|THE SENEGAL COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Senegal within the continent of Africa
Map of Senegal
Flag Description of Senegal: three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), yellow, and red with a small green five-pointed star centered in the yellow band; green represents Islam, progress, and hope; yellow signifies natural wealth and progress; red symbolizes sacrifice and determination; the star denotes unity and hope
note: uses the popular Pan-African colors of Ethiopia; the colors from left to right are the same as those of neighboring Mali and the reverse of those on the flag of neighboring Guinea
Official name République du Sénégal (Republic of Senegal)
Form of government multiparty republic with one1 legislative house (National Assembly )
Head of state and government President: Macky Sall, assisted by Prime Minister: Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne
Official language French
Official religion none
Monetary unit CFA franc (CFAF)
Population (2013 est.) 13,300,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 75,955
Total area (sq km) 196,722
- Urban: (2009) 43%
- Rural: (2009) 57%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2011) 59.3 years
- Female: (2011) 60.4 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2007) 53.4%
- Female: (2007) 34.9%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 1,070
1A second legislative house, the Senate, was originally created in 1999, abolished in 2001, reinstated in 2007, and abolished again in September 2012.
The French colonies of Senegal and the French Sudan were merged in 1959 and granted their independence as the Mali Federation in 1960. The union broke up after only a few months. Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia in 1982. The envisaged integration of the two countries was never carried out, and the union was dissolved in 1989. The Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance (MFDC) has led a low-level separatist insurgency in southern Senegal since the 1980s, and several peace deals have failed to resolve the conflict. Nevertheless, Senegal remains one of the most stable democracies in Africa and has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping and regional mediation. Senegal was ruled by a Socialist Party for 40 years until Abdoulaye WADE was elected president in 2000. He was reelected in 2007 and during his two terms amended Senegal's constitution over a dozen times to increase executive power and to weaken the opposition. His decision to run for a third presidential term sparked a large public backlash that led to his defeat in a March 2012 runoff election with Macky SALL.
Senegal, country of sub-Saharan West Africa. Located at the westernmost point of the continent and served by multiple air and maritime travel routes, Senegal is known as the “Gateway to Africa.” The country lies at an ecological boundary where semiarid grassland, oceanfront, and tropical rainforest converge; this diverse environment has endowed Senegal with a wide variety of plant and animal life. It is from this rich natural heritage that the country’s national symbols were chosen: the baobab tree and the lion.
The region today known as Senegal was long a part of the ancient Ghana and Djolof kingdoms and an important node on trans-Saharan caravan routes. It was also an early point of European contact and was contested by England, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands before ultimately coming under French control in the late 19th century. It remained a colony of France until 1960, when, under the leadership of the writer and statesman Léopold Senghor, it gained its independence—first as part of the short-lived Mali Federation and then as a wholly sovereign state.
Although Senegal traditionally has been dependent on peanuts (groundnuts), the government has had some success with efforts to diversify the country’s economy. Even so, the country suffered an economic decline in the 20th century, owing in some measure to external forces such as the fall in value of the African Financial Community (Communauté Financière Africaine; CFA) franc and the high cost of debt servicing, as well as to internal factors such as a rapidly growing population and widespread unemployment.
Almost one-half of Senegal’s people are Wolof, members of a highly stratified society whose traditional structure includes a hereditary nobility and a class of musicians and storytellers called griots. Contemporary Senegalese culture, especially its music and other arts, draws largely on Wolof sources, but the influences of other Senegalese groups (among them the Fulani, the Serer, the Diola, and the Malinke) are also evident. Wolof predominate in matters of state and commerce as well, and this dominance has fueled ethnic tension over time as less-powerful groups vie for parity with the Wolof majority.
The most important city in Senegal is its capital, Dakar. This lively and attractive metropolis, located on Cape Verde Peninsula along the Atlantic shore, is a popular tourist destination. Although the government announced plans to eventually move the capital inland, Dakar will remain one of Africa’s most important harbours and an economic and cultural centre for West Africa as a whole.
Senegal is home to several internationally renowned musicians and artists. Other aspects of Senegalese culture have traveled into the larger world as well, most notably Senghor’s espousal of Negritude—a literary movement that flourished in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s and that emphasized African values and heritage. Through events such as the World Festival of Negro Arts, first held in Senegal in 1966, and institutions such as the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire; IFAN) and the Gorée Island World Heritage site, Senegal honours Senghor’s dictum "We must learn to absorb and influence others more than they absorb or influence us."
Geography of Senegal
Senegal is bounded to the north and northeast by the Sénégal River, which separates it from Mauritania; to the east by Mali; to the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau; and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape Verde (Cap Vert) Peninsula is the westernmost point of the African continent. The Gambia consists of a narrow strip of territory that extends from the coast eastward into Senegal along the Gambia River and isolates the southern Senegalese area of Casamance.
Senegal is a flat country that lies in the depression known as the Senegal-Mauritanian Basin. Elevations of more than about 330 feet (100 metres) are found only on the Cape Verde Peninsula and in the southeast of the country. The country as a whole falls into three structural divisions: the Cape Verde headland, which forms the western extremity and consists of a grouping of small plateaus made of hard rock of volcanic origin; the southeastern and the eastern parts of the country, which consist of the fringes of ancient massifs (mountain masses) contiguous with those buttressing the massif of Fouta Djallon on the Guinea frontier and which include the highest point in the country, reaching an elevation of 1,906 feet (581 metres) near Népen Diakha; and a large but shallow landmass lying between Cape Verde to the west and the edges of the massif to the east.
Washed by the Canary Current, the Atlantic coast of Senegal is sandy and surf-beaten. Like the rest of the country, it is low except for the Cape Verde Peninsula, which shelters Dakar, one of the finest ports in Africa. The surf is less heavy on the coast south of the peninsula, whereas the coast south of the Saloum River consists of rias (drowned valleys) and is increasingly fringed with mangroves.
The country is drained by the Sénégal, Saloum, Gambia (Gambie), and Casamance rivers, all of which are subjected to a monsoonal climatic regime—i.e., a dry season and a rainy season. Of these rivers, the Sénégal—which was long the main route to the interior—is the most important. The river rises in the Fouta Djallon highlands of Guinea and, after traversing the old massifs, rapidly drops downward before reaching Senegalese territory. At Dagana it forms the so-called False Delta (or Oualo), which supplies Lake Guier on the south (left) bank. At the head of the delta is the town of Richard-Toll (the “Garden of Richard”), named for a 19th-century French nursery gardener. The slope of the land is so gentle on this stretch of the river that, at times of low water, salty seawater flows about 125 miles (200 km) upstream. The island on which the town of Saint-Louis stands, near the mouth of the river, is situated about 300 yards (270 metres) from the sea in the False Delta; the river’s true mouth lies 10 miles (16 km) to the south. In the southern half of the country, estuaries are muddy and salty, with marshy saline depressions known as tannes occurring occasionally.
Despite its apparent uniformity, Senegal contains a great diversity of soils. These fall generally into two types—the valley soils and those found elsewhere.
The soils of the Sénégal and Saloum river valleys in their middle courses are alluvial and consist of sandy loams or clays. Near the river mouths the soils are salty and favourable for grazing. Similar conditions are associated with the Gambia and Casamance rivers, except near their mouths the banks are muddy, whereas their upper courses have sandy clay soils.
Many types of soils are found throughout the country. In the northwest the soils are ochre-coloured and light, consisting of sands combined with iron oxide. These soils, called Dior soils, constitute the wealth of Senegal; the dunes they form are highly favourable to peanut cultivation, whereas the soils between the dunes are suitable for other food crops, such as sorghum. In the southwest the plateau soils are sandy clays, frequently laterized (leached into red, residual, iron-bearing soils). The centre and the south of the country are covered by a layer of laterite hidden under a thin covering of sand that affords only sparse grazing during the rainy season. In the Casamance area heavily leached clay soils with a high iron-oxide content predominate, suitable for cultivation regardless of their depth.
Senegal’s climate is conditioned by the tropical latitude of the country and by the seasonal migration of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ)—the line, or front, of low pressure at which hot, dry continental air meets moist oceanic air and produces heavy rainfall. The prevailing winds are also characterized by their origin: the dry winds that originate in the continental interior and the moist maritime winds that bring the rains.
The dry winds, sometimes called the dry monsoon, consist of the northeast trade winds. In winter and spring, when they are strongest, they are known as the harmattan. They bring no precipitation apart from a very light rain, which the Wolof people of Senegal call the heug. The moist rain-bearing winds blow primarily from the west and northwest. Beginning in June with the northward passage of the ITCZ, these winds usher in the summer monsoon. As the ITCZ returns southward beginning in September, the rainy season draws to a close. The slow north-south migration of the ITCZ results in a longer, heavier rainy season in the southern part of the country.
From the combination of these factors, three principal climate zones may be distinguished: coastal, Sahelian, and Sudanic. The coastal (Canarian) zone occurs along a strip of Atlantic coastline about 10 miles (16 km) wide running from Saint-Louis to Dakar. Its winters are cool, with minimum temperatures reaching about 63 °F (17 °C) in January; maximum temperatures in May do not exceed 81 °F (27 °C). The rains begin in June, reach their height in August, and cease in October. The average annual rainfall is about 20 inches (500 mm).
The Sahelian climate occurs in an area bounded to the north by the Sénégal River and to the south by a line running from Thiès (a town on Cape Verde Peninsula) to Kayes in the neighbouring country of Mali. The weather there in January is also cool, especially in the mornings before sunrise, when the temperature drops to about 57 °F (14 °C); afternoon temperatures, however, may top 95 °F (35 °C). In May minimum temperatures are no lower than about 72 °F (22 °C), and maximums often rise above 104 °F (40 °C). The dry season is quite distinct and lasts from November to May. Certain places, such as Podor and Matam on the border of Mauritania, are particularly noted for their dryness and heat. Between July and October the rainfall averages about 14 inches (360 mm), moderating the temperature somewhat, while maximum temperatures reach about 95 °F (35 °C).
The Sudanic zone in the southern half of the country is generally hot, humid, and uncomfortable. Annual precipitation varies from north to south. In the Kaolack-Tambacounda vicinity, rainfall averages between 29 inches (740 mm) and 39 inches (990 mm), occurring on about 60 days between June and October. Cultivation without irrigation is possible here. Annual rainfall in the Gambian area frequently amounts to 50 inches (1,270 mm), resulting in the growth of a continuous belt of light forest and patches of herbaceous undergrowth. In the southern Casamance area it exceeds 50 inches, falling on 90 days of the year. The forest there is dense, green, and continuous, without undergrowth, and oil palms, mangroves, and rice fields are characteristic.
- Plant and animal life
Plant life in Senegal varies among the climate zones and seasons. The northern half of the country consists of a mix of shrub and tree steppes and shrub and tree savannas. The herbaceous cover, green and lush during the rainy season, all but disappears during the dry season. When available, this cover is used for grazing by livestock. Thorn bushes and baobab and acacia trees, including gum arabic trees, are common to this area.
Savanna woodlands and dry woodlands are typical in the southern half of Senegal; more than 80 woodland species are found in this area. Brisk vegetation growth is generated by the first precipitation of the rainy season. Annual bush fires contribute to maintaining open areas throughout the region. Acacia and baobab trees are also found here, as are mahogany trees. Much of the natural vegetation in the western area of this region has been modified through the clearing of land for agricultural use.
In the extreme southwest area of Senegal, there are dense forests and mangrove swamps. Mangrove trees, oil palms, teak trees, and silk cotton trees are common here.
Although large mammals have disappeared from the western part of the country, having been displaced by human settlement, such animals as elephants, antelopes, lions, panthers, cheetahs, and jackals may still be encountered in Niokolo Koba National Park in the eastern part of the country. Herds of warthogs abound in the marshes, especially those of the False Delta. Hares are ubiquitous, and monkeys of all types congregate in noisy bands, above all in the upper Gambia and upper Casamance river valleys. Among the great numbers of birds, the red-billed quelea, or “millet eater,” which destroys crops, is notable, as are the partridge and the guinea fowl. Reptiles are numerous and include pythons, as well as cobras and other venomous snakes. Crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and turtles are found in the rivers. The rivers and the coastal waters are rich in fish and crustaceans. Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, contains more than a million birds, including the African spoonbill, the purple heron, the white pelican, and the cormorant. Niokolo Koba National Park was also named a World Heritage site in 1981. Lower Casamance National Park, located in the southwestern portion of the country, is home to hippopotamuses, leopards, crocodiles, and water buffalo.
Demography of Senegal
- Ethnic groups
The Wolof comprise almost one-half of the total population, and their language is the most widely used in the republic. Under the traditional Wolof social structure, similar to those of other groups in the region, people were divided into the categories of freeborn (including nobles, clerics, and peasants), caste (including artisans, griots, and blacksmiths), and slaves. The Serer, numbering slightly more than one-tenth of the population, are closely related to the Wolof. The Fulani and the Tukulor combined make up about one-fifth of the population. The Tukulor are often hard to distinguish from the Wolof and the Fulani, for they have often intermarried with both. The Diola and the Malinke constitute a small portion of the population. Other small groups consist of such peoples as the Soninke, rulers of the ancient state of Ghana; the Mauri, who live primarily in the north of the country; the Lebu of Cape Verde, who are fishermen and often wealthy landowners; and the Basari, an ancient people who are found in the rocky highlands of Fouta Djallon.
Some 39 languages are spoken in Senegal, including French (the official language) and Arabic. Linguists divide the African languages spoken there into two families: Atlantic and Mande. The Atlantic family, generally found in the western half of the country, contains the languages most widely spoken in Senegal—Wolof, Serer, Fula, and Diola. Mande languages are found in the eastern half and include Bambara, Malinke, and Soninke.
Islam is the religion of the vast majority of the population, practiced through involvement in groups known as Muslim brotherhoods. In Senegal the three primary brotherhoods are the Qadiri (Qadiriyyah), the Tijani (Tijāniyyah), and the Mourides (Murid, Murīdiyyah). Spiritual leaders known as marabouts figure prominently in Muslim brotherhoods and are important in maintaining the social status quo. Touba, Senegal’s most sacred city, is the birthplace of Amadou Bamba M’backe, the founder of the Mourides brotherhood. A small segment of the population follows traditional religions. The Diola have a priestly class that directs ancestor veneration. Christianity is practiced by a growing but still very small population. Christianity came to the region beginning in 1486, and the contact was renewed with the arrival in 1819 of nuns of the order of St. Joseph of Cluny. Most followers are Roman Catholic, and the small number of Protestants are largely immigrants from Europe.
- Settlement patterns
- TRADITIONAL GEOGRAPHIC AREAS
Senegal is divided into five geographic areas, which are inhabited by various ethnic groups. Ferlo, the north-central area of Senegal, is distinguished by its semidesert environment and by its poor soils. Vegetation appears only in the south, the north consisting of the Sahelian type of savanna parkland (an intermediate zone between the Sahara and the savanna proper); it affords light grazing for the flocks tended by nomadic Fulani pastoralists.
Fouta is centred on the Sénégal River and extends approximately from Bakel in the east to Dagana in the north. It consists of a strip of territory that is relatively densely inhabited. Watered by the river and its tributaries in the dry season, this area is conducive to highly developed agricultural and pastoral use of the soils and vegetation. Fulani also inhabit this area, although Wolof occupy the False Delta, where they cultivate millet and raise livestock with the help of Fulani shepherds.
The diverse area situated between Ferlo and the Atlantic and extending from the False Delta in the north to Cape Verde Peninsula in the south was once home to the historical Wolof states of Dianbour, Cayor, Djolof, and Baol. Here the soils are sandy and the winters cool; peanuts are the primary crop. The population is as diverse as the area itself and includes Wolof in the north, Serer in the Thiès region, and Lebu on Cape Verde.
The Sudan area is bounded by Cape Verde to the northwest, Ferlo to the north, and the lower Casamance valley to the southwest. It is composed of the following parts—the “Little Coast,” Sine-Saloum, Rip, Yassine, Niani, Boundou, Fouladou, and the valleys of the Gambia and upper Casamance rivers. In general, the area benefits from ample rainfall, which becomes abundant toward the south. It is suitable for agriculture and, as a result, is relatively densely populated. The area as a whole is inhabited by a diverse population composed of all the ethnic groups living in Senegal; the majority, however, are Malinke.
The lower Casamance area is covered by dense vegetation of the Guinean type. The predominant ethnic groups are the Diola and the Mandinka.
- RURAL SETTLEMENT
The majority of Senegalese live in the countryside, although people continue to migrate to the towns, especially the capital city, Dakar. Many of those migrating to urban environments still consider themselves farmers who go there to do odd jobs to make money to send to their families. There are numerous villages, each with an average population of a few hundred people. Usually each village has a shaded public gathering place, a mosque, and a water source (a well, a spring, or a small stream). The village is administered by a chief who is either traditionally nominated or appointed by the government. Religious life is directed by a Muslim marabout or other traditional religious leader. The villages differ on the basis of the ethnic characteristics of the inhabitants, but all are directed by traditional leaders of some form.
- URBAN SETTLEMENT
The towns of Saint-Louis (founded in 1659) and Dakar (1857) are the oldest in Senegal. Saint-Louis, originally the capital of French West Africa and noted for its colonial heritage, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. Dakar replaced Saint-Louis as the capital of French West Africa in 1902. Other towns, founded more recently and of colonial origin, typically developed as collection points for the peanut trade and later evolved into urban centres. These towns were often stops along the railroad lines, as at Thiès, Tivaouane, Mékhé, and Louga (between Dakar and Saint-Louis) or at Khombole, Bambey, Diourbel, Gossas, Kaffrine, and Koungheul (between Thiès and Kayes, Mali). Certain ports also became towns; among these are Kaolack, Foundiougne, and Fatick (on the Sine-Saloum rivers) and Ziguinchor, Sédhiou, and Kolda (on the Casamance River). Many of these towns have remained rural in character. Furthermore, every town—including Saint-Louis, Rufisque, and Gorée, which had great importance in the past—is today dependent upon the Dakar metropolis, where some one-fifth of all Senegalese live.
- Demographic trends
The population of Senegal has been growing at a rate that is higher than the world average but is comparable to other countries in the region. Life expectancy figures for Senegal, averaging about 56 years for both men and women, are among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The population is heavily weighted toward the young, as are most African populations, with more than two-fifths under 15 years of age. Population densities throughout Senegal are not great. There has been a major increase in permanent urban settlement, which is approaching half of the population. Urban unemployment and underemployment are high, however.
Economy of Senegal
The Senegalese economy has traditionally revolved around a single cash crop, the peanut. The government, however, has worked to diversify both cash crops and subsistence agriculture by expanding into commodities such as cotton, garden produce, and sugarcane as well as by promoting nonagricultural sectors. The government was successful in making fishing, phosphates, and tourism major sources of foreign exchange at the beginning of the 21st century, although the condition of the transportation and power infrastructure placed limits on the amount of expansion possible. Exploitation of mineral resources such as gold, petroleum, and natural gas also diversified the economy.
Before Senegal’s independence from France in 1960, the economy was largely in the hands of the private sector. Since economic activity depended primarily on the peanut trade, the large French companies that marketed the crop also controlled the importation of European manufactured goods. After independence the Senegalese government created a state agency responsible for virtually all aspects of the peanut trade. Although the private sector remained important, the state dominated the economy. The government also created an investment code, which consisted of various guarantees and long-term tax concessions and attracted capital investment from many quarters.
The intervention of the state occurred during the colonial era but became more prevