislature is a 120-member National Assembly elected by universal adult suffrage concurrently with the President, and a 60 member Senate. The highest court in the independent judiciary is the Supreme Court, ruled by presidential-appointed judges. For administrative purposes, Senegal is divided into 10 regions, each headed by a Governor appointed by, and responsible to, the President.

Arts, Science, and Education

Although the literacy rate for the country as a whole is low (about 33 percent), Senegal has long been considered the intellectual and cultural center of West Africa. The University of Dakar attracts students from all of francophone Africa. The university maintains faculties in Arts and Letters, Law and Economics, Sciences, Medicine, Journalism, Technology, Library Science and Teacher Training which are all highly regarded in the region. Other university institutes sponsor scientific research in energy, applied linguistics, psychology, and pediatrics. The University's Institute of French Teaching for Foreign Students offers a 1-year course of language, literature, and civilization. The Institut Fondamental de l'Afrique Noire (IFAN) museums and ethnographic institute, a division of the University of Dakar, enjoys an international reputation; it receives scholars, researchers, and tourists from all parts of the world. A second university, smaller in scale and modeled after land grant institutes in the U.S., was opened in the city of Saint Louis in 1991.

Since the Senegalese elite are avid readers, multiple newspapers and magazines are published in Senegal. Book stores and newsstands in Dakar do a brisk business. Bookstores carry French-language publications, with Senegalese and other African writers well represented. The works of such well-known novelists as Mariama Ba, Aminata Sow Fall, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, and Sembene Ousmane are readily available. Also available are the works of younger writers in affordable paperback editions published by the Nouvelles Editions Africaines. Newsstands and supermarkets offer a variety of magazines and newspapers, published in Senegal and abroad. Available international publications include Time, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, and The Economist. Senegal's film industry, active and widely admired during the 1960s and 1970s, has suffered in recent years from a scarcity of government funding. Only a few filmmakers are able to obtain resources in France or Germany, and the number of films made by Senegalese each year has fallen to a very low level. However, the industry is being privatized with a new organization (SIMPEC), which is taking charge of film distribution. Although most commercial cinemas offer first-run films from France, the U.S. (dubbed in French), Italy, and India are also represented. The works of Senegalese filmmakers Sembene Ousmane, Mahama Johnson Traore, Momar Thiam. and Moussa Bathily are occasionally shown on the commercial circuit.

Films from other parts of Africa can sometimes be seen as well. Under the leadership of former President Senghor, the arts received an especially strong impetus which, in the face of the current economic situation, could not be sustained. Nonetheless, as a consequence of the efforts of the Senghor period, the country now boasts a reservoir of trained artistic talent. For example, individuals who studied at the Dakar School of Fine Arts and abroad are now mature practitioners of painting, sculpture, and tapestry weaving. The National Tapestry Works at Thies produces monumental tapestries designed by Diatta Seck, Theodore Diouf, Mamadou Wade, Khalifa Gueye, and Bocar Diong. Their brilliantly colored tapestries reflect African themes, traditions, and folklore in modern Western technique. Senegalese musicians and singers in the traditional "guot" style, Youssou N'Dour, Baba Mal, Ismail Lo, and others have emerged as exciting and popular international artists. Another increasingly popular art form is the glass painting of Gora Mbengue and others, depicting customs and habits of ordinary people in urban areas. In the field of performing arts, the Daniel Sorano Theatre offers a varied program each year. Plays by local dramatists (e.g., Sembene), concerts by local choral groups, and performances by visiting musical and dance troupes constitute typical selections. French, Italian, British, German, and U.S. Embassy cultural centers sponsor quality film shows, art exhibitions, and cultural performances. These centers also operate libraries and language classes.

Commerce and Industry

Since l980, Senegal, with the help of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the U.S., and various other donors, has engaged in an economic restructuring program. The goal of the program is for Senegal to generate and maintain a positive per capita economic growth rate. One objective of this structural adjustment program is to increase private sector activity. To achieve this objective, the Government of Senegal has substantially reduced its role in the economy and created an environment providing impetus for private enterprises. The Senegalese Government is attempting to sell or liquidate many state-owned businesses to reduce and redefine the size and role of the remaining parastatals; return economic incentives to the rural sector by eliminating fixed prices from major food crops; give farmers a freer hand in production and marketing; and to demand improved industrial efficiency by lowering tariffs and trade barriers and exposing local business to healthy competition. This economic program is revolutionary in a country that has for decades shared many of the statist approaches of its former colonial power, France.

In January 1994, Senegal and the 13 other members of the CFA franc zone devalued their common currency by 50 percent. The CFA franc's value had been fixed relative to the French franc since 1948. During restructuring, new opportunities have been created but some economic power centers have had to face competition for the first time. Urban real incomes are down as the government cuts spending and subsidies. Urban unemployment is up as government employment is reduced and inefficient businesses are closed. Senegal's major foreign exchange earners are fish, phosphates, peanut oil and tourism. A precarious agricultural resource endowment and a relatively limited manufacturing base make trading and commerce a way of life in Senegal. Senegal is a nation of traders, and France is its leading trading partner. A common language, a currency tied to the French franc, a substantial French commercial presence, and large flows of French financial aid have enhanced the bond. Senegal's trade with the U.S. is limited; but has begun to increase. Senegal imports food, capital equipment, and used clothing from the U.S., and exports to the U.S. live birds, seafood, and artisanal products. Senegal is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union which along with its central African counterpart and the Comoros islands forms the CFA franc zone, (the 3-country Senegal River Basin Development Organization, the 4-country Gambia River Basin Development Organization, and the l6-country Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS). Senegal participates actively and effectively in international affairs as a member of the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in negotiations on the General Agreement of Tariff and Trade (GATT), and as a member of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Sonatel, Senegal's telephone company, is extending and improving telephone service in the Dakar region as well as in the eastern part of the country. Water and waste disposal systems have improved in Dakar. Many residential and commercial areas now receive daily trash pickup. Following is a brief listing of the major commercial and economic centers outside of Dakar: Kaolack, l92 kilometers south of Dakar, economic capital of the Sine-Saloum River basin, is the commercial and shipping center of the richest peanut area in Senegal. It has developed since the 1920s into a city second only to Dakar in size and importance. A plant that makes salt from evaporated seawater and a peanut oil refinery are nearby.

Rufisque, only 28 kilometers south of Dakar, a city of over 100,000 people, antedates Dakar by several centuries. It was once the main commercial center and shipping point for the Cap Vert area, regaining considerable importance as an industrial and residential suburb after World War II. Well served by rail and highway, the city has textile factories, a pharmaceutical plant, and other enterprises. Nearby, in Bargny, a large Portland cement plant is operational. Rufisque is now administratively a part of the Dakar metropolitan area.

Thiès, 70 kilometers east of Dakar is a commercial, communications, and industrial center with over 176,000 residents. This regional capital is an important market for peanuts, Senegal's principal agricultural export. The railroad from Dakar branches at Thies, forming Senegal's two main lines north to Saint-Louis and east to the Mali border. Saint-Louis, 264 kilometers north of Dakar, at the mouth of the Senegal River, has a population of 115,372 people. First settled by the French in 1659, the city was the colonial capital of Senegal and Mauritania. For many years it was the maritime outlet for waterborne commerce of the Senegal River Basin. In 1885, when the Saint-Louis/Dakar Railroad was completed, the city declined as a seaport and commercial center. Today, it remains important as the capital of the Fleuve Region. Ziguinchor, 454 kilometers south of Dakar, is the economic capital of the Casamance Region with a seaport and commercial center for a well-populated area of farms, timberlands, and fisheries. It has over 125,000 people, compared to some 6,000 in 1937. Located on the south bank of the Casamance River, 65 kilometers above its mouth, the city is 260 kilometers by road (through The Gambia) from Kaolack. A fairly good road runs 24 kilometers south to San Domingos, Guinea-Bissau. Ziguinchor has a small number of industries, including several sawmills, an ice factory, and a peanut processing plant. The airfield serves scheduled flights to Dakar, Bissau, and Cap Skirring, an important seaside resort which boasts a Club Med and Savannah Hotel as well as locally run hotels and pensions.


Good roads make a variety of excellent resorts around the perimeter of the city easily accessible by car. Driving is on the right side of the road and international road symbols are used. Priority to the right is the rule governing most intersections not controlled by traffic lights or police.

Dakar has an extensive public transportation system, but buses are often overcrowded and off schedule. Most American personnel prefer to use their own cars or to take taxis. Taxi fares are not set; metered taxis are rarely available throughout the city. Passengers usually must negotiate fares before taking a taxi. However, fares are reasonable.

Dakar has excellent and frequent worldwide airline connections. Air Afrique has two flights per week to and from New York. European airlines servicing Dakar provide excellent connections to other areas of Africa and Europe. Dakar's international airport is usually busy since it is the connecting point for many flights terminating elsewhere in Africa. Make reservations as far in advance as possible for travel to Dakar or cities requiring onward air travel from Dakar. Trains are available from Dakar to some major cities in Senegal as well as to Bamako, Mali at very reasonable prices. Accommodations are very simple and delays often occur.


Telephone and Telegraph

Direct-dial telephone service between Dakar and the U.S. is available via satellite. Fax service is also available. Direct-dial rates from the U.S. to Dakar are significantly lower than those originating from Dakar. Some localities do not have lines available. Telegrams and Telefax are sent from Sonatel, Senegal's telephone company. Costs depend on destination. Service is generally reliable; however, telegrams occasionally fail to reach their destination.

Radio and TV

A good shortwave radio is useful for intercepting Voice of America (VOA) and British Broadcasting Company (BBC) programs. The international network, Radio Senegal, broadcasts mainly in French, and the national network transmits more than 40 hours weekly in the five national languages. Excellent music is often played on French broadcasts with some tapes furnished by the U.S. Information Service (USIS). A state-owned TV station broadcasts 3-4 hours per evening, including a 30-minute news program. Up to 13 other stations can be received if a locally purchased antenna is obtained. Only multi-system TVs (SECAM) can be used for reception of these channels.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Some English-language newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune, are available a day late from local newsstands. International editions of Newsweek, Time, and People are sold weekly. Regular delivery of papers and magazines must be arranged with local vendors or via subscriptions from Europe. Readily available are French newspapers including Le Monde and other popular periodicals. Dakar has three daily newspapers, published in French, and several weekly papers. When subscribing to periodicals from the U.S., consider the 3-to-4 week transit time to Dakar. Dakar's good bookstores stock mostly French books, at double French or U.S. prices.

Health and Medicine

The community in Dakar relies upon a few small multispecialist clinics and a large French military-administered general hospital (Hospital Principal).

Medical Facilities

Several local dentists do satisfactory work, but their services are expensive. Therefore, it is best to have all dental work done before arrival.

Community Health

Maintaining good health in Dakar means taking appropriate preventive measures. Anywhere in Senegal, amoebic dysentery, giardiasis, hepatitis, typhoid fever, and many worm infestations may be acquired from food or water. Therefore, all water for drinking and making ice cubes should be boiled and filtered. Cook all meat until well done and avoid raw seafood. Wash all raw, unpeeled fruit and vegetables in an iodine solution before cooking. Proper food handling is an essential measure of preventive medicine.

Malaria is endemic in Senegal, and all Americans should take malaria suppressants. Hepatitis is prevalent, and Americans should receive gamma globulin shots every 4 months. Tuberculosis, leprosy, meningitis, polio, influenza, and measles are also found in Senegal. All Americans must possess a current medical clearance, and a valid yellow fever immunization, and should have completed all required and recommended immunizations. Rodent and insect control is satisfactory.

Preventive Measures

The likelihood of contracting tropical diseases or infections is minimal if normal precautions are taken. Persons in good physical condition and adaptable by nature suffer no serious problems in Dakar. The danger of infections is minimal if small cuts and wounds are treated properly. The possibility of schistosomiasis should deter wading and swimming in all freshwater areas. Swimming is safe at designated beaches and swimming pools. For protection from Acquired Immune Deficiency (AIDS), avoid contaminated blood products, unsterilized needles, and take recommended precautions for avoiding sexual transmission.


American citizens entering Senegal must possess a valid passport, a Senegalese visa and an international inoculation certificate bearing evidence of inoculation against yellow fever.

Rabies is endemic in Senegal. Rabies shots should be renewed annually. Although no quarantine period is required, dogs and cats must have a valid health certificate and rabies certification before entering the country. Contact airlines for shipping details and secure reservations well in advance. Several veterinarians practice in Dakar, including an English-speaking doctor who makes house calls.

Exchange rates fluctuate based on the dollar exchange rate to the French franc. CFA and French francs are readily interchangeable in Dakar. CFA cannot be obtained or exchanged outside of CFA countries, except in France. The rate of exchange as of January 2001 was $1=699 CFA francs. Travelers checks are available at local banks. The metric system of weights and measures is used in Senegal.

Several commercial banks offer banking and exchange facilities. Major credit cards are accepted by most major hotels, restaurants, airlines, and some shops.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

April 4 Independence

Day Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day

May/June Ascension*

May/June Whitsunday (Pentecost)*

May/June Whitmonday*

Aug. 15 Assumption Day

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Dec. 25 Christmas Day

Hijra New Year*

Id al-Adah*


Id al-Fitr*

Mawlid an Nabi*



These publications are general indicators of available material on Senegal. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

American University, Area Handbook for Senegal. US Government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1974.

Aynor, H.S. Notes from Africa. Praeger. New York, 1969.

Ba, Mariama. So Long A Letter. African Writers Series (AWS) No. 248, Heinemann, London, Nairobi, Ibadan.

Colvin, Lucie G. Historical Dictionary of Senegal. African Historical Dictionaries Series, no. 23. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1981.

Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 1992. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.

Delgado, Christopher L., and SidiJammeh, eds. The Political Economy of Senegal Under Structural Adjustment. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Fall, Malick. The Wound, (AWS) No.144, Heinemann, London, Nairobi, Ibadan.

Fatton, Robert. The Making of a Liberal Democracy: Senegal's Passive Revolution, 1975-1985. Boulder, CO: L. Rienner Publishers, 1987.

Foltz, William J. From French West Africa to the Mali Federation. Yale University Press: New Haven, l965.

Gellar, Sheldon Senegal: An African Nation Between Islam and the West. Westview Press: Boulder, CO., 1982.

Gusewelle, Charles W. An African Notebook. Kansas City: Lowell Press, 1986.

Lutz, William. Senegal. New York:Chelsea House, 1988.

Markovits, I.L. Leopold-Sedar Senghor and the Politics of Negritude. Atheneum: New York, 1969.

Obrien, Donal B. Cruise Saints and Politicians: Essays in the organization of a Senegalese Peasant Society. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1972.

O'Brien, Rita Cruise. White Society in Black Africa: The French in Senegal. Faber and Faber: London, 1972.

Sembene, Ousmane. XALA, (AWS), No. l75, Heinemann, London, Nairobi, Ibadan.

. The Money Order, (AWS), No. 92, Heinemann, London, Nairobi, Ibadan.

Senegal: An Escalation in Human Rights Violations in Casamance Region. New York: Amnesty International Publications, 1991.

Senegal in Pictures. Minneapolis:Lerner Publications, 1987.

Senghor, Leopold-Sedar. Nocturnes (Poetry) (AWS) No. 7l, Heine-mann, London, Nairobi, Ibadan.

. Prose and Poetry, (AWS) No. l80, Heinemann, London, Nairobi, Ibadan.

. On African Socialism. Praeger: New York, 1964.

Terrell, K.D. The Industrial Labor Market and Economic Performance in Senegal. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1989.

Villalon, Leonardo. Democratizing A (Quasi) Democracy: The Senegalese Elections of 1993. African Affairs. Vol. X X E93: Pp. 163-193. Insight Guides: The Gambia and Senegal. APA Publications, Singapore, 1990.

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Republic of Senegal
République du Sénégal



A relatively small country located in West Africa, Senegal has a total area of 196,190 square kilometers (75,748 square miles), making it slightly smaller than the state of South Dakota. Water composes 4,190 square kilometers (1,618 square miles) of this area, while the coastline, which borders the North Atlantic Ocean, stretches for 531 kilometers (330 miles). Senegal is bordered to the north by Mauritania, to the east by the Republic of Mali, to the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The country of Gambia juts out below the central part of the Senegalese coast, creating a finger-like enclave that penetrates deep into Senegal. Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is located on the northern coast.


In July 2000 the population of Senegal was estimated at 9,987,494. The growth rate was estimated at 2.94 percent per year, with a birth rate of 37.94 births per 1,000 people, and a death rate of 8.57 deaths per 1,000 people. The population of Senegal is young, with 45 percent under 14 years of age, 52 percent between the ages of 15 and 64, and only 3 percent above 65. A young population can benefit the economy because there are fewer elderly people to care for. Yet it creates pressure on the economy to continually expand to create new employment opportunities for new entrants to the labor force . In 2000, the World Bank stated that 125,000 people were expected to join the Senegalese labor force every year, creating a major impediment to the country's developmental efforts. Therefore, the Senegalese government has adopted a population control policy designed to limit the birthrate of Senegalese women. The importance of reducing Senegal's high fertility (5.21 children born per woman) will be a difficult challenge for a country that is socially conservative and resistant to using birth control.

Like many African countries, the people of Senegal are ethnically diverse. Of the many ethnic groups that make up the Senegalese population, 43.3 percent are Wolof, 23.8 percent Pular, 14.7 percent Jola, 3 percent Mandinka, 1.1 percent Soninke, and 1 percent European and Lebanese. Several smaller ethnic groups compose the remaining 9.4 percent of the population. The country is mostly Muslim, with 92 percent of the population followers of Islam. Followers of several indigenous religions constitute about 6 percent of the population, while the remaining 2 percent are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic. French is the official language of the country, though many people speak indigenous languages such as Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, or Mandinka.


Throughout the latter part of the 19th century, the area that now comprises the country of Senegal, along with several other regions in West Africa, came under the colonial domination of France. As a French colony until 1960, Senegal based its economy on the exportation of peanuts. Though the dominance of the peanut industry led to a monocultural economy, the administrative apparatus constructed by the French created a demand for a locally educated elite to occupy these positions. The national elite that developed, and which has identified with French history and culture, took control of Senegal after independence in 1960.

Though Senegal has remained dependent on its peanut exports, the economy has diversified since independence. In the late 1960s and 1970s the state contributed to economic diversification by establishing public enterprises to fuel industrial growth. By 1974 there were 87 such enterprises but the government's emphasis on industry brought bias against the agricultural sector. The state controlled the purchasing of all agricultural produce to feed the masses of people flocking from rural to urban areas in search of employment. Under this state-controlled system, peasant farmers were paid for their produce at prices lower than its real worth.

In the late 1970s, the prices paid on the international market by importers of peanuts and phosphate increased, helping to improve the situation of the peasants. Phosphate was Senegal's second most important export. The prosperity that accompanied the elevation in international prices for Senegal's major exports was short-lived, however. Deterioration in the world price of peanuts, along with an increase in world prices for oil, a resource that Senegal imported heavily, led to an economic crisis in 1978.

By the early 1980s, Senegal was undergoing a first wave of reforms of structural adjustment as a condition of receiving badly needed loans from both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB). Structural adjustment, as the name implies, meant that Senegal was obliged to change certain "structures" within its economy, which the IMF and the WB viewed as inefficient to economic prosperity. The state was criticized for playing too great a role in the economy, creating corrupt enterprises (involving bribery in return for contracts) that drained state funding.

Many of Senegal's major exports, including peanuts, cotton, and fish, come from the agricultural sector. The modern, or non-agricultural, sector, which includes chemical industries, phosphates, petroleum refining, manufacturing, and tourism, is concentrated in Dakar and along the coastal belt. Senegal imports foods, beverages, capital goods , consumer goods , and unrefined petroleum products (such as crude oil). Because of historical ties between the 2 countries, France remains Senegal's largest trading partner.

Senegal has a huge trade deficit . In 2000 export revenue equaled US$959 million, while the costs of imports totaled US$1.3 billion. The country depends heavily on foreign assistance, which represented about 42.8 percent of the government's budget in 1994. Besides France, the European Union (EU) and Japan are major donor countries. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provides about US$30 million annually in assistance. Senegal has borrowed heavily, both from international financial institutions such as the WB and the IMF, and from commercial banks. In 1998 the country's debt amounted to US$3.4 billion.

Unemployment has been a long-standing economic problem for the people of Senegal. Though figures vary, several official estimates during the 1980s placed the unemployment rate between 20 and 30 percent. The CIA World Fact Book estimates that about 40 percent of all urban youth are unemployed. This situation has contributed to deep-seated urban problems such as juvenile delinquency and drug addiction.


Senegal is a democracy where people can vote in elections at age 18. They elect a president every 7 years as the head of state who, in turn, appoints a prime minister to head a government. The Council of Ministers, or cabinet, is appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the president. The unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, has 140 members who serve a 5-year term. The judiciary has 3 parts: the Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Council of State. The legal systems are based on French civil laws and are in need of strengthening as an institution. There is respect in both theory and practice for civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, association, movement, and democratic electoral procedures. The military, on which the state spent US$68 million in 1997, includes an army, airforce, navy, and a national security police force that is non-political and highly professional.

Senegal is recognized as one of the most democratic and politically stable countries on the continent of Africa. Unlike many other African states, Senegal has never experienced revolution or a military coup, yet, as Frederic C. Schaffer argues in his book Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture, Senegal's democracy is imperfect. Since its independence, a single-party rule has dominated, and the government has been accused of being corrupt and authoritarian. Furthermore, discontent in the rural Casamance region has led to an ongoing internal rebellion by the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC). The MFDC represents forces in the Casamance who feel marginalized and neglected by government policies.

After Senegal gained independence in 1960, the Senegalese government was headed by the Socialist Party (PS) until the presidential elections of March 2000. The current president, Abdoulaye Wade, represents the Democratic Party, though the Socialist Party still dominates the National Assembly. The Senegalese Socialist Party promotes a mixed economy in which both the market and the state play significant roles, unlike other socialist parties in the developing world that adhere to the communist ideals of complete state control of the economy. Before the 1980s, the PS insisted on a much greater economic role for the state, but as the Senegalese economy has become more liberalized , support for state control has diminished.

The WB and the IMF have made demands on Senegal to liberalize its economy in return for loans they have granted since the 1980s. They argue that state controls in the economy have proved inefficient because of the inability of parastatals (state-owned enterprises) to compete internationally with their privately-owned foreign counterparts. Many such enterprises have been privatized , although the state still dominates the telecommunications, transport, mining, and electric power industries. The state remains the country's largest employer and consumer.

While the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) makes up the largest opposition party, there are many other political parties, 26 in all, representing ideologies across the political landscape. According to the U.S. State Department Country Commercial Guide, opposition parties are personality-driven, relying on the charisma of their leaders rather than concrete ideas. Most parties differ little from the ruling PS about economic matters.

Taxation is the chief source of government revenue. In 1997 92.8 percent of revenue came from taxes, broken down as follows: 28.1 percent from income and property tax, 36.7 from taxes on goods and services, 25.2 percent from import tax, and 9.1 percent from taxes on petroleum products. Personal income tax is progressive, meaning those who earn more money must pay a higher percentage of tax than those who make less money. There are 10 tax brackets, or categories of taxable income. Those who make less than 600,000 CFA francs are not obligated to pay income tax.

Because of economic contraction in the early 1990s, the inability of many firms to compete and survive in a freer market led to a shrinking tax base for the government. Government was forced to rely on strict revenue measures, such as heavy taxation on petroleum imports. According to the World Bank, this caused harmful results to companies that depend on petroleum imports, forcing many to close or join the informal economy .


For a developing nation, Senegal has a well organized infrastructure compared to most other African countries. The World Bank estimated that in 1995 there were 507 kilometers (315 miles) of paved road per million people. The CIA World Fact Book 2001 notes that there are 14,576 kilometers (9,058 miles) of highway, 4,271 kilometers (2,653 miles) of which are paved. Although the railway system is somewhat antiquated, it carries more than 3 million tons of cargo per year. The railway network, which extends across 906 kilometers (563 miles), links the major cities to Dakar and provides services between Senegal and Mali. The port in Dakar is one of the few African ports with a floating dry dock, a container terminal, and container service. Despite the wide range of services, port charges are high and service is inefficient. There are also ports and harbors in Kaolack, Matam, Podor, Richard Toll, Saint-Louis, and Ziguinchor.

According to the U.S. Department of State Country Commercial Guide, the airport at Dakar is one of the principal international airports in West Africa, handling a variety of aircraft on its 2 runways. The airport serves more than 24 international airlines, handling 1.5 million passengers per year and moving more than 20,000 metric tons of international airfreight. There are direct flights to Europe and North America, along with frequent flights to several African countries. Secondary airports are located in the regions of Saint-Louis, Tambacounda, and Ziguinchor. In total, there were 20 airports in 1999.

The parastatal Senelec supplies electricity in Senegal, though the electric power market is open to foreign investment. France has invested heavily in this sector of the economy. Senegal produces 1.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year, all of which is created domestically by fossil fuel. Therefore, the country has no need to import electricity from abroad. To meet the rapidly growing demand for increased capacity, Senelec is actively seeking upgrades to its existing power-generating capabilities.

The telecommunications sector is dominated by Sonatel, another parastatal. In 1996 there were only 11 phone lines per 1000 people, compared to 640 phone lines per 1000 people in the United States. Access to the Internet is severely restricted. In 1996 there were 0.31 Internet hosts per 1000 people, but in the United States there were 442.11 Internet hosts per 1000 people. Sonatel hopes to modernize the telecommunications industry by digitizing its current network and installing a fiber optic network and cellular telephone system. As in the case of the electricity market, France has also invested heavily in telecommunications. The competitive advantage of French firms in this sector relates, in part, to concessional funding (funds are granted in exchange for specific contracts) given by the French government to the Senegalese government for the modernization of the telecommunications network.


Senegal's economic sectors reflect the traditional nature of the society. Since most Senegalese live in the countryside, the agriculture sector provides employment for most of the population. Moreover, agricultural products comprise Senegal's most important exports. Because

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Senegal 5 142 41 N/A 2 N/A 11.4 0.28 30
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Nigeria 24 223 66 N/A 0 N/A 5.7 0.00 100
Guinea N/A 47 41 0.0 3 0.4 2.6 0.00 5
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

these products are generally worth less than manufactured goods or services, the industrial and service sectors generate a larger percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) than the agricultural sector. While agriculture provided 19 percent of GDP in 1997, the industrial sector and the services sector provided 20 percent and 61 percent, respectively, in 1997.


The agricultural sector occupies the largest percentage of the population, employing 60 percent of the Senegalese labor force. The sector includes farming, livestock husbandry, fishing, and forestry. It accounts for about 19 percent of the country's GDP. The most important agricultural activity in Senegal is peanut production. Other important primary products produced for the domestic market include millet, corn, sorghum, rice, cotton, tomatoes, green vegetables, cattle, poultry, pigs, and fish. Besides peanuts, primary exports include fish and cotton.

With agricultural production playing such a dominant role in the Senegalese economy, the country is susceptible to destructive natural forces such as declining rainfall and desertification . Countries that rely heavily on agriculture are similarly vulnerable, but the problems are particularly severe in Senegal, a semi-arid country in which rainfall can vary considerably from year to year. Moreover, only 12 percent of all land is arable (capable of supporting agriculture). The prices of agricultural commodities in the international market are similarly dependent upon natural forces. If there were to be heavy rainfall in all peanut-producing countries, the international supply of peanuts would be high, leading to a decrease in the international price for peanuts because of the abundant supply. Since it is impossible to predict the situation in any given year, fluctuating prices are a constant threat and source of insecurity for agricultural nations like Senegal.

Groundnut production takes up 42 percent of all cultivated land, providing income for more than 1 million people. Each year, Senegal produces thousands of metric tons of peanuts, with output depending on rainfall. In 1990, about 703,000 metric tons were produced, while output in 1997 was much less at 545,000 metric tons. Senegalese research authorities found oscillating patterns of rainfall over a 40-year period on the groundnut basin. In 1989 the level of rainfall was 7,785 millimeters (30.9 inches), while in 1999 it was only 507 millimeters (20 inches). Furthermore, the sector continues to suffer from a shrinking market, with world demand for peanuts showing a steady decline. Production is also being affected by natural environmental factors, such as soil depletion. Exports of peanut products provided US$20 million in income in 1994.

The Senegalese government has made efforts to reduce dependence on groundnuts by diversifying cash and food crops, by expanding cotton, rice, sugar, and market-garden produce. While the output of each crop has risen sharply over the past 20 years, the annual average output of rice (150,000 tons) fails to meet even domestic demand, which runs at about 500,000 tons. Since rice is the major staple of the urban population, Senegal is forced to import rice from abroad, mostly from the Far East. Several small and medium-sized development projects, supported by foreign aid, were adopted throughout the 1990s to increase the area of irrigated land that is needed to grow rice. The traditional food sector, which consists of millet, sorghum and maize, has increased its overall output since the mid-1970s, though fluctuations because of the level of rainfall are the norm.


The fishing industry is one of the most important areas of primary sector activity in Senegal. In 1994 the industry accounted for 8.5 percent of the GDP, employed 200,000 persons, provided 27.3 percent of total exports, and earned US$240 million. Favorable world prices and competitive pricing because of the 1994 currency devaluation boosted fishing exports. The output of fishing, or "fish-catch," reached 486,800 metric tons in 1997. This figure demonstrates the exceptional growth of the fishing industry in recent years, considering that total output for 1991 was only 387,800 metric tons. According to the U.S. State Department Country Commercial Guide, the development of the fishing sector is hampered by an aging and outmoded fleet, the threat of over-fishing (thereby depleting supply), and stiff competition from South Asia in international fish markets.

Livestock and forestry are less important contributors to the country's GDP. Forestry has shown little growth over the years, comprising only 0.8 percent of the GDP in 1991 and marginally less in 1998 (0.6 percent of the GDP). Livestock has figured more prominently. In 1991 it included 6.9 percent of the GDP and 7.0 percent in 1998.


The secondary economic sector, that is, the sector that converts primary goods into finished products and is more commonly referred to as industry, accounted for 20 percent of Senegal's GDP in 1997. The 2 major industrial activities are mining and manufacturing.


Mining output in Senegal is primarily calcium phosphates. In 1994 phosphate and phosphate products accounted for 19 percent of total merchandise export earnings, producing US$162 million in export revenue. While Europe has traditionally been the major importer of Senegalese phosphates, the U.S. State Department Country Commercial Guide notes that new markets in Asia and Africa have recently developed. Despite its importance as an exporting industry, however, phosphates have not played a large role domestically. Phosphate mining accounts for less than 2 percent of Senegal's GDP. The industry provides important jobs, but only about 2,000 are available. Production of phosphates has also decreased over the past several years. In 1991 phosphate production reached 1,546 metric tons, whereas figures for 1998 were much less at 1,087 metric tons. This reflects diminishing reserves of phosphates and illustrates how environmental or geographical factors can influence a country's economy.


Manufacturing is an important component of the secondary sector, accounting for 12.5 percent of GDP. Senegalese industries process a range of commodities that includes food, textiles, wood products, chemicals, construction materials, machinery, equipment, electricity, and water. Food ranks as the most important economic contributor, accounting for 43.1 percent of all industrial manufacturing output. Food production consists of fish canning, oil milling, and sugar refining. Textiles, along with clothing and leather, account for 12.3 percent of all manufacturing output. Senegal's textile industry is the most important in black francophone (French-speaking) Africa, with 4 cotton-ginning mills and spinning, weaving, dyeing, and printing plants. Chemical industries are the third largest contributor and account for 11.4 percent of output. Senegal produces refined petroleum, fertilizers, pesticides, plastic, and rubber materials. Industrial production grew 7 percent in 1998, indicating that industrial manufacturing offers important prospects for future economic growth.


The tertiary or service sector is the most productive sector in the Senegalese economy. It accounted for 61 percent of the GDP in 1997. Commerce, which is centered in Dakar and other urban areas, is the largest component of tertiary activity. In 1991 commerce made up 22.7 percent of the GDP, though the contribution diminished slightly by 1998, accounting for 21.1 percent of the GDP. Commerce included the buying and selling of commodities and services, and banking and finance.


. Known for its mild climate, multiple beaches, and great sport fishing, Senegal has long been a tourist destination for European travelers, particularly the French. The high season runs from December to February, when Senegalese weather is most inviting. In recent years, the tourist industry has skyrocketed. In 1991 about 269,300 tourists visited Senegal, contributing 37.9 billion CFA francs to the economy. By 1997 the number of visitors reached 341,500 and contributed 80 billion CFA francs to the economy. Tourism is now one of Senegal's major sources of foreign currency earnings, which are vital for meeting the country's import bills. Although most tourists are French, there has been a rise in vacationers from other European countries and from North America. Most of the impetus towards growth in the tourism industry has come from the private sector . The government has hardly invested in tourism over the past 10 years and sold off many state-owned hotels to the private sector.


As a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), Senegal shares its currency, the CFA franc, with 6 other member countries: Benin, Togo, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The CFA franc is issued by the West African Central Bank. The commercial banking sector has a long history in Senegal, which has 8 banks, all of them established prior to the 1990s. The largest banks are French, reflecting the historical link between the French and Senegalese economies. The Société Generale de Banques du Senegal (SGBS), the largest commercial bank, with total deposits and borrowing equaling 152,099 million CFA francs, is an affiliate of the Société Generale de Banques of France. The Senegalese government does not own any shares in the bank. The other commercial banks are owned by private and foreign (French) shareholders, the major exception being the Caisse Nationale de Crédit Agricole du Senegal.


Besides a few large French-owned import-export firms that are involved in retailing, there are many competitive small-scale traders specializing in the wholesale and retail distribution of fabrics and consumer goods. In the past, Lebanese merchants were the interface between French trading companies and the Senegalese population. They are gradually being replaced by Senegalese merchants selling popular consumer goods, such as textiles and electronics. There are also a limited number of larger retail stores, such as supermarkets, which deal in imported goods. Since the currency devaluation in 1994, however, these stores are threatened by the high costs of imports.

Because of the few employment opportunities offered in the formal economy, many Senegalese have turned to the informal sector to survive. The informal sector remains unregulated and untaxed because it operates outside the administrative framework of the government. The sector's activities are not criminal, but "extra-legal," meaning they are legitimate and not controlled. Informal activities range from selling fruit on street-corners to selling sophisticated high-tech stereo equipment. There are about 30,000 small businesses in the informal sector, employing about 57,000 persons, according to 1995 estimates. Sandaga, a sprawling unregulated market in the heart of Dakar, is the capital's principal distribution center for manufactured goods such as textiles, footwear, cosmetics, food, and electronic equipment.


Senegal suffers from a trade deficit. In 1991 the value of the country's exports equaled 79.6 billion CFA francs, although the value of imports equaled 100 billion CFA francs. In 1997 the value of exports grew far greater, equaling 177.8 billion CFA francs. Yet, the value of imports continued to outpace exports, growing to about 226.4 billion CFA francs. In 2000, the trade deficit reached US$341 million on exports of US$1.3 billion and imports of US$959 million.

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Senegal
Exports Imports
1975 .461 .583
1980 .477 1.052
1985 .562 .826
1990 .762 1.220
1995 .969 1.243
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

Senegal relies heavily on primary commodities such as groundnut products, phosphates, fish, and cotton for its export revenue. Though France remains Senegal's largest trading partner, its share of Senegal's exports has declined steadily over the past decade. In 1990, about 34.4 percent of Senegal's exports went to France. By 1999, however, this figure had declined to 17 percent. Other important trading partners include India (17 percent), Italy (12 percent), Spain (6 percent), Mali (6 percent), and Côte d'Ivoire (4 percent). Over the years the amount of trade to the major industrialized European countries has dropped, shifting instead to Asian or other African countries. A recent publication by the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 2000) indicates that the industrial countries are importing less from the African continent. UNCTAD attributes this decline to the inability of African countries to compete with Latin American and Asian countries for the markets of the developed world. Senegal now exports predominantly to other developing countries. Many of these countries are African, the most significant of which are Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, and Nigeria. Developing countries purchased 67.6 percent of Senegal's exports in 1998 (January-June). This figure doubled over an 8-year period from 1990, when developing countries only accounted for 34.3 percent of all Senegalese imports.

Trade between Senegal and its West African neighbors has been facilitated through 2 regional trading organizations: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which consists of 16 member-states, and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). The latter is a more integrated regional trading arrangement so that the 7 francophone states that share the same currency enjoy closer economic relationships and cooperation. UNCTAD suggests that most of the recent increase in trade between West African countries can be attributed to increased demand for primary commodities by the larger countries in the region.

Although Senegal exports primarily to developing countries, it continues to import most of its foreign goods from industrialized nations. France provided a majority of imports in 1999, with 30 percent. Other major importers are Nigeria (7 percent), Italy (6 percent), Thailand (5 percent), Germany (4 percent), and the United States (4 percent). Senegal imports from industrial countries because it requires many capital and consumer goods that it cannot produce itself. Imported capital goods are important to manufacturing industries, while luxury consumer goods are in high demand by Senegal's wealthy elite. Since neighboring African countries lack the modern industrialized economies necessary to produce high quality capital and consumer goods, Senegal must look to the developed world for such commodities.


Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Senegal suffered extreme economic difficulties characterized by sustained recession and under-utilized capacity (which means that the working age population was not used to its full potential). One of the symptoms of the troubled Senegalese economy was a chronic balance of payments deficit. The WB and the IMF, therefore, contested that Senegal should devalue its currency, which would lower the price of its exports and make its products more attractive to the international markets. Devaluation would make the Senegalese economy more competitive and help to rectify the balance of payments problem.

On the eve of the devaluation in January 1994, the Senegalese currency, the Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFAF), was valued at 50 CFA francs to 1 French franc. Devaluation converted this figure to 100 CFA francs to 1 French franc. Since 1 January 1999, the CFAF has been fixed to the euro (the currency of the EU countries) at a rate of 655.957 CFA francs per euro, a rate which reflects the devaluation of 1994. This connection causes the value of the CFA franc to adjust to the value of the euro in international foreign exchange markets. In January 2000 the CFA franc-dollar exchange was 647.25 CFA francs to 1 U.S. dollar.

Exchange rates: Senegal
Communauté Financiére Africaine francs per US$1
Jan 2001 699.21
2000 711.98
1999 615.70
1998 589.95
1997 583.67
1996 511.55
Note: From January 1, 1999, the CFA Fr is pegged to the euro at a rate of 655.957 CFA Fr per euro.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Although WB contends that devaluation stimulated growth in the export-oriented sectors of the Senegalese economy, and in the economy as a whole, it has also brought negative results. Devaluing the exchange rate increases the amount of currency needed to pay for imports. For the urban poor, who are dependent upon imported food, the cost of food has escalated. Since the urban poor are already malnourished, devaluation has been detrimental to the nation's well-being. Moreover, Senegal continues to run a balance of payments deficit, despite its more competitive position in the international market.


Like many African countries, poverty is rampant in Senegal. Also, GDP per capita has actually declined over the past 25 years. The GDP per capita in 1975 was US$609 and by 1998 it had fallen to US$581 (at 1995 U.S. dollar exchange rates). In the same year, the GDP per capita in the United States was US$29,683. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which classifies countries according to their human development index score (HDI), ranked Senegal 155th out of 174 countries in 1998, while the United States ranked third. The HDI is a composite index that examines specific figures on education, health, and standard of living. Senegal's low ranking reflects the country's low development in these areas, consistent with its overall poverty.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Senegal 609 557 561 572 581
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Nigeria 301 314 230 258 256
Guinea N/A N/A N/A 532 594
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Senegal
Lowest 10% 2.6
Lowest 20% 6.4
Second 20% 10.3
Third 20% 14.5
Fourth 20% 20.6
Highest 20% 48.2
Highest 10% 33.5
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Senegal 46 13 13 3 15 3 7
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Nigeria 51 5 31 2 8 2 2
Guinea 29 18 5 2 9 16 21
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The people of Senegal, like many of the poor across the world, spend much of their money on getting the necessities of life, such as food. The UNDP estimates that food averages 52 percent of Senegalese household consumption compared to the United States, where food only accounts for 8 percent of household consumption. For this reason, the Senegalese are vulnerable to increases in the price of basic foods. Because food is the highest priority, little money is left over to pay for other necessities such as clothes and shelter. The poor make up most of the urban population and live in run-down areas or makeshift shanty towns thrown together on land that is not paid for. Saving to escape the conditions of poverty is not an option, since the poor must spend all their money to survive.

The poverty of most of the Senegalese people stands in marked contrast to the wealth of the country's small elite. After independence, the elite comprised a few Senegalese businessmen in the private sector, influential politicians, government ministers, university professors, and political cadres (in this case, members of the Socialist Party) who worked for parastatals. As Sheldon Gellar notes in his book Senegal: An African Nation Between Islam and the West, the elite group is predominantly male, urban, highly educated, politically connected, and able to afford European-style living standards. Perks include the ownership of cars, modern appliances, nice villas or apartments, the provision of good schooling and higher education for their children, and opportunities to travel abroad. In the rural areas, Muslim clerics, known as marabouts, make up a wealthy agricultural elite. Gellar also notes that structural adjustment plans have increased the inequality between the Senegalese elite and the masses. While the standard of living for the poor has declined, the nation's wealthy continue to prosper.


Senegal maintains a comprehensive labor code that defines legal regulations about workers' rights and employer obligations. According to the U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights in Senegal (1998), most Senegalese workers fall outside the laws of the labor code because they work in the informal or agricultural sectors. The law only applies to the non-agricultural formal sector. Moreover, certain regulations, such as those relating to safety standards in the work place, are neither adequately monitored nor enforced by the government. Because most workers are unskilled and uneducated and there are few employment opportunities in the economy, workers usually find themselves unable to contest violations of labor code standards. Thus, working conditions are often sub-standard.

Under the Senegalese constitution, the minimum age for employment is 16 years for apprenticeships and 18 years for all other activities. The government has strictly enforced this article of the constitution in the formal sector, though child labor is common in the agriculture and informal sectors. Most families in these sectors are so disadvantaged that all family members must work, regardless of age.

After independence, Senegal ratified the International Labor Convention No. 87, regarding freedom of association and protection of the right to organize. Senegal also ratified convention No. 48, which provides rights to organize and bargain collectively. Senegal has a long history of organized trade unions. Nearly all workers in the industrial sector of the economy are unionized. The principal labor unions are the National Confederation of Senegalese Workers (CNTS) and the National Union of Autonomous Labor Organizations of Senegal (UNSAS). The CNTS is an umbrella union that organizes individual unions into a collective framework. The PS established it in 1968 after the National Union of Senegalese Workers was dissolved due to its opposition to government policies. Under President Leopold Senghor's program of "responsible participation," CNTS leaders were given important party and government posts. Despite being allied with the PS, the union has often disagreed with government policies. In 1986, changes in the labor code provided more room for employers to lay off workers and caused a great deal of agitation from CNTS supporters.

In recent years, trade unions and political persuasions united to protest government policies. In September 1993, the Intersyndicale (a broad trade union coalition headed by the CNTS that also includes independent unions and those close to the major opposition parties) led a one-day general strike to protest the government's decision to cut state employee salaries by 15 percent. The decision to cut the salaries was made in compliance with IMF and WB demands for greater cutbacks in government spending. UNSAS, the second most important union in the coalition, broke away from Intersyndicale after the organization decided to negotiate with the government following the general strike. UNSAS has supported a less compromising stance towards unpopular government policies, making it difficult for the union to work with its less militant counterparts.


4TH CENTURY A.D. The first centralized state in what becomes the Senegal region, the Tekrur kingdom, develops in the Senegal River valley.

1040. Zenaga Berbers from the north establish an Islamic monastery, probably along the Senegal River. The monastery subsequently became the base of the Almoravids, who converted many of the region's people to Islam.

13TH CENTURY. The Tekrur kingdom falls under the dominance of the Mali Empire, which is centered to the east. During the same period, the Jolof kingdom arises on the northwestern savanna, conquering the Wolof inhabitants. Thereafter, various Muslim states and kingdoms rise and fall in the northern grasslands and central savannas of present-day Senegal, contributing to a tradition of centralized states and rigid social hierarchies.

1444. Portuguese navigators become the first Europeans known to visit the area of present-day Senegal and Gambia. Until the end of the 16th century, the Senegambian region is the most important source of slaves for the transatlantic slave trade.

1659. The French establish a slave-trading post on the island of Saint-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River, while the British establish a base around the Gambia River. These divisions later result in the independent nations of English-speaking Gambia and French-speaking Senegal.

1840s. Peanuts become the major trade commodity of interest for the French operating in Senegambia. In the coming decades France conquers the Wolof and Serer states in order to exert greater control over the peanut trade.

1886. With the decisive conquest of Cayor State, the French more or less control all of present-day Senegal, with the exception of the Casamance, which was not fully subjugated until the 1920s.

1890-1919. Beginning in the 1890s, a Senegalese urban elite that identifies with French culture and customs develops. In 1914, these elites are given the vote, and the urban areas in Senegal are allocated 1 seat in the French National Assembly. Blaise Diagne becomes the first African deputy. In 1919, he founds the Republican Socialist Party, the first western-style political party in the region.

1929. Lamine Gueye, Diagne's major political opponent, founds the Senegalese Socialist Party, with links to the French Socialist Party.

1930s. The decline in global demand for peanuts as a result of the global economic depression leads to increased hardship and poverty in Senegal.

1945. The French government extends the vote to rural Senegal, which gains a seat in the French assembly alongside that of the urban areas. Gueye wins the election for the urban seat while his protégé, Leopold Sedar Senghor, wins the rural seat. Senghor later breaks with the socialists and founds his own party, the Senegalese Democratic Bloc (BDS).

1956-59. France permits limited self-government within its African colonies. In 1957, the socialists merge with the BDS to form the Senegalese Progressive Union (UPS), which subsequently wins a strong majority in the 1959 national elections. Popular demands for complete independence from France increase, and the UPS negotiates with the French government for independence as part of a Mali Federation.

1960. On 4 April, the Mali Federation, which combines present-day Senegal and Mali, becomes independent, but the federation is short-lived. Rivalry between Senegal and Mali soon leads to its dissolution, and in August 1960, Senegal becomes an independent state with Leopold Senghor as president.

1962. A power struggle between President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia leads to the latter's imprisonment and the banning of opposition parties.

1968. Lack of political debate leads to student protests and union strikes, which are routinely crushed by the army.

1970-75. The rapid rise in the cost of imported oil, combined with drought in the Sahel region, creates an economic crisis.

1973. The West African Economic Community (CEAO) of 7 francophone states is established to facilitate trade between member states.

1975. Senegal joins the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization of 16 West African states designed to facilitate trade and development between members.

1976. The government releases Dia from prison, and a new constitution permits 3 political parties.

1977. Senghor wins the first contested presidential elections since 1963.

1980. As Senghor's popularity declines due to economic stagnation, the president announces his resignation.

1981. Senghor's protégé, Abdou Diouf, takes office. Under the auspices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Diouf gradually replaces the Socialist Party's ideology of state-led "African Socialism" with a free-market oriented policy. Senegal and Gambia proclaim a regional alliance, the Senegambian Confederation.

1984. Discontent in the rural Casamance region of Senegal leads to the beginning of an internal rebellion by the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC).

1989. The Senegambian Confederation is disbanded due to Gambian fears of absorption into Senegal.

1994. The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) is established to replace the CEAO. The CFA franc, the common currency of UEMOA, is devalued by nearly 100 percent.

2000. Abdoulaye Wade, from the Democratic Party, is elected president, making him the country's first non-socialist president since the country gained independence in 1960.


Like many African countries and developing nations, Senegal enters the 21st century with deep-seated economic difficulties. Several economic plans and strategies that have been pursued by the Senegalese government since independence have failed to generate sustained economic development. Mass unemployment, continued dependence on agricultural exportation for foreign revenue, a widening trade deficit, and chronic poverty continue to characterize the Senegalese economic situation. The recent emphasis on privatization and free-market competition has thus far failed to break the pattern. Structural adjustment plans have helped to contain macro-economic instability (in the form of inflation ), but they have not improved the impoverished conditions of the masses. Structural adjustment and the emphasis on the free-market has created greater inequality and increased hardship for the poor.

However, the situation in Senegal is not entirely bleak. On the political front, the victory of a Democratic Party candidate in the 2000 presidential elections indicated that Senegal might be progressing toward a more open and less authoritarian democracy. Economically, the various regional integration schemes developed in West Africa may provide an impetus for Senegal and other West African nations to experience economic growth. By providing preferential access to member states, such regional schemes can cushion West African nations against competition from the more competitive outside world.


Senegal has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Senegal. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Gellar, Sheldon. Senegal: An African Nation between Islam and the West. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.

International Monetary Fund. "Senegal and the IMF." International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed January 2001.

Schaffer, Frederic C. Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998.

Senegal Tourism Office. <>.Accessed October 2001.

UNCTAD. African Development in a Comparative Perspective .New York: Africa World Press, Inc. 2000.

United Nations. Human Development Report 2000. New York:Oxford University Press, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Senegal. <>. Accessed October 2001.

World Bank Group. "Senegal." World Bank Group. <>. Accessed October 2001.

Neil Burron




Communauté Financiére Africaine franc (CFA Fr). There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 CFA francs, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 CFA francs.


Fish, groundnuts (peanuts), petroleum products, phosphates, cotton.


Foods and beverages, consumer goods, capital goods, petroleum products.


US$16 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$959 million (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$1.2 billion (f.o.b.,2000).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Senegal
Region: Africa
Population: 9,987,494
Language(s): French, Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka
Literacy Rate: 33.1%
Number of Primary Schools: 3,884
Compulsory Schooling: 6 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 3.7%
Libraries: 30
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 1,026,570
  Secondary: 215,988
  Higher: 24,081
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 71%
  Secondary: 16%
  Higher: 3%
Teachers: Primary: 18,373
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 56:1
  Secondary: 24:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 65%
  Secondary: 12%

History & Background

Senegal, a West African republic on the westernmost tip of Africa, is a country of remarkable beauty, tradition, and human diversity. Dakar is the capital and largest city. Geographically, the country is almost split by the presence of Gambia, a slender nation situated on both the north and south bank of the Sénégal River.

The national language is Wolof; however, French is the official language. Other languages spoken are Pulaaar, Serer, Diola, Mandingo, and Soninke. Approximately fifteen percent of Senegalese people can understand or read and write French.

The climate is tropical or Sahelian, that is, transitional between the Sahara on the north and the moister regions to the south. The average annual temperature is 29(C) 84(F). There is a short rainy season as well as a long dry season. To the north are found grasslands, or, increasingly, as the desert ecosystem creeps southward, desert. To the south and the southeast are found heavier vegetation and trees. The terrain is flat or gently undulating, but foothills are found in the extreme southeast. Decades of drought in the entire Sahel region of Africa, along with Senegal's population growth, have put severe pressures on the natural environment.

Groundnut oil was for years the major export and foreign exchange earner. Recently it has been surpassed by, first, the fish industry, and, second, by tourism (101 billion CFA francs in 1999). However, agriculture employs more workers than any other sector. Per capita income in 1998 was US$520.

Archaeological findings confirm that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times by both Paleolithic and Neolithic civilizations. Islam became established in the region in the eleventh century, and in the thirteenth and fourteenth century Senegal came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east.

Trade links with Europe were established from the fifteenth century on, first by the Portuguese and then by the Dutch, British, and French. The relationship remained an economic one until Senegal became a colony of France in 1895. Only after World War II was a territory assembly formed and citizens given the right to vote.

Senegal achieved its independence from France in 1960, first becoming a part of the Mali Federation, but later that same day becoming an independent republic. Senegal long enjoyed preeminence over other French colonies in Africa. Dakar was the capital of French West Africa and became the center from which the French governed and developed their African empire. As such, it was a center for education, providing greater access to Western education. Along with the other three "communes," Goreé, Rufisque, and Saint Louis, its citizens were granted full citizenship rights.

Its European-patterned system of education produced assimilés who prized French educational ideals. Such a system was designed to draw the best minds out of society and train them for positions of leadership in government and civil administration. The Senegalese education was at one time regarded as the finest in francophone Africa, although over the past several decades certain factors have contributed to a decline in the quality of education.

Senegal is a republic with a strong presidency, a weak legislature, and a somewhat independent judiciary. Abdoulaye Wade, who had tried four times for the presidency, was elected president in March of 2000. His election was widely hailed as a triumph for the democratic constitutional system. In Wade's campaign, he emphasized physical infrastructure, education, and the fight against corruption as his main development priorities.

Senegal has a rich tradition of the griot, a storyteller/performer/wise person. It is also rich in literary treasures. Notable works of literature include the tales of Birago Diop, Mariama Bâ's powerful womanist novel Une si longue lettre (So Long a Letter ), and Ken Bugul's Le Baobab fou. Bâ's novel is of particular interest to educators as it tells the story of a woman teacher's life and relationships.

It must be remembered too that the first president of newly independent Senegal in 1960 was Leopold Senghor, a poet and classicist. Senghor was a leader in the Négritude movement, a protest against the French policy of assimilation and a reassertion of the positive values of African culture. Another notable writer was Cheikh Anta Diop, who died in 1986, a modern champion of African identity and African unity.

The social and cultural life of Senegal is strongly influenced by traditional religious values. In this the Marabouts, or traditional religious leaders, play a key role at all levels, both spiritual and temporal. Senegal is predominately a rural, Islamic, polygamous, traditional, and ethnically diverse society. Although women have equal rights under the law, they have little decision-making power at the higher levels of social and economic life; this is in spite of the fact that women are highly active in the lower levels of economic life. Women's illiteracy and lack of access to the information system represent a serious obstacle to family well being. Children are highly valued, representing a woman's social worth and status. Contraceptive use is low, and most families are said to desire more than the average 6.4 children (Cain and Schuman 1994). The majority of the population of Senegal is rural (about 64 percent), but this is rapidly changing with migration to the cities and environmental changes in the countryside.

Poverty remains a serious presence in Senegal and can clearly be tied to the lack of opportunities for women. Per capita income has remained scarcely unchanged since independence in 1960. A minimum weekly wage is guaranteed at 27 dollars per week. However, cost of living estimates set a weekly need at 36 dollars per wage earner (Cain and Schuman 1994). About 50 percent of the population still do not have access to clean drinking water. The substantial foreign assistance received through Senegal's cooperation with foreign nongovernmental organizations amounts to about 15 percent of the GNP.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The constitution calls for a free, compulsory, and universal education for children between the ages of six and fourteen. It also provides for a Minister of National Education, a Minister of Technical Education and Training (responsible for vocational and technical education), a Minister of Popular Education (responsible for adult literacy), and a Minister of Youth and Sports. All of these ministries are involved in the complexities of national planning for education. However, the bias is toward the formal school system. For example, less than one half of one percent of the Ministry of Education's budget goes toward improving literacy among the adult population (Cain and Schuman 1994).

In the first years of independence, it became clear that the broad vision of universal education as called for by the constitution would not be immediately obtainable because of a dire shortage of qualified teachers and a restricted number of classrooms. Furthermore, the question of absorbing that number of educated people into the occupational structure became a concern. Serious conflict about the educational policies of the government ensued, with a series of strikes by primary and secondary students, teachers, and teachers' unions.

In 1969 a reform began that involved a change in short-term goals. The goal became one of enabling 50 percent of all children to gain access to primary education by the year 2000. To avoid unemployment among graduates, expansion was deliberately slowed.

In 1971, a National Education (Basic Aims) act was adopted by the National Assembly which defined Senegalese national education as "a specifically African education, rooted in but rising above and transcending African realities in such a way as to transform them and bring about the full flowering of African cultural values..." (M'Bengue 1973). It charged the educational system with the use of national languages and modern educational techniques.

However, to this time Senegal lacks a consensus on what it means to "Senegalize" the educational system (Rideout and Babayoko 1994). For the educated elite, the issue is how to preserve the prestigious francophone system; for the less elite, it means creating a system, materials, and curriculum that reflect African languages and reality.

Lack of resources coupled with population growth and a rapidly declining average age (half the population is under age sixteen) more than doubled the school-age population in three decades, which classroom construction, materials development, and teacher education could not begin to keep pace with. Desperation, dismay, and anger resulted from students and recent graduates who have become cynical about their prospects for finding appropriate jobs.

These realities forced the government of Senegal in the 1980s to begin examining reform schemes and alternative methods of education. President Diouf gave in to repeated calls to convene what was to be called the Etats Généraux de l'Education (EG). That designation was chosen because of its traditional links to democracy and reform in France and because it showed the intention to represent diverse elements of the body politic. The EG produced an impressive degree of consensus in its recommendations: universal primary school enrollment, Islamic education and instruction in national languages within the formal school system, greater interaction between school and community, and greater recognition of teachers as active development agents who should be provided with adequate facilities.

Curriculum decisions are made at the national level by the Ministry of Education in consultation with interested parties. Materials are developed by the National Institute for Research and Actions for the Development of Education (INEADE), sent to the local levels for consultation, and then officially adopted. The process shows a highly centralized decision-making structure but a lack of follow-up support to implement changes.

Educational SystemOverview

Before the establishment of a European educational system, Koranic schools educated young males in the teachings of Islam and often in reading and writing Arabic. Today, the Islamic-Arabic element of education is practically absent from the public school curriculum. To compensate, students sometimes participate in parallel educational programs, absenting themselves from public school part of the time. Reformers, particularly the Tidjane of the urban areas, started a system of schools with the help of the Federation of Moslem Cultural Associations of Senegal. These schools provide an Arabic education which permits entry into higher secondary schooling in the Arab world (Michel 1988).

During the first twenty years of Senegal's independence, President Senghor (alleged to have said, "French is the language of the Gods") and others staunchly defended maintaining the French education model. Its programs, structures, and aims continued to make it "an apprentice of the French school" (Rideout and Bagayoko 1994). Despite reform efforts which have repeatedly pressed for a "specifically African" curriculum, the language of instruction remains predominately French.

Despite evidence of the benefits of mother tongue instruction, the local publishing industry has been slow to produce such materials, partly because of the diversity of languages which dilutes the demand for materials in any one language. Local language materials are also two or three times as expensive to produce as materials in French because of smaller production runs and higher start-up costs. World Bank figures from 1986 show that 153,000 textbooks in French are produced in the country, in contrast to 4,140 in Wolof and 532 in Diola (Vawda and Patrinos 1999).

Attendance rates vary widely from as much as 93 percent of school-age children in urban areas to as low as 10 percent in some rural areas (Cain and Schuman). Whether children attend formal school or not, they are instilled with the mores of their society from an early age. Children of five or six have family responsibilities and, at about the age of eight, they begin to receive formal occupational training. Most Senegalese ethnic groups have a formal system of apprenticeship through which knowledge, skills, and expectations are passed along from mothers to daughters and from fathers to sons (Michel 1988).

Illiteracy, however, remains high. Of the population that is age 15 and over, 52 percent of men and 72 percent of women are illiterate. This shows some reduction in illiteracy from the 1980 figures, which showed 78 percent of men and 88 percent of women to be illiterate.

Private schools represent an important part of the education sector. At the middle and secondary level, private institutions, largely Catholic, enroll about 28 percent of the students (Cain and Schuman 1994). The convergence of several factors has given Senegal a particular advantage in developing private sector education. These factors include intellectual and academic freedom, an infrastructure capable of supporting educational institutions, and an exceptionally strong faith in the value of academic intellectual pursuits inherited from both its French and Muslim ancestry.

Private schools provide education not only for the children of the elite. Middle class and working class families make enormous sacrifices to pay for private education because they believe it will bring about a more secure economic future for their children. Most private schools are religious institutions. They are required to follow the government-approved curriculum, use government recommended textbooks, and employ licensed teaching staff. Some receive government subsidies to meet operating expenses. Students from private institutions are admitted to state examinations and may receive state diplomas.

Special education for students with disabilities is still not well developed; however, in 1992 there were five special schools providing programs for about 400 students (Sow 1995). Reliable statistics on the need for such schools are not yet available.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Africa is located in Dakar, serving 43 member states and providing a valuable resource. It also hosts a multimedia center including books, periodicals, and other research material.

In April of 2000, Senegal hosted a major conference on education, dubbed Education for All 2000, under the auspices of the Education For All Forum, based at UNESCO headquarters. Senegal is one of the strongest adherents to the Education For All initiative, with a goal of universal education by the year 2008.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary schools, mainly private ones, are found in urban areas but they are not widely available. Often children are sent to Koranic schools to learn the fundamentals of Islam before they enter primary education and begin the task of learning French.

The school year is divided into three terms, starting in October and ending in June. An average week consists of approximately 30 hours of classes. As a part of the school reform of 1971, primary school was shortened from six to five years. After the five years, students may take the state examination known as the certificat des études primaires élénebtaures (CEPE). Students who pass this test can then take the examen d'entrée en sixième, a highly competitive screening examination. Not everyone who passes both examinations attends secondary schools because of family poverty and lack of space in the schools. Class size averages 70 students per class in urban schools and 48 per class in rural areas.

During the early years of primary school, a large percentage of the time is devoted to teaching children French, which will be the main language of instruction for most of them. Besides French, reading, writing, and arithmetic are the beginning subjects. In later years children are introduced to history, geography, natural science, music, art, and physical education.

The gap between male and female enrollment is narrowing since the early days of independence. In urban areas, the number of male and female students is nearly the same. In rural areas, there continues to be a significant gap.

In the late eighties, attempts were made to accommodate more children in schools. Some steps taken were double sessions, multigrade classrooms, the use of associate teachers who have received only one year of training instead of four, and the return of many primary school teachers from administrative duties to classrooms. As a result of such efforts, about 65,000 additional primary school children were accommodated in 1988 alone. Some significant elements of reform called for by the Etats Générals still remain to be carried out. They include the transformation of textbooks to being based upon Senegalese rather than French experience, published in Senegal, and distributed free of charge to students. They also include instruction in the maternal languages during the early years of primary education and religious education in the public schools.

Secondary Education

The several hundred elementary schools channel students into approximately 140 middle schools (college d'enseigement moyen ). Those who are able to pass the stringent exams (fewer than half of the middle school students) are eligible to enter the approximately 45 general and specialized high schools (lycées ). Most of those who enter lycée are able to complete its seven-year curriculum. However, only about 40 percent of these are able to pass the baccalauréat examinations.

The educational reform plan provided for another type of school, the intermediate practical education school, to provide a four-year course beyond primary school. Those who finish this cycle of courses are expected to enter the work force; there is no provision for entering another level of formal education. Students are expected to work in agriculture, skilled labor, handicrafts, and so on.

Senegalese people consider a traditional lycée education to be the highest form of education. The institutions continue to maintain their prestige, seeking to admit only highly qualified students and maintaining an upper age limit of 13 years. President Senghor, as a classicist, had strong influence on the secondary school curriculum. Senegal is one of the few countries of the world where Latin is a compulsory subject in secondary school. Greek and Arabic are both also offered at the secondary level (Michel 1988).

Higher Education

A passing grade on the baccalauréat examination at the end of lycée, as well as an appropriate grade record and recommendations, is required for admission to one of Senegal's two universities, University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and University Gaston Berger of Saint-Louis. The language of instruction is French, and the academic calendar runs from October to July.

University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD, formerly named University of Dakar) is the flagship educational institution with several professional schools. About 23 research institutes are attached. The five faculties are: law and political science, medicine, science and technology, arts and humanities, and economics and management. Today it enrolls about 20,000 students, but in 1993 the university, designed for 5,000 students, encompassed about 30,000. The inflated numbers were brought about by academic years interrupted by student strikes, as well as other situations which created a large number of students who weren't finishing their studies. The university rector convinced the government of Senegal to declare the 1994 to 1995 academic year an année non validée. This in effect failed the entire student body. 7,000 students were ousted and the rest put on notice. The rector also tightened admission standards, lowering the number of students to a manageable level.

A World Bank grant has made a new library at UCAD possible. However, there are practically no funds for increasing or improving the collection. "Private" libraries run by individual departments or individual professors make inadequate attempts to compensate for the university's lack of resources. Student fees for tuition and room and board represent only a token payment, which some students manage to evade. Many students support life in Dakar by running businesses out of their dormitory rooms. It is said that the room and board charges aren't even enough to cover the cost of the electricity needed to carry out these businesses, such as telecenters or cafes.

The smaller of the two universities, University Gaston-Berger of Saint-Louis, was founded in 1990. It has a faculty of 89 and an enrollment of 2,157. The four teaching units are arts and social sciences, law, economics and management, and applied mathematics and computer science. A large number of Senegalese students get their higher education abroad, most in French-speaking countries, but about 540 are enrolled annually in the U.S.

Distance learning in the form of the African Virtual University (AVU) is available through both universities. Courses offered include management subjects, information technology, and English. In 2001, about 150 students were enrolled in AVU courses. There is no age limit to access higher education to the point where it is estimated that adults comprise at least 15 percent of the total enrollment of formal schooling.

The director of higher education has drafted an ambitious plan to create ten regional university centers, each focused on a local strength or industry. For example, agriculture and tourism are to be the focus in Casamance, fisheries in the north, and mining and industry in Tambacounda and Kaolack.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The education sector is part of the civil service and, as such, is protected by powerful syndicats. Inspectors, public primary-school and lycée directors, and teachers are all civil servants. Teachers must satisfy the government pedagogical standards in order to be licensed, and only licensed institutions can qualify students for state examinations.

Public expenditures on education amounted to 30.9 percent of current governmental expense in 1990. This was 4.0 percent of the GNP. By 1997, the percent of GNP devoted to education was down to 3.4 percent (UN Demographic Yearbook for 1997).

Funds for education come out of the government's national budget, from local funds, and sometimes from foreign aid. Teachers' salaries are the main expenditure for education by the government. Local areas often do their part by providing a school building with the result that sometimes there are school buildings sitting empty for lack of teachers.

All of the upheavals in education, along with the variety of coping strategies relied upon by the government of Senegal, such as multigrade classrooms, double shifts, and junior teachers, have highlighted the urgency for collecting information about student achievement throughout the country. In 1993, the government set about instituting a plan for gathering and interpreting such data. With assistance from foreign entities, the National Institute for Research and Actions for the Development of Education (INEADE) was given the responsibility of managing this assessment program. Along with this assessment plan has been the "pilot schools" project, which began in 1992. The pilot schools project redesigns the curriculum to take advantage of the local community and what it has to offer, to involve the local communities in school activities, and to foster partnerships with economic or cultural agents in the communities. One hundred pilot schools have been chosen for this project.

Nonformal Education

Radio has been credited with being one of the most effective means of nonformal education. A rural educational program called Dissoo (meaning both dialogue and study) was begun in 1968. It has long featured educational discussions, an early form of the talk show.

Adult education centers exist throughout the country, originally established with the help of UNESCO. The Centre d'expansion rurale polyvalente (CERP) was responsible to carry out such programs, usually led by a specialist such as a nurse or health officer, a veterinary agent, an agricultural or forestry agent, or a teacher. Animateurs rurals (rural motivators) played a crucial role in such education. The rural motivator returned to his or her village after training with the expectation that he or she will spread knowledge and motivate people into community action for improvement.

The tax system compels employers to allocate 1 percent of their payroll to the government to implement jobtraining programs. The Office National de Formation Professionnelle (National Office for Professional Training) was set up for this purpose in the early 1990s (Sow, 1995).

The famous historic Goreé Island near Dakar, where buildings used for the slave trade are preserved, forms an important educational site for Africans and others alike. Countless visitors have experienced the emotional impact of seeing the actual spot where their ancestors were present, either as slaves or as profiteers. The place has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Teaching Profession

Primary-school teachers are trained in the écoles normales. Technical school teachers are trained in the two technical teacher training colleges. Secondary school teachers must have earned the maîtrise (a diploma obtained after one or two years of study following the license, which takes three years). The university also prepares instructors for middle-level teacher training colleges over the two-year period after they have completed their first year of university education. At the university level, there are five levels of faculty, plus the highest level, professeur titulaire de chaire, which carries life tenure.

Approximately 22 percent of school teachers are female, and men are more likely than women to occupy administrative posts in schools. In 1990, schools employed just over 16,000 full-time teachers (Sow 1995). Shortages of teachers in mathematics, the physical sciences, and classical languages are frequent, while schools in rural areas and other undesirable locations are often difficult to staff. To address the latter problem, government policy calls for beginning teachers to be sent to such posts before accepting their application for an urban position. At the primary level, a long-standing program of two hours per week peer coaching has been carried out in all public schools since the early seventies, providing an irreplaceable form of professional development and education.

The training of private school teachers is conducted by the private schools themselves. The Catholic system has set up its own training institutions to meet this need.

In the late 1970s, teachers' unions demanded radical improvements in the school situation, leading to reforms in 1981 (Sow 1995). It is the teachers' unions, along with student unions, that have brought about the greatest changes to the curriculum. This is in spite of the fact that, after the strikes of 1979-1980, a number of the union leaders were dismissed from their teaching posts.


There are many positive factors that can contribute to a bright future for education in Senegal: a stable government, strong religious traditions and social ethical teachings, a leadership role in Africa, and a strong value attached to education on the part of the leadership.

However, there is a minority of the elite that still view education as a highly selective system to reinforce the existing economic and social structures. This is the group that is most resistant to any moves away from a French-centered education. Also, a high turnover of ministers in the Department of Education creates instability, which contributes to delays in implementing positive change.

Seventy-two percent of women are still illiterate. Statistics show that polygamy decreases with the level of education of the woman. In 1993 some 50 percent of women without formal education were in polygynous unions. In contrast, 32 percent of women with primary education were in such unions and 28 percent of women with a secondary education (Pison and others 1995).

Gross inequities still exist based upon geographical location, especially urban vs. rural and coastal vs. interior locations. There are no upper secondary schools at all nor any teacher training institutes in rural areas. Poverty is an enormous hurdle. To put things in perspective, this is a country with 1.3 telephones per 100 inhabitants, 5 newspapers per 1,000 inhabitants, and 41 television sets per 1,000 inhabitants.

There is one particularly serious issue on the horizon, which must be addressed before Senegal can reverse the backward slip in educational attainments for its people of lower socioeconomic levels. That obstacle is international debt contracted in an earlier era. HIPC (the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative) is attempting to relieve this situation. However, Oxfam International's research demonstrates that unsustainable debt will remain a formidable obstacle to poverty reduction and hence to educational development.

Debt servicing is estimated to amount to as much as 35 percent of total revenues in Senegal. Debt repayment is expected to exceed the country's combined health and education budgets. Structural readjusting has already resulted in substantial reductions of funds to education. The new government's commitment to ambitious education reforms and to the Quality Education for All programs, which aims to achieve universal primary school enrollment by 2008, will seriously be undermined if the world community cannot solve this problem for Senegal, as for most African countries in a similar bind.

HIV/AIDS is another factor destined to affect the development of and support for education. Although, no doubt due in part to the Islamic value system and geography, the crisis has affected Senegal to a lesser degree than many other African countries. In 1999 some 79,000 cases of HIV/AIDS infection were reported in Senegal. The Ministry of Education has mandated the integration of HIV/AIDS education into natural science courses during the last two years of secondary school, but so far curriculum design has lagged behind.

In summary, Senegal has far to go to achieve the educational goals of its constitution and the changes called for in its various bold reform plans. On the positive side are such factors as a stable government and social structure, a democratic political system, a tradition that values education, a consultative system for educational change, and a history of positive cooperation with nongovernmental organizations of various kinds, both foreign and domestic. Obstacles to be overcome include severe gender inequities in all areas of social, cultural, religious, and economic life; the economic effects of debt servicing; a population that does not show a high level of confidence in the possibilities of education to solve their life's problems; and a highly centralized and costly bureaucratic administrative structure for educational decision making.


Africa Policy Information Center. Available from

Cain, Joyce and Susan Schuman. Final report on lessons learned on the integration of health, population, environment, democratization, and privatization into basic education curriculum in Africa. Washington, D.C.: USAID, 1994.

The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2000. Available from

M'Bengue. Cultural Policy in Senegal. Paris: 1973.

Maack, Mary Niles. Libraries in Senegal: Continuity and Change in an Emerging Nation. Chicago: American Library Association, 1981.

Michel, Claudine. "Senegal." in World Education Encyclopedia, ed. George Thomas Kurian. New York: Facts on File, 1988.

Oxfam International. Available from

Pison, Gilles, and others. Population Dynamics of Senegal. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1995.

Rideout, William M. and Mamadou Bagayoko. "Education Policy Formation in Senegal: Evolutionary Not Revolutionary." In Education Policy Formation in Africa: A comparative study of five countries. ed. David Russel Evans. Washington, D.C.: USAID, 1994.

Sine, Babacar. Non-formal Education and Education Policy in Ghana and Senegal. UNESCO, 1979.

Sow, M. "Senegal." International Encyclopedia of National Systems of Education, 2nd edition, ed. T. Neville Postlethwaite. Pergamon, 1995.

United Nations Statistics Division. Available from

Vawda, Ayesha Yaqub, and Harry Anthony Patrinos. "Producing Educational Materials in Local Languages: Costs from Guatemala and Senegal." International Journal of Educational Development 19 (1999): 287-299.

Linda Yoder

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Marriage patterns in contemporary Senegal derive from Islamic, Western, and local traditions. This situation, which has prevailed for centuries, results from secular borrowings from the Arab world and European colonizers. Senegal embraced Islam more than a thousand years ago, mainly through early contacts with traders from Northern Africa. The trans-Saharan trade did not survive French colonization, but its effects on the Senegalese society's religious landscape prevails to date. Although less than half of the Senegalese population was Muslim at the turn of the century, now more than 90 percent are. Scholars of Senegalese sociopolitical history recognize that the country's local social, political, and educational systems are at the crossroads of European and Islamic civilizations (Gellar 1995).

Before Senegalese independence from French colonization in 1961, marriage law followed an Islamicized Wolof custom—that is, a set of rules and regulations drawn from both Islamic law and local traditions. However, Senegalese with French citizenship were allowed to rely on French marriage law (Sow 1985). Customary and civil marriage still co-exist in Senegalese society, and neither is more valued than the other, although the educated elite is more likely to opt for the latter. These two forms of marriage differ mainly in that customary marriage does not require any registration through the official legal system, while civil marriage does. In addition, there are various forms of consensual unions that are often not considered as marital unions in official statistics. Current Senegalese marriage laws allow men to opt for either monogamy or polygamy, but the wife's consent is required. In either case, marriage is the only socially accepted context for sexual relations and procreation.

Current Senegalese marriage patterns reflect diverse influences. These shape the contours of entry into union and the prevalence of endogamous and polygamous marriages. However, Westernization, through rising levels of education, urbanization, and the diffusion of modern ideas, is likely to induce new forms of marriage that depart significantly from the prevailing ones.

Entry into Union

As in most sub-Saharan African societies, marriage in Senegal involves more than only the bride and groom, but also their families and kinships. It is a multistage process generally sealed with the payment of dowry in the form of cash, cattle, and other goods of a symbolic nature. Often, however, dowry payment may be made by installments before and after the spouses have started living together (Meekers 1992). In low-income families, such as those living in rural Senegal, dowry payment may involve saving over several years on cash earned from farming activities. With irregularities in rainfall, many young males from rural areas migrate to town to search for employment opportunities that would allow them to meet rising dowry levels.

Marriage is almost universal in Senegal. All nationally representative demographic surveys conducted since the 1980s have consistently shown that more than 90 percent of women get married by the age of fifty. Less than 1 percent of women remain single by the time they are fifty years old (Ndiaye et al. 1997).

Women usually enter marriage at a young age. The median age at first marriage for the late 1990s was estimated at eighteen years, which means that more than half of the women within the reproductive ages (fifteen to forty-nine years) marry by the time they are eighteen years of age (Ndiaye et al. 1997). In certain ethnic groups such as the Tukuler and Peulh of North and East Senegal, parents often give away their daughters for marriage when they are as young as eight to twelve. In such instances, sexual intercourse may occur several years after the marriage has been celebrated. This practice of early marriage is sustained by the need to reduce financial burden on the family (through dowry for the bride's family), strengthen ties between the families involved, and ensure that the young bride is a virgin.

The age gaps between husbands and wives is usually large. An in-depth study of the Senegalese marriage market shows that, on average, husbands are eight years older than their wives (Diop 1980). Given that younger generations in developing countries such as Senegal are always larger than the older ones, the age gaps imply that the number of potential brides is always larger than the number of grooms. These mismatches sustain the practice of endogamy and polygamy because celibacy is not socially accepted.


Endogamous marriages are those that occur between spouses who are related by blood. In Senegal, most endogamous marriages are between paternal and maternal cousins. The 1986 Senegalese Demographic and Health Survey data reveal that women first marrying do so with paternal or maternal cousins or other relations. About 70 percent of married women are related to their husbands. This pattern has not changed much since 1970, although there are variations among ethnic groups. The lowest prevalence of endogamous marriages (50% to 60%) are found among the Manding and Diola, who live in the southern and Eastern parts of the country, while the highest levels (between 65% and 80%) prevail among the Wolof, Pulaar, and Serer. In most cases, women are married to paternal cousins, except among the Serer, where preference is given to maternal cousins.

In Senegal, endogamy cannot be explained by the matrilineal or patrilineal nature of the society. One purely demographic factor is the large age differences between spouses. Another important factor that encourages and sustains endogamous marriage is the permanent quest for cohesion and close ties between families, which in turn contributes to marriage stability.


The most distinctive pattern of Senegalese marriage is polygamy, a marital state in which a man is married to more than one wife. In principle a man may have as many wives as he wishes, although most polygamous males follow the Islamic rule that limits the number of wives to four. Senegal has the highest polygamy rate—the percentage of polygamous marriages among all married couples—in West Africa: Close to half of the women are married to polygamous husbands. Even for the youngest generations (fifteen to nineteen years old), polygamy rates are about 25 percent, suggesting that about one in four women first marries into a polygamous union (Pison et al. 1995).

The main social factors underlying the high polygamy rates are religion, pronatalism, high mortality, and levirate. Having more than one wife is authorized under Islamic law, and men often invoke their religious beliefs to explain their practice of polygamy. In 1997, about one-third of married Senegalese men had more than one wife, with one in four married men having two wives and one in ten men married to more than two wives (Ndiaye et al. 1997). The bulk of the Senegalese population (70%) lives in rural areas, with agriculture as their main economic activity. Polygamous marriage is, therefore, the expression of men's desire to have a large number of children to help on the farm. In such settings where overall mortality rates are extremely high, couples have many children in order to ensure that a few of them to survive to the productive years and, thus, serve as old-age social security for parents through intergenerational wealth transfers. Finally, levirate, the possibility of inheriting the wives of deceased brothers, is a common practice in Senegal, and this too has contributed to the observed high polygamy rates.

Although at the aggregate level, polygamy certainly contributes to larger family sizes, research has demonstrated that Senegalese women in polygamous unions have on average a lower number of children than their counterparts in monogamous marriages. Michel Garenne and Etienne van de Walle (1989), studying the Serer of central Senegal, explain these differentials by the fact that women in polygamous marriage exhibit lower than average frequency of sexual intercourse because a polygamous "husband has to distribute his sexual activity between his wives." Also, polygamous husbands are on average older and thus less fertile than monogamous men. It has been shown, however, that lower fertility of polygamous marriages may be due to infertility problems encountered by first wives. Ndiaye (1985) argues that monogamous husbands are often obliged to marry a second wife when the first wife is infertile.

Polygamy has had major influences on the living arrangements of Senegalese families. In rural areas, all wives usually live together with their polygamous husband in the same compound, a group of adjacent rooms with a common fence and entry. Typically, the husband spends a certain number of nights with each wife, and the wives rotate cooking and other household chores. These living arrangements lead to large average compound size (more than ten people per household) and to the cohabitation of several nuclear families. Almost one out of six compounds is formed by three cohabiting family members, and more than one-third of Senegalese families are neither the wife nor the children of the household head. In such households with more than one male, household headship is determined mainly by age—the elder male is usually designated as the head.

Impact of Westernization

Westernization, or the adoption of ideas and lifestyles from the developed world, is the major factor that has been reshaping the characteristics of Senegalese marriage systems. Westernization is diffused mainly through education, urbanization, and the mass media. New ideas publicizing the benefits of small families and late marriage, and those condemning polygamy, are major channels for change. Progress in education for women and rural-to-urban migration sustain these sociocultural shifts.

Since the mid-1970s, when the first nationally representative demographic and health data became available, the social norm of universal marriage has been progressively fading. In the late 1970s, national surveys showed that about 13 percent of women aged fifteen to forty-nine years were not married. This percentage increased to 19 percent in the late 1980s and has been estimated at 25 percent during the early 1990s (Ndiaye et al. 1997). This clear indication of lower values attached to marriage is corroborated by a rise in the age at first marriage. While the 1978 national World Fertility Survey yielded a median age at first marriage of sixteen years, the corresponding figure from the 1997 national Demographic and Health Survey was eighteen years. These surveys do not show a marked downward trend in polygamy rates. However, there is a reason to believe that ongoing societal changes are working against the practice of polygamy, as suggested by a landmark official report that concluded that "polygamy is considered by educated women as being a barrier to their social aspirations" (République du Sénégal 1981, p. 81). Women's protests over polygamy are also reflected in the high divorce rates of first wives when their husbands marry a second wife. Philippe Antoine and colleagues (1998) provide evidence of this using retrospective survey data collected in Dakar in 1989.

Changes in marriage patterns in Senegal are also visible in the large differentials observed in the late 1990s between urban and rural areas, and between educated and noneducated women (Ndiaye et al. 1997). High polygamy and endogamy rates and early age at first marriage are more prevalent among rural and less-educated women.

Almost half of marriages in rural areas are endogamous, compared to 28 percent in urban areas. With respect to educational levels, the percentage of endogamous marriages decreases from 44 percent among women with no formal education to 26 percent among those with primary schooling. It then falls to 18 percent for women who have reached secondary school.

The polygamy rates exhibit the same patterns; half of married uneducated women live in polygamous unions, against one fourth for those with at least secondary school education. But the difference in polygamy rates between urban (40%) and rural areas (50%) is not substantial.

In rural areas, girls marry on average at sixteen years of age; the corresponding figure for urban areas is twenty years. The largest effect on age at first marriage remains formal schooling; women with no education and those with at least secondary education first marry at sixteen and twenty-three years, respectively.

The transition to late age at marriage and lower levels of polygamy and endogamy is irreversible given rising levels of urbanization and female education. This modern feature of Senegalese marriage systems will loosen the strength of kinship ties, facilitate the spread of the nuclear family, and thus hasten the emergence of a more individualistic society.

See also:Islam


antoine, p.; ouédraogo, d.; and piché, v. (1998). trois générations de citadins au sahel: trente ans d'histoire sociale à dakar et à bamako. paris: l'harmattan.

diop, a. k. (1980). "nuptialité et fécondité au sénégal." ph.d dissertation. paris: université rené descartes, paris v.

garenne, m., and van de walle, e. (1989). "polygyny and fertility among the sereer of senegal." population studies 43(2):267–283.

gellar, s. (1995). senegal: an african nation between islam and the west. oxford, uk: oxford university press.

meekers, d. (1992). "the process of marriage in african societies." population and development review 18(1):61–78.

ndiaye, k. l. (1985). "polygamy et fécondité." in nuptialité et fécondité au sénégal, ed. y. charbit and s. ndiaye. paris: presses universitaires de france.

ndiaye, s.; ayad, m.; and gaye, a. (1997). enquête démographique et de santé (eds-iii) 1997. calverton: macro international inc.

pison, g.; hill, l; cohen, b.; and foote, k., eds. (1995). population dynamics of senegal. washington, dc: national academy press.

république du sénégal (1981). enquÍte sénégalaise sur la fécondité, 1978 : rapport national d'analyse. dakar: ministère de l'economie et des finances, direction de la statistique.

sow, f. (1985). "muslim families in contemporary black africa." current anthropology 26(5):563–570.

pierre ngom

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Senegal (country, Africa)

Senegal (sĕnĬgôl´, sĕn´Ĭgôl), officially Republic of Senegal, republic (2005 est. pop. 11,127,000), 76,124 sq mi (197,161 sq km), W Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Mauritania in the north, by Mali in the east, and by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau in the south. The Republic of The Gambia is an enclave in the southwest. The capital and largest city of Senegal is Dakar.


Most of the country is low-lying, with a maximum altitude of c.200 ft (60 m). However, the southeast, which forms a small part of the Fouta Djallon region, rises to c.1,400 ft (430 m). Senegal's coast (c.250 mi/400 km long) is sandy from Saint-Louis to Dakar, situated near the tip of the Cape Verde peninsula, and is swampy or muddy south of Dakar. The country is mostly covered with savanna, which becomes semidesert in the Sahel region of the north and northeast; the southwest is forested. The chief rivers of the country are the Senegal (which forms the boundary with Mauritania), the Falémé, the Gambia (Fr. Gambie), and the Casamance. Lake Guiers is located in the north. In addition to Dakar, other cities include Diourbel, Kaolack, Louga, M'Bour, Rufisque, Saint-Louis, Thiès, Touba, and Ziguinchor.


The chief ethnic groups are the Wolof, Fulani, Serer, Diola, Malinke, Soninke, and Tukolor. There are small numbers of Berbers, Europeans (mostly French), and Lebanese. French is the country's official language, and each ethnic group speaks its own language. More than 90% of the people are Muslim, belonging to one of four Sufi brotherhoods. The rest are either Christian or followers of traditional religious beliefs.


Senegal is primarily an agricultural country, but industry in the cities, especially Dakar, is growing. The principal food crops are millet, corn, sorghum, rice, and vegetables. Peanuts are the chief cash crop and the country's main agricultural export; they are grown primarily on small farms in the region between the Siné and Saloum rivers near Kaolack and Diourbel. Cotton is also grown and there is a sizable coastal fishing industry. Large numbers of cattle, poultry, pigs, sheep, and goats are raised, although intermittent drought conditions can reduce their population. The principal minerals extracted are phosphate rock, high-grade iron ore, limestone, and gold. Offshore petroleum deposits are being explored.

Industries include peanut and fish processing, fertilizer production, petroleum refining, and ship construction and repair. Tourism and information technology are growing sectors of the economy. The west-central part of Senegal, which includes Saint-Louis, Louga, Dakar, Thiès, and Kaolack, is well served by railroads and major highways; a rail line runs from Dakar to Mali. Dakar is the country's leading port and also has an international airport. The chief imports are foodstuffs (especially rice), machinery, transportation equipment, and crude petroleum; the main exports (in addition to peanuts and peanut products) are processed fish, petroleum products, calcium phosphate, and cotton. France is by far Senegal's leading trade partner; Mali, India, and Nigeria also carry on a considerable trade with the country.


Senegal is governed under the constitution of 2001 as amended. The president, who is the head of state, is directly elected to a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president. The unicameral parliament consists of the 150-seat National Assembly, whose members are popularly elected for five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into eleven regions.


Early History

The Tukolor settled in the Senegal River valley in the 9th cent., and during the period from the 10th to 14th cent. their strong state of Tekrur dominated the valley. The Tukolor were converted to Islam and in the mid-11th cent. a group of them participated in establishing the Almoravid state, centered in Morocco. In the 14th cent. the Mali empire expanded westward from the region of the upper Niger River and conquered Tekrur. In the 15th cent. the Wolof established the Jolof empire in the region between the Senegal and the Siné rivers. Jolof was made up of a number of states (including Wolof, Cayor, Baol, and Walo); internal rivalries led to its breakup in the 17th cent.


In 1444–45, Portuguese explorers reached the mouth of the Senegal River; it and the Gambia River were used as routes to the interior. Trading stations were established at the mouths of the Senegal and Casamance rivers and on Gorée Island and at Rufisque, both located near present-day Dakar. In the 17th cent. the Portuguese were displaced by the Dutch and the French.

The French established a post at the mouth of the Senegal in 1638 and in 1659 founded Saint-Louis on an island there. In 1677, the French captured Gorée from the Dutch, and it was for a time the main French naval base in W Africa. André Brüe, who was director of the Royal Company of Senegal from 1697 to 1720, extended French influence far into the interior, increased the export of slaves, ivory, and gum arabic, and encouraged with little success the cultivation of cotton and cacao. Later the French companies active in Senegal had competition from Fulani and Mande merchants.

During the Seven Years War (1756–63), Great Britain captured all the French posts in Senegal, returning only Gorée in 1763, and joined them with its holdings along the Gambia River to form the short-lived colony of Senegambia, Britain's first colony in Africa. During the American Revolutionary War (1775–83), France regained its posts but surrendered Gorée to Britain under the Treaty of Paris (1783). During the Napoleonic Wars, Britain again captured France's holdings in Senegal, but they were returned in 1815. At this time, the French presence was limited to Saint-Louis, Gorée, and Rufisque, and during the first half of the 19th cent. there was little contact with the interior, whose trade was oriented to the north and east. As part of a French policy of assimilation, inhabitants of Saint-Louis and Gorée elected a deputy to the national assembly in Paris from 1848 to 1852 and (joined by the inhabitants of Rufisque and Dakar) from 1871 to independence in 1960.

During the period from 1854 to 1865 (except for 1862), Capt. Louis Faidherbe was governor of Senegal, and he extended French influence up the Senegal and along the Casamance and conquered Walo and Cayor. Faidherbe established schools for the Africans and halted the westward expansion of al-Hajj Umar, the Tukolor leader of the Tijaniyya brotherhood, who waged a large-scale holy war from a base in what is now Guinea beginning in the early 1850s. In 1895, Senegal was made a French colony, with its capital at Saint-Louis; it was part of French West Africa, headquartered from 1902 at Dakar.

Under the French, Senegal's trade was reoriented toward the coast, its output of peanuts increased dramatically, and railroads were built. During World War II, Senegal was aligned with the Vichy regime from 1940 to 1942 but then joined the Free French. In 1946, Senegal, together with the rest of French West Africa, became part of the French Union, and French citizenship was extended to all Senegalese. Politics in Senegal were led by its two deputies in the French national assembly, Lamine Gueye, whose base was in the coastal cities, and Léopold Sédar Senghor, whose political strength was derived from the rural areas of the interior. In 1948, Senghor founded the Senegalese Democratic Bloc, which dominated politics in Senegal in the 1950s. In 1956, a national assembly was set up in Senegal.

Independence and Modern Senegal

In late 1958, after Charles de Gaulle had come to power in France, Senegal became an autonomous republic within the French Community. In Jan., 1959, Senegal joined with the Sudanese Republic (the former French Sudan, now Mali) to form the Mali Federation, which became independent in June, 1960. On Aug. 20, 1960, Senegal withdrew from the federation, becoming an independent state within the French Community. At the time of independence, power was fairly evenly divided between the country's president, Léopold Senghor, and its prime minister, Mamadou Dia. In Dec., 1962, Dia staged an unsuccessful coup; he was arrested, and early in 1963 a new constitution was promulgated giving the president much additional power.

In 1966 the Senegalese Progressive Union (UPS), headed by Senghor, became the country's only political party, and he was reelected overwhelmingly in 1968 and 1973. From the mid-1960s, however, there was considerable unrest in the country, caused by dissatisfaction with the growing concentration of power in Senghor's hands and by a declining economic situation resulting from lower world prices for peanuts and reduced aid from France. The economic situation was worsened by a long-term drought in the Sahel region of N Senegal that lasted from the late 1960s into the mid-1970s. Major demonstrations and strikes became an almost annual occurrence and were particularly disruptive in 1968, 1971, and 1973.

Senghor was a leading force in establishing (1974) the West African Economic Community, which linked six former French territories. Throughout the 1970s, Senghor continued to consolidate power in the presidency and strengthened relations with the country's Muslim leadership. In 1978, the government mandated a three-party system based on official ideological categories; a fourth party was legalized in 1979. Despite the institution of a system that effectively banned Senghor's opponents from the political process, opposition from unofficial political organizations grew steadily.

In 1981, Senghor, who remained head of the Socialist party (SP), yielded the presidency to Abdou Diouf. After a successful Senegalese intervention in a coup attempt in The Gambia, both countries officially proclaimed their union in a Senegambian confederation. Each nation was to maintain its sovereignty while consolidating their defense, economies, and foreign relations.

In response to mounting criticism of his regime, Diouf abolished government limits on the number of political parties. Deteriorating economic conditions led the government to adopt unpopular austerity measures, causing unrest in both rural and urban areas. The government subsequently strengthened the police force and restored some restrictions on political activity.

The elections of 1988, in which Diouf was reelected amid charges of fraud, took a violent turn, leading the regime to ban all public meetings. Two diplomatic crises arose in 1989: a maritime border dispute with Guinea-Bissau (later resolved by the International Court of Justice in favor of Senegal) and a violent dispute with Mauritania that evolved from a conflict over grazing rights in S Mauritania. Some 40,000 Senegalese workers and some 65,000 black Mauritanians were driven or fled from Mauritania for Senegal. In the same year, the confederation with The Gambia was dissolved.

Diouf was again elected in 1993. Legislative elections held in 1998 were won by the SP, as were elections for the newly created senate in 1999. Opposition parties boycotted the senate election. In the presidential elections in early 2000, however, Abdoulaye Wade of the Senegalese Democratic party defeated Diouf after a runoff; Wade's election ended nearly 40 years of Socialist rule in Senegal. In Jan., 2001, a new constitution was adopted, establishing a unicameral parliament and reducing the president's term to five years.

Casamance, an undeveloped region south of Gambia and centered on the Casamance River, has been the scene of a violent separatist movement since the 1980s. An agreement with the rebels there was signed in Mar., 2001, but the accord failed to end the fighting. In April, a coalition supporting President Wade won a majority in the national assembly. In Dec., 2004, a new cease-fire accord was signed with the Casamance rebels, but not all rebel factions supported the pact. The fighting there continued; in Aug., 2006, the government launched a significant new offensive against the rebels who had not signed the peace pact.

Wade was reelected in Feb., 2007, in an election African observers termed free and fair, but opposition parties accused the government of fraud. Wade's coalition won an overwhelming majority in the national assembly elections in June, 2007; the opposition largely boycotted that vote and the August one for senate seats. A proposed constitutional amendment to create a vice presidency, which many believed was designed to enable Wade's son to succeed him, led to violent protests in June, 2011, and it was not adopted. Wade's bid for a third presidential term also alienated former supporters, and in Mar., 2012, he lost the presidential runoff to Macky Sall, his former prime minister and the Alliance for the Republic candidate. In July, Sall's United in Hope coalition won an overwhelming majority in the assembly elections. In August, following severer than normal flooding during the rainy season, Sall called for the country's largely appointed Senate to be abolished and for the money saved to be used toward aiding flood victims and preventing future flooding. The move was criticized as an attempt to weaken the opposition (most senators supported Sall's predecessor), but the change was approved in September.


See L. C. Behrman, Muslim Brotherhoods and Politics in Senegal (1970); G. W. Johnson, The Emergence of Black Politics in Senegal: The Struggle for Power in the Four Communes, 1900–1920 (1971); D. B. C. O'Brien, The Mourides of Senegal (1971); W. A. Skurnik, The Foreign Policy of Senegal (1972); L. G. Colvin, Historical Dictionary of Senegal (1981); R. Fatton, Jr., The Making of a Liberal Democracy: Senegal's Passive Revolution, 1975–1985 (1987); C. L. Delgado et al., The Political Economy of Senegal under Structural Adjustment (1991).

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Official name: Republic of Senegal

Area: 196,190 square kilometers (75,749 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Unnamed feature near Nepen Diakha (581 meters/ 1,906 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 690 kilometers (429 miles) from southeast to northwest; 406 kilometers (252 miles) from northeast to southwest

Land boundaries: 3,101 kilometers (1,927 miles) total boundary length; The Gambia 740 kilometers (460 miles); Guinea 330 kilometers (205 miles); Guinea-Bissau 338 kilometers (210 miles); Mali 419 kilometers (260 miles); Mauritania 813 kilometers (505 miles)

Coastline: 531 kilometers (330 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Senegal is located on the western bulge of Africa between the countries of Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau. It shares borders with a total of five countries, including The Gambia, which is entirely surrounded by Senegalese territory. With a total area of about 196,190 square kilometers (75,749 square miles), the country is slightly smaller than the state of South Dakota. Senegal is divided into ten regions.


Senegal has no outside territories or dependencies.


Senegal has a tropical climate. Temperatures are lowest along the coast. At Dakar they vary from 26°C (79°F) to 17°C (63°F) from December to April, and from 30°C (86°F) to 20°C (68°F) from May to November.

The rainy season generally lasts from June through October. The southern Casamance River region, however, has a longer rainy season than the area north of The Gambia. In the semi-arid extreme north, for example, Podor has an average rainfall of 34 centimeters (13 inches); while Ziguinchor, near the Guinea-Bissau border, receives an average of 155 centimeters (61 inches). Dakar averages 57 centimeters (22 inches) of rain each year.


Senegal is the westernmost part of a broad savannah extending across the Sahel. Most of the country lies upon a low sedimentary basin characterized by an expanse of flat and undulating plains with sparse grasses and woody shrubs. There are no significant natural landmarks or major changes in elevation. Broken terrain and steep slopes are found only in the extreme southeast.

Extensive riverine areas have been converted to farmland, especially in the Siné and Saloum River basins; the lowlands between Thiès and Kaolack yield significant peanut and other food crops. Beyond these areas, most of the land has little potential except as pasturage. Volcanic action created the Cap Vert promontory, which is the westernmost point in Africa, and the nearby islets. Senegal lies on the African Tectonic Plate.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The western coast of Senegal faces the North Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic provides Senegal with a great deal of rich fishing ground, which is a major component of Senegal's economy. The goblin shark, an animal with a peculiarly shaped body of which little is known, is prevalent in the ocean waters near Senegal.

Sea Inlets and Straits

There are many ports and harbors along the Atlantic coast, the largest of which is the capital city of Dakar. Other harbors up and down the coast are Kaolack, Matam, Podor, Richard Toll, Saint-Louis, and Ziguinchor.

Islands and Archipelagos

Saint-Louis, the former capital of colonial French West Africa, is located on an island near the mouth of the Senegal River. Ile de Gorée, once a slave transshipment point, is situated between the Cap Vert peninsula and the Petite Côte of the mainland. In the Senegal River valley above Dagana is the Ile à Morfil, a narrow island several hundred miles long between the river's main channel and the Doué channel on the opposite side. Senegal's estuaries contain many flat islands dividing numerous river channels

Coastal Features

North of the Cap Vert promontory, the pounding of heavy surf, northeast trade winds, and the southwest-flowing Canary Current formed the coastal belt. It is covered by small swamps or pools separated by very old dunes as high as 30 meters (100 feet). The peninsula of Cap Vert itself is the westernmost point in Africa. South of Dakar, the coastal strip of sand beach narrows and is interrupted by a rocky promontory at Popenguine. Just above The Gambia, the coast is broken by the channels and islands of the Saloum River estuary. South of the Casamance River, silt and sand clog various creeks and estuaries in an area of salt flats.


The largest lake in Senegal is the artificially controlled Lac de Guiers (Guiers Lake). This shallow lake is fed by the Senegal River and extends for an average length of about 80 kilometers (50 miles), averaging about 12 kilometers (8 miles) in width. A dam, as well as a gate on what is known as the Taoué channel, control water flow into this lake. At the highest level, the lake waters reach another 64 to 80 kilometers (40 to 50 miles) southeastward into the Ferlo Valley.

To the north of the Cap Vert peninsula lies Lac Rose (Pink Lake), a shallow saltwater lake occupying a depression behind the coastal dunes. Organisms that live in the lake give it a pinkish color, and villagers extract its salt for commercial purposes.


Senegal's largest riversthe Senegal, Siné, Saloum, Gambia, and Casamanceare sluggish, marsh-lined streams emptying into broad estuaries along the Atlantic Ocean. The Senegal River is the longest at 4,023 kilometers (2,500 miles). It rises in Guinea from the Bafing River, which is joined in eastern Mali by the Bakoye River. As it enters Senegal, the Falémé River joins it from the south. At high flood stage, water from the Senegal River spreads through a system of channels, sloughs, and adjacent lowlands until most of the valley is a sheet of water, from which the tops of trees appear as green patches and villages stand out as isolated islands. At the onset of the long dry season, ocean tides extend nearly 483 kilometers (300 miles) upstream. During the rainy season, however, the salty water is forced seaward and the system is refilled with fresh water.

The Gambia River, which rises in Guinea, receives the flow of a perennial river, the Koulountou, which also runs north from Guinea to join it near the Gambian border. Between The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, the Casamance River drains a narrow basin less than 32 kilometers (20 miles) wide, becoming a broad estuary 104 kilometers (65 miles) from the sea, 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide at the mouth.

The Saloum River and its major tributary, the Siné River, feed into an extensive tidal swamp just north of The Gambia. Only the lower reaches carry water all year, and these are brackish, as the tides penetrate far up the various channels through the swamp.


Senegal lies at the edge of the region known as the Sahel. Sahel is an Arabic word that means "shore." It refers to the 5,000-kilometer (3,125-mile) stretch of savannah that is the shore, or edge, of the Sahara desert. The Sahel spreads west to east from Mauritania and Senegal to Somalia.


The terrain of Senegal is primarily low, rolling plains. Mangroves, thick forest, and oil palms characterize the coastal area of the Casamance River. This vegetation changes to wooded or open savannah in the central and eastern parts of the Casamance and throughout the Siné-Saloum River area. From Mauritania to The Gambia lies the Ferlo Valley, a featureless expanse of savannah in which dried tufts of grass, scrub, and thorn trees dominate over the long, dry season.

Except for the dunes in the coastal belt and several minor hills northwest of Thiès, the southeast is the only area with elevations of more than 91 meters (300 feet) above sea level; and even there, only a few ridges exceed 396 meters (1,300 feet). The country reaches its highest point, 581 meters (1,906 feet), at an unnamed point near Nepen Diakha.


There are no mountain regions or volcanoes in Senegal.


There are no significant caves or canyons in Senegal.


In the extreme southeast, the Fouta Djallon plateau extends into Senegal from Guinea.


The ebb and flow of the Senegal River is checked at some points by dikes; these are opened to admit the fresh water and are later closed to impound it for use during the dry season and to exclude advancing salt water.


There are two sites in Senegal that have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the Senegal River delta, the Djoudj Sanctuary is a wetland that serves as home to over one million birds, including the white pelican, the purple heron, the African spoonbill, the great egret, and the cormorant.

Along the banks of the Gambia River, Niokolo-Koba National Park is a protected area that is home to the Derby eland (largest of the antelopes), chimpanzees, lions, leopards, and a large population of elephants, as well as many birds, reptiles, and amphibians.



Africa South of the Sahara 2002. Senegal. London: Europa Publishers, 2001.

Beaton, Margaret. Senegal. New York: Children's Press, 1997.

Clark, Andrew F., and Lucie C. Phillips. Historical Dictionary of Senegal. 2nd ed. Meutchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1994.

Gellar, Sheldon. Senegal: An African Nation between Islam and the West. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995.

Web Sites

Senegal Online: Geography. (accessed May 5, 2003).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Senegal
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 9,987,494
Language(s): French, Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka
Literacy rate: 33.1%

Background & General Characteristics

The westernmost country of Africa, Senegal occupies 531 km of North Atlantic coastline between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania. It borders Mali, the Gambia and Guinea. It extends over 196,190 square kilometers of tropical hot and humid land. Its capital is Dakar.

Previously a French colony, Senegal gained independence on April 4,1960. French is the official language but Wolof, Pulaar, Serere, Soninke, Jola and Mandinka are also widely used, and TV news is aired daily in all these languages. This diversity further complicates the issue of literacy, which stands at the low rate of 33.1 percent of people over fifteen who could read and write, of which 43 percent were male and only 23.2 percent were female.

The Press

Senegal has ten dailies, and the government created a four page daily bulletin about its own activities: Le Quotidien de la République (The Republic's Daily). At the same time as this bulletin was created, a team of young journalists started work at the newly liberated Le Soleil (The Sun), that had previous government ties, and the Ministère de l'Information et de la Communication was closed. All these events altered and freed the climate of the Senegal press. Three other important newspapers are Le Sud Quotidien (The South Daily), Le Témoin (The Witness) and Walf Fadjri.

Le Soleil, created in spring 1970, succeeded the Société sénégalaise de Presse et de Publications' (SSPP) Dakar-Matin (Dakar's Morning, 1961-1970) and was named at the suggestion of writer Léopold Sédar Senghor who was then president of Senegal. Dakar-Matin had followed in the footsteps of Paris-Dakar (1933-1961) that had managed to grow from a weekly to a bi-then a tri-weekly and finally a daily in 1936. Dakar-Matin becameLe Soleil, (the Sun) only one day after the first anniversary of the country's newly acquired independence. In 2000, Hadj Kasse directed the paper. By 2002, Le Soleil employed 175 persons, published 25,000 copies daily and sold 23,000 copies. A group of regional correspondents is in place and the paper sells throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, the United States, Canada and the rest of the world. The group also has special ties to several foreign country newspapers including El Moudjahid in Algeria, La Presse in Tunisia, L'Union in Gabon, Mweti in Congo,Fraternité-Matin in the Ivory Coast and Le Matin in Morocco.

Economic Framework

Senegal's natural resources include fish, phosphates, and iron ore. The GDP per capita in purchasing power was approximately US $1,600 in the year 2000. The country started a bold economic reform in January 1994, cutting inflation down to 2 percent and diminishing the deficit. There are still problems of urban unemployment, juvenile delinquency and drug addiction.

News Agencies

The Agence de Presse Sénégalaise (APS, The Senegalese Press Agency) with its headquarters in Dakar, and the Agence de Distribution de Presse (ADP, The Press Distribution Agency) are the most important news agencies. Others include the Agence France Presse (The France Press Agency) with IZF, Afrique Tribune (Africa's Tribune), Depeches de la Pana (The Pana's Wire), and Edicom.

Like many African countries Senegal is part of the Institut Panos Afrique de l'Ouest, an African organization involved with conflicts, minorities, violence and human rights issues.

Broadcast Media

Broadcasting is under the control of the Haut Conseil de la Radio-Télévision (HCRT) in Dakar. In 1998, there were ten AM radio stations, fourteen FM radio stations and no short wave radio station. The country counted 1.24 million radio sets. There was only one television station in 1997, and 361,000 sets.

Electronic News Media

In 1996, Senegal achieved full Internet connectivity with Enda and Telecom Plus. Since then several ISP and cybercafes have been added, including Metissacana, Arc Information, Africa online, Cyber Business Center and Africa-network, making a total of six Internet providers and 30,000 users. This development stimulated the growth of information technology-based services.

Since April 1998, Le Soleil has had an Internet version. Edicom and France Link have developed Senegal-related sites. publishes articles of Panafrican and international nature. AllAfrica and Panapress also offer news online. Seneweb specializes in Senegalese music.

Education & Training

Senegalese journalists used to study in France. For example, Annette Mbaye d'Erneville, a pioneer in the field, went to study journalism and radio in Paris, then returned to launch the magazine Femmes de Soleil in 1957 (which became most successful when was renamed Awa in 1963). She became program director at the Broadcasting Studio in Senegal.

There are several local journalism and telecommunications programs operating in Senegal, at the Ecole Supérieure Multinationale des Télécommunications (ESMT) in Dakar, and at the Multinational Higher School of Telecommunications. There are also a number of training programs at the university Cheikh Anta Diop, at the Ecole Supérieure Polytechnique de Dakar (ESP), and at the university Gaston Berger de Saint Louis.

Bibliography Africa Internet Network, 2002. Available from .

AISI Connect Online Database. Available from . 2002. All Africa Global Media. Available from .

Del Bende, J. L. Senegal Online. Available from .

Institut Panos Afrique de l'Ouest. 2002. Available from .

Sussman, Leonard R., and Karin Deutsch Karlekar, eds. The Annual Survey of Press Freedom. New York: Freedom House, 2002.

Danielle Raquidel

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196,720sq km (75,954sq mi)



capital (population):

Dakar (1,968,300)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Wolof 44%, Fulani-Tukulor 24%, Serer 15%


French (official)


Islam 94%, Christianity (mainly Roman Catholic) 5%, traditional beliefs and others 1%


CFA franc = 100 centimes

Republic in nw Africa. Senegal, on the nw coast of Africa, contains the continent's most westerly point, the volcanic Cape Verde, on which the capital, Dakar, stands. It entirely surrounds Gambia. The Atlantic coastline from St Louis to Dakar is sandy. Plains cover most of Senegal, though the land rises gently in the se. The n forms part of the Sahel. The main rivers are the Sénégal, which forms the n border, and the Casamance in the s. The River Gambia flows into the Gambia.

Climate and Vegetation

Dakar has a tropical climate, with a rainy season between June and September. Temperatures are higher inland. Rainfall is greatest in the s. Desert and semi-desert cover ne Senegal. In central Senegal, dry grasslands and scrub predominate. Mangrove swamps border parts of the s coast. The far s is a region of tropical savanna, though large areas have been cleared for farming. Senegal has several protected parks, the largest is the Niokolo-Kobo Wildlife Park.

History and Politics

From the 6th to 10th century, Senegal formed part of the Empire of ancient Ghana. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, the Tukolor state of Tekrur dominated the Sénégal valley. The Almoravid dynasty of Zenega Berbers introduced Islam, and it is from the Zenega that Senegal got its name. In the 14th century, the Mali Empire conquered Tekrur. In the early 15th century, the Wolof established the Jolof Empire. The Songhai Empire began to dominate the region.

In 1444, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to reach Cape Verde. Trading stations were rapidly established in the area. In the 17th century, France and the Netherlands replaced Portuguese influence. France gradually gained control of the valuable slave trade and founded St Louis in 1658. By 1763, Britain expelled the French from Senegal and, in 1765, set up Senegambia, the first British colony in Africa. In 1783 France regained control and in the mid-19th century, battled for control of the interior. The French founded Dakar in 1857.

In 1895, Senegal became a French colony within the Federation of French West Africa. In 1902, the capital of this huge empire transferred from St Louis to Dakar. Dakar became a major trading centre. In 1946, Senegal joined the French Union. In 1959, Senegal joined French Sudan (now Mali) to form the Federation of Mali. Senegal withdrew in 1960, and became an independent republic within the French community. Léopold Sédar Senghor was Senegal's first post-colonial president. Following an unsuccessful coup (1962), Senghor gradually assumed wider powers. During the 1960s, Senegal's economy deteriorated and a succession of droughts caused starvation and widespread civil unrest.

During the 1970s, s Senegal was a base for guerrilla movements in Guinea and Portuguese Guinea (modern Guinea-Bissau). In 1974, Senegal was a founding member of the West African Economic Community. In 1981, Abdou Diouf succeeded Senghor, and Senegalese troops suppressed a coup in the Gambia. In 1982, the two countries joined to form the Confederation of Senegambia, but the union collapsed in 1989. From 1989 to 1992, Senegal was at war with Mauritania. In 1993 elections, Diouf secured a third term in office. Internal conflict continued, particularly in the s Casamance region where a secessionist movement gathered strength. In 2000 elections, Abdoulaye Wade of the Senegalese Democratic Party defeated Diouf, ending 40 years of Socialist Party rule.


Senegal is a lower-middle-income developing country (2000 GDP per capita, US$1600). Agriculture employs 81% of the workforce, mainly at subsistence level. Food crops include cassava, millet, and rice. Senegal is the world's sixth- largest producer of groundnuts, its major cash crop and export. France is the major market. Phosphates are Senegal's chief mineral resource, but it also refines oil. Dakar is a busy port with many industries. Fishing is an important activity.

Political map

Physical map



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Senegal (river, Africa)

Senegal (sĕnĬgôl´, sĕn´Ĭgôl), river, c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) long, formed in SW Mali, W Africa, by the confluence of the Bafing and Bakoy rivers, both of which rise in the Fouta Djallon, N Guinea. The river flows north, then generally west to form the Mauritania-Senegal border before entering the Atlantic Ocean at St.-Louis, Senegal. The Falémé River, which forms the Senegal-Mali border, is its chief tributary. Entrance to the river from the sea is impeded by sandbars and a complex delta region. The river is tidal c.300 mi (480 km) upstream, and during the rainy season it is navigable to Kayes, Mali. The river is an important source of irrigation water; rice is grown on the floodplain. In 1968, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal established the Organization of Senegal River States to develop the Senegal valley. It was succeeded in 1972 by the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River Valley (OMVS), of which Guinea is not a member.

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Culture Name



Identification. The area that today is Senegal once was part of the West African Empire of Mali, Ghana, and Tekrur. The country takes its name from the river that runs along its northern and eastern borders, forming the frontier with Mauritania and Mali. A poetic etymology from the Wolof people states that the name derives from the local term Sunugal, meaning "our dugout canoe" (everyone is in the same boat). The Republic of Senegal became independent in 1960 after three centuries of French colonial rule. Dakar, the capital since independence in 1960, lies on the Cap Vert peninsula, the most westerly point in Africa. Before independence, Dakar was the capital of French West Africa (AOF, or l'Afrique Occidentale Francçaise ), which included nine French-speaking West African states.

Although predominantly Muslim, Senegal is a tolerant secular state, whose peoples have lived together peacefully for several generations and have intermingled to some extent. Islam is a potential unifying factor. Wolof is the national language. The spread of education and increased economic opportunity have modified a traditional social structure based on kinship, but the majority of the people adhere to the traditional values of Kersa (respect for others) and Tegin (good manners). Terranga (hospitality) is a common word used by almost all of the country's twelve ethnic groups.

This sense of a national identity is not shared by the Diola populations in the forest areas of the Casamance, who since December 1982 have been engaged in an armed insurgency to separate from the Islamized northerners. The first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, a Roman Catholic who presided over the nation for over twenty years, was a fervent advocate of African unity.

Location and Geography. Senegal, situated on the western tip of Africa, covers an area of 76,000 square miles (196,781 square kilometers). It is bordered on the north by Mauritania, on the east by Mali, on the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The long, narrow Republic of the Gambia is approximately two hundred miles long, surrounded by Senegal's southern region. Agriculture is based largely on the cultivation of peanuts, millet, and sorghum. Like most Sahelian countries, Senegal has an important livestock sector that periodically is decimated by drought. Niokolo Koba National Park is situated in the southeast and is one of the most important reserves for large mammals in West Africa.

Demography. The population of approximately ten million includes indigenous peoples, and a non-African population that is mostly French and Lebanese. There are heavy population concentrations in the urban centers (Dakar, Thie`s, Kaolack, Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor) because of rapid growth of the population and deteriorating environmental conditions that have made it difficult for people to live off the land.

Linguistic Affiliation. The population is divided into twelve ethnic groups, each with its own customs and dialect. The largest single ethnic group is the Wolof, who makes up over one-third of the population. Although French is the official language, it is spoken only by an educated minority, and Wolof has become a lingua franca towns and markets, schools, and interethnic marriages.

Symbolism. Animals, songs, flags, and colors have served as national symbols since before independence. The national flag has bands of green, yellow, and red. A green five-pointed star appears in the center of the yellow band. The color green symbolizes the forest and hope. Yellow stands for the savanna, and red for the blood spilled in the fight for liberty. In preparation for Independence Day, there is a week of celebrating the flag and the national anthem. The words of the national anthem were written by Senghor. The coat of arms shows a gold lion in profile on a green base, framed by the rays of a gold five-pointed star in the upper left corner. The state seal has the coat of arms on one side and a baobab tree on the other, with the national motto: "One people, one aim, one faith." The baobab tree is the traditional meeting place (the pencha ) where discussions and political rallies take place.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Paleolithic and Neolithic wall paintings, tools, and pottery have been found in the Senegal River valley. After the tenth century, the people of Senegal were in constant contact with North Africa. Arab and Berber caravans came regularly to trade and arrived periodically as invaders looking for territories to conquer and convert to Islam. In the forteenth century, the Wolof empire, which extended from the Senegal River to the Gambia River, included six states: Baol, Walo, Cayor, Sine, Djolof, and Saloum. In 1444, the Portuguese turned the island of Gorée into a graveyard for sailors and established a profitable trade in slaves and gold along the coast of Senegal. Gradually, other European merchants followed, including the French, who established their first settlements in 1638 in the Senegal River, on the island of Saint-Louis, which became the base of all French activity and expansion in West Africa.

In 1840, the French government declared Senegal a permanent French possession, abolished all forms of slavery, and granted full citizenship to those born in Senegal. This enabled the people of Senegal to elect and send a deputy to the National Assembly in Paris. In 1854, General Louis Faidherbe, a colonial administrator, was given the assignment of pacifying the continuously battling kingdoms along the Senegal River. He created the Tirailleurs Senegalais (corps of Senegalese riflemen), an army of local volunteers under French commanders who achieved international fame during World War II. By 1902, the French government, which had embarked on a "Grand Design" to conquer as much territory as possible, had completed the conquest of most of the parts of West Africa not occupied by the British, the Portuguese, and the Germans, and Dakar was designated the capital of all French West African territories. The development of state schools provided education for Africans, and scholarships gave them the opportunity to receive higher learning in France, creating an educated African elite.

After World War II, France's relations with some of its territories were marked by major colonial wars, a crisis that resulted in the acceleration of the decolonization process in West Africa. In 1959, Senegal and the French Sudan decided to merge and form the independent Mali Federation, but it was not a success. Both countries then declared individual independence. On April 1960, Senegal was proclaimed an independent nation. The country's governing political party is the Senegalese Progressive Union (Union Progressiste Sénégalaise, or UPS), which was founded in 1949 and led by Léopold Sédar Senghor.

National Identity. Senegal is a land of traditions, and its people, although heterogenous, share a strong sense of national identity deeply rooted in Thiossane, a word used by the Wolof as well as the Serer (Fulani), that means "history, tradition, and culture." Since the World Festival of Negro Arts was organized at Dakar in 1966, institutions have been created or reoriented toward African traditions, including the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa; the Houses of Youth and Culture; the craft village of Soumbedioune in Dakar, which has become a center for Senegalese sculpture and goldsmithing; the Dynamique Museum; the Daniel Sorano Theater; and the tapestry factory of Thie`s. Although French is the official language and the main language of instruction in the schools, even the most educated people are far from being "black Frenchmen" culturally. The Dakar Wolof dialect has become the national language, especially in the urban areas and among the youth. The nation's precolonial traditions and long colonial history have helped forge a strong sense of national identity among the majority of the people, particularly the populations north of the Gambia River, who share similar hierarchical social structures and Islamic traditions and adherence to Muslim brotherhoods.

Ethnic Relations. The largest single ethnic group is the Wolof (43 percent of the population), followed by the Pular (also called Peulh or Fulani, nearly 25 percent, and the Serer (more than 15 percent). Smaller groups include the Diola, Mandink, and Soninke. Despite this cultural heterogeneity, interethnic strife does not exist and generally no group seeks autonomy on ethnic grounds or political independence except in the Casamance region. Since the early 1980s, the Casamance has seen the development of a separatist movement, and since 1990, there has been conflict between local guerrillas and the army. Casamance is substantially less Islamic and less Wolof than the rest of the country.

The presence of Europeans, mostly French (usually called Toubabs by the Senegalese) and Lebanese (each accounting for 1 percent of the population) has not caused serious friction or hostility. The country was tolerant of non-Senegalese Africans who came to live and work until the 1989 outbreak of violence Mauritania over grazing disputes curtailed their immigration.

The Wolof have preserved their ethnic identity as a result of their openness to other groups and people. For centuries they have lived side by side with the Serer, Tukulor, Fulani, Mandink, and Diolas and have traded and intermarried with these neighbors. Although they have fought neighbors in the past, today the relationship is one of tolerance and mutual jokes, which are known among the Wolof and the Fulani as Kal. The Wolof accept any person who easily identifies with others' customs.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Lebou fishing people who settled in Dakar in the eighteenth century were looking for a safe haven. They founded their new site in 1795 and called it Ndakarou. Dakar occupies the southern end of the Cap Vert peninsula. On a plateau about hundred feet above the sea, the administrative structures left from the colonial era include the Presidential Palace, City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce with its yellow bricks, and the Court House, which was built in 1906. The tall modern buildings, handsome residences, and tree-lined avenues of the business and administrative district are thoroughly French in appearance. Adjoining the business section is the old and crowded quarter called the Medina, a jumble of old buildings, shacks, and narrow streets. On the western side, beyond the Medina, are the impressive buildings of the University of Dakar and the fashionable suburb of Fann. Dakar has many mosques, the most impressive of which is the Great Mosque, and numerous churches and cathedrals. On Goree Island, with its "House of Slaves," fortified bunkers and huge naval guns built during World War II are overgrown with vegetation.

In rural areas, dwellings differ in type and in the materials used for construction but are adapted to the climate and the village way of life. Important activities and social occasions are shared on the pencha, where people gather to chat and discuss village matters.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The basic food is rice cooked with a spicy sauce and vegetables. The national dish is chep-bu-jen, the Wolof word for rice with fish. Cooked in a tomato sauce with boiled fish and a few vegetables (carrots, cabbage, and green peppers), chep-bu-jen is originally from the city of Saint-Louis. Yassa, a dish from Casamance is chicken or fish marinated in lemon juice, pepper, and onions and then baked. It is accompanied by plain white rice. Other sauces include mafé, domada and soupe kandja, (which is made from okra with fish and palm oil).

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. On ceremonial occasions, festive meals that include roasted or grilled meat with beans or French fries are eaten. Couscous (steamed millet) with vegetables, mutton, and gravy is a ceremonial dish. At the end of each meal, strong and sweet tea is drunk. Except in areas where it is prohibited, alcohol is available.

Basic Economy. The country's market economy is based largely on agriculture. The limited economic growth it has achieved since independence is interrupted periodically by drought conditions that can send the economy into severe recession. The most important food crops are millet and sorghum; large quantities of rice are imported. Cotton, rice, sugar, and market-garden produce are grown. The national currency is called the CFA franc.

Land Tenure and Property. Primarily small family farms are worked chiefly by family labor. More than two-thirds of the country's farms are less than ten acres in size; only 5 percent are more than twenty-five acres. After independence, the National Land Tenure Law of 1964 gave the state rights over all rural land and in theory abolished rents paid to absentee landlords. Under this arrangement, the state would become the steward of the land and allocate land rights to those who worked it. Before independence, traditional local systems of land tenure were based on African customary law, which allowed the local nobility or the head or chief of a village to receive crop shares and land rents from former slaves and people without land. Under the new law, which was part of a package of socialist reforms, owners with permanent buildings on their land were given six months to establish deeds for their plots. All land was divided into four categories: urban areas, reserves (including national forests and parks), farmland, and "pioneer zones." The law permitted the government to declare some of the less intensively occupied pioneer zones and cede them to groups and organizations that were willing to develop them. The country's most prominent Muslim leaders own large estates in the pioneer zones. The government's decision in 1991 to transfer large tracts of protected forestland to the head of the Mouride brotherhood to be used by his followers for planting peanuts dealt a serious blow to the credibility of the land tenure policy. In a few weeks, thousands of Mouride followers talibés had cleared the land, a process accompanied by the eviction of six thousand pastoralists and one hundred thousand animals from the forest area. The press and the international donor community sharply criticized the government's decision, which followed a pattern dating back to colonial days, when the French ceded large tracts of land to the Mourides to encourage peanut production.

Other reforms included the establishment of farmers' cooperatives and rural councils to replace traditional kin and patron-client networks. The cooperatives became the basic sources from which farmers could obtain seeds, tools, credit, and marketing facilities for their crops.

Commercial Activities. Agricultural and manufactured products are sold, including foodstuffs and household goods. The informal sector provides inexpensive goods and services for the urban poor who cannot afford to buy the goods produced by the formal industrial sector. There is an enormous market for cheap used clothing, which often is smuggled into the country and permits families to clothe their children at a relatively low cost.

Major Industries. Industrial output is determined largely by agricultural performance. Most major manufacturing is located in and around Dakar. Food processing is the largest activity, accounting for 43 percent of industrial production. Groundnut extraction is the major agricultural industry. Other industrial production includes fishing, phosphate mining, chemicals and oil, metal and mechanical industries, and the construction material and paper industries. In terms of light industry, the craft sector is very active. It includes handmade textiles; gold, silver, and iron smithing; pottery making; woodworking; basketry; leatherworking; and other traditional crafts.

Trade. Peanuts, phosphates, cotton, and fish and fishing products are exported. Fishing products, mostly canned tuna, provide direct and indirect employment for more than 150,000 people. As part of its diversification policy, Senegal became one of the first African countries to develop tourism as a major national economic activity. However, tourism suffered a major blow from the Casamance insurgency and the conflict with Mauritania. Cash crops include rice, cowpeas, maize, sugar, and livestock. Cement, refined sugar, fertilizers, and tobacco products are exported to neighboring countries. Food, capital goods, and petroleum are imported from France, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Algeria, China, and Japan.

Division of Labor. In the past, division of labor was practiced in farming. Before the rainy season, young men did the hard work of clearing the bush and preparing the land for sowing. Once it rained and the seeds began to sprout, women and children weeded. The constitution bans child labor, but instead of attending school, many children work in the family's fields.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The society historically was organized into a hierarchy of castes, a rigid structure in which descendants of royal lines and nobles ruled over artisan castes and slaves. After independence, a new set of status criteria emerged. New means for achieving wealth, power, and status were introduced through the market economy and the development of the educational system. The modern elite includes successful businessmen, managers and professionals in the private sector as well as influential politicians, and highly educated individuals. The deterioration of living conditions has affected the life of the masses. Lepers, polio victims, and beggars are a common sight in the cities.

Symbols of Social Stratification. During the colonial era, nearly all the profits generated by the largest firms went to foreigners and the local nobility. The nationalization programs led by the government after independence favored a small number of citizens who entered into a new competition for status and power. The clans included successful businessmen, highly educated or politically well-connected individuals who were able to afford European-style living standards, including cars, modern appliances, luxurious villas or apartments, good schools, higher education for their children, and travel abroad. Investments in real estate, commerce, and agriculture were signs of achievement. In the rural hinterlands of the Cap Vert region, city dwellers own as much as 70 percent of the land. Jardiniers du Dimanche, or ("Sunday farmers") have invested in truck farms, orchards, and cattle-fattening operations, using loans from state-run banks. Corruption has contributed to the growing gap between the elite and the masses who are struggling to survive.

Political Life

Government. Senegal is a moderately decentralized republic dominated by a strong presidency. The president is elected by popular vote for a seven-year term and appoints a prime minister. The 1963 constitution provides for a civilian government composed of a dominant executive branch, a National Assembly, and an independent judiciary. A second legislative chamber, the Senate, was established in 1999.

Leadership and Political Officials. Called the "Poet President," Senghor was elected in 1960. As a student during the Depression years in Paris, he wrote poetry that helped launch the concept of Négritude. Inspired by the romantic vision of Africa of Harlem Renaissance authors and European ethnographers, Senghor exalted African culture. During his reign, the arts were well funded; he organized the Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar in 1966. His contribution to the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and Senegal and Gambia River Basin development associations won him respect as an elder statesman. Although a practicing Roman Catholic, Senghor developed strong ties with the Muslim brotherhoods, who supported him. Some Senegalese respected and revered him as the "Father of the Nation" even though they did not share his political views.

Senghor's political legacy was mixed. He provided the nation with a level of peace, political stability, tolerance, and freedom of expression that was rare in Africa. Unlike most African leaders, he knew when and how to give up power. However, by establishing a de facto one-party system, he contributed to the decline of his party's dynamism and thwarted the development of an opposition that could openly challenge national policies that had failed to stem economic decline.

President Abdou Diouf, who held office from 1981 to 2000, was a handpicked successor who peacefully stepped down after two decades in power. In a presidential election held in the year 2000, the forty-year dominance of the Socialist Party and Diouf's nineteen-year reign ended. In a second round of elections, he was defeated by Abdoulaye Wade, the leader of the main opposition party, the Senegalese Democratic Party.

Social Problems and Control. In the 1980s, Senegal, which had been largely free of ethnic, racial, and religious strife, began to experience those problems. Anti-Moor rioting and the mass exodus of Moors in 1989, the insurrection of separatist rebels, the fundamentalist Islamists who have emerged to challenge the brotherhoods' religious authority and the legitimacy of the secular state, and students' unrest and frustration at the lack of employment opportunities after graduation are signs of a more turbulent and less tolerant society. Theft occurs frequently, and most of the time people beat the criminal before the police arrive; on many occasions, vigilante groups and mobs have tried to lynch suspected thieves. Civilians have no access to guns, which are used mostly by the military and the police. In urban areas, alcoholism and drug use (mostly cannabis) have become a major issue.

Military Activity. The army has demonstrated a firm commitment to civilian rule and loyalty to the regime in power. Diouf continued Senghor's policy of building up the army and using it as an instrument of foreign policy. The army was used to put down the insurgency in the Casamance and ensure peace and order on the borders with Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The military forces number about fifteen thousand and are among the best trained in Africa.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Poor economic management has led to the intervention of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in State programs and policies. Two decades of structural adjustment programs have reduced government spending in all public sector activities, including social services. Urban and rural dwellers have adopted creative survival strategies, that have helped them cope with difficult times.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

In difficult economic times, individuals and communities increasingly rely on social ties to create solidarity networks. These ties include family, friends, ethnic groups, neighborhood associations, religious brotherhoods, and hometown networks. Nongovernmental organizations such as UNICEF, the Red Cross Society of Senegal, Medecins sans Frontie`res, CARE, the Ford Foundation, and the Peace Corps help these networks in their initiatives. Village-based parent student associations have played an important role in financing school construction and providing school supplies and materials in rural areas. Village health committees have been organized to build maternity and village health centers and manage the distribution of medicines. In the countryside, farmers have launched their own irrigated agricultural projects. Nongovernmental organizations have helped finance these small-scale development activities.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Women generally do most of the household chores of cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. With the growing exodus of young men from the villages, rural women have become increasingly involved in managing village forestry resources and operating millet and rice mills. The government has established a rural development agency designed to organize village women and involve them more actively in the development process. Women play a prominent role in village health committees and prenatal and postnatal programs. In urban areas, despite women's second-class status within Islam, change has proceeded rapidly in big cities, where women have entered the labor market as secretaries, typists, salesclerks, maids, and unskilled workers in textile mills and tuna-canning factories.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The position of women in most ethnic groups is one of dependence: husbands, fathers, brothers, and uncles all have rights over women and much of what they produce. Despite constitutional protections, women face extensive societal discrimination, especially in rural areas, where Islamic and traditional customs, including polygyny and Islamic rules of inheritance, are strong and women generally are confined to traditional roles. About half of all women live in polygynous unions. It is estimated that only 20 percent of women are engaged in paid employment. Due to the fact that men are legally considered heads of the household, women pay higher taxes than men and employers pay child allowances to men and not to women. In urban areas, several women's groups have formed to address violence against women, usually wife beating, which is a common problem. The police usually do not intervene in domestic disputes, and most people are reluctant to go outside the family for help.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. In rural areas, parents often arrange marriages for their children. A young man may want a young woman, but his father decides whether she is suitable. A go-between often is appointed to investigate the woman's family background. If the father finds the family satisfactory, he sends the go-between to deliver kola nuts to the woman's parents. The parents accept the kola nuts if they approve of the young man. In matrilineal ethnic groups such as the Wolof, the mother's brother is sent on behalf of the groom to ask for the bride's hand. Along with kola nuts, money is given. Gifts such as a television set, a sewing machine, jewelry, and fashionable clothes are required from the groom. In Muslim families, most marriages are conducted at the mosque by the iman, or religious leader. Then a civil marriage takes place at city hall or the family court.

The bride moves to the groom's house with great ceremony in which relatives and friends participate. In rural areas, young women sing ribald songs to provoke and entertain. Usually many days of festivities follow.

Domestic Unit. The core of a domestic group or compound is a nuclear polygynous or family. After marriage, a man brings his wife to his father's compound, but such residence is not necessarily permanent. In any domestic group, other people often live with the family, sometimes permanently and sometimes temporarily. Often these are kin such as the male head's unmarried or divorced sister, a sister's child, or a wife's child by a divorced spouse.

Inheritance. The debts of the deceased are paid before the estate is distributed among the heirs. If all the deceased's children are minors, his brother acts as trustee for the estate. He may marry the deceased's widow, but this is not common. If there is an adult son of the deceased, he acts as the trustee. When a married man with children dies, each son receives a full share in the estate, each daughter gets half a share, and the wives each receive an eighth of a share. A learned man often is called in to see that the distribution follows Islamic law, because few people make wills.

Kin Groups. The traditional social structure based on kinship and rigid stratification remains important but is being modified by the spread of education, the market economy, and the movement of people to urban and industrial centers. The presence of kin at life-cycle ceremonials is necessary for the achievement and maintenance of status.


Infant Care. People value children greatly. A child is seen as neighborhood property, and so child care responsibilities are shared. Using a Mbotu, a brightly colored rectangular shawl, mothers carry babies closely tied to their backs during their daily occupations. Neighbors and family members take turns helping busy mothers. Abandonment of infants is rare, and the strength of family bonds limits the need for institutional care of orphans.

Child Rearing and Education. By the time a child is five or six years of age, he or she is taught good values and etiquette. A child should greet elders, help parents with household chores, avoid foul language, and listen to the wisdom of elders. In their early years, boys and girls play together. As they grow older, gender roles become more sharply defined, with the girls remaining more with their mothers to learn household chores. In almost all ethnic groups, boys are circumcised as part of the process of reaching maturity, but the practice of female genital mutilation has been made a criminal offense. Muslim children attend Koranic school until they are six or seven at which time they start a formal education. Corporal punishment in schools has become unacceptable to parents, particularly in urban areas. Formal education is free. The school system has primary, secondary, and advanced levels. Education is available to both sexes. There are many private schools, run primarily by Catholic religious orders.

Higher Education. Universities include the University of Dakar and the University of Saint-Louis. There are also several vocational institutes. As a result of student unrest and deteriorating conditions at the universities, the elite often sends its children to study abroad.


The day starts with greetings. Young men often shake hands, and young women curtsy and often bend down slightly on one knee to greet their elders. Foul language is not tolerated in public, and people usually resort to communication or "dialogue" to diffuse hostility and aggressiveness. People employ Kal, an institutionalized joking relationship that permits individuals within extended families, caste groups, and ethnic groups to exchange blunt comments when they meet even if they do not know one another. Comments frequently focus on eating habits, cleanliness, and intelligence. A person's social rating often is linked to how well he or she respects community values such as Jom (dignity or self-respect) and Ham-sa-bop (self-knowledge).


Religious Beliefs. Ninety percent of the people identify themselves as Muslims and are affiliated with one of the three principal brotherhoods: the Mourides, the Tijaniyya, or the Qadiriyya. Each brotherhood is distinguished by slight differences in rituals and codes of conduct. Each year, wealthy and middle-class people make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Despite the small size of the Catholic community (approximately 5 percent of the population), Senegal has produced one of black Africa's few cardinals.

Aspects of traditional religion are fused with Islam or Christianity. Many urbanized people still regard their ancestors as important spiritual leaders of everyday life, although Allah or God is worshiped formally.

Religious Practitioners. Many Senegalese believe that living people and spirits may control supernatural forces, and malevolent men often are feared more deeply than are evil spirits. The Wolof seek help from a Jabaran-kat ("healer"), who asks them to sacrifice a chicken to ward off the evil powers of a doma ("witch").

Death and the Afterlife. Death is considered a path by which one joins one's ancestors. When a person dies, loud mourning echoes from the house of the bereaved. Others sing and dance to celebrate the dead person and to send his or her spirit to heaven. The cult of the ancestors is practiced among many of the ethnic groups. Among the rural Wolof, household water jars are seldom cleaned because the spirit of an ancestor could come to drink at that moment and find no water.

Medicine and Health Care

As a tropical country and a poor nation, Senegal is challenged by numerous health problems, including parasitic, intestinal, venereal, and respiratory diseases. Poor sanitation is the main environmental factor that affects the level of health. Malaria is endemic and is a cause of premature death. Intestinal parasites are common because of polluted water. Gonorrhea is present in urban centers. AIDS is a major concern for the population and the health services. Other diseases include hepatitis, trachoma, and tuberculosis. The quality of medical care has deteriorated because of the decline in the number of hospital beds and medical personnel, the lack of medicines in public health facilities, and the appalling conditions of public hospitals.

Secular Celebrations

The major state holidays are New Year's Day (1 January), Independence Day (4 April), International Workers' Day (1 May). During the holidays, people cook ceremonial food and dress up in bright traditional outfits. Religious holidays include Christmas (25 December), and Good Friday, Easter Monday, Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha, the Islamic New Year, and Muhammad's birthday.

Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists are self-supporting and are forced to seek markets outside the country.

Literature. There is a strong tradition of oral literature that reflects the country's history, philosophy, morality, and culture. Since the 1930s, writers have produced novels, short stories, tales, and essays dealing almost exclusively with African themes. The country also has produced successful filmmakers.

Graphic Arts. Glass painting, a new popular art, depicts religious and historical scenes and personalities. Goldsmiths, weavers, and tailors produce jewelry, carpers, and clothing.

Performance Arts. The performance of traditional dances is a popular form of recreation, and children learn to dance at a very young age. Popular sports include soccer and a form of wrestling called Lamb (the Wolof word for "fight").

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Despite the solid reputation of the University of Dakar, which was built in the mid-1900s, the development of the physical and social sciences remains limited primarily because of a lack of funding. However, attempts has been made to develop methods of utilizing solar energy.


American University. Area Handbook for Senegal, 1963.

Clark, Andrew F., and Lucie Colvin Phillips. Historical Dictionary of Senegal, 2nd ed. 1994.

Dilley, R. M., and J. S. Eades. Senegal, 1994.

Gellar, Sheldon. Senegal: An African Nation between Islam and the West, 1995.

Hudgens, Jim, and Richard Trillo. West Africa, 1995.

Sallah, Tijan M. Wolof, 1996.

U. S. Department of State, Senegal, 1999.

Madjiguene Diajayette

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The people of Senegal are called Senegalese. The largest ethnic group is the Wolof, who make about 40 percent of the total population. For information on the Fulani, who make up about 17 percent of the population, see the chapter on Guinea in Volume 4.

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Senegalall, appal (US appall), awl, Bacall, ball, bawl, befall, Bengal, brawl, call, caul, crawl, Donegal, drawl, drywall, enthral (US enthrall), fall, forestall, gall, Galle, Gaul, hall, haul, maul, miaul, miscall, Montreal, Naipaul, Nepal, orle, pall, Paul, pawl, Saul, schorl, scrawl, seawall, Senegal, shawl, small, sprawl, squall, stall, stonewall, tall, thrall, trawl, wall, waul, wherewithal, withal, yawl •carryall • blackball • handball •patball • hardball • netball • baseball •paintball • speedball • heelball •meatball • stickball • pinball • spitball •racquetball • basketball • volleyball •eyeball, highball •oddball • softball • mothball •korfball • cornball •lowball, no-ball, snowball •goalball •cueball, screwball •goofball • stoolball • football •puffball • punchball • fireball •rollerball • cannonball • butterball •catchall • bradawl • holdall • Goodall

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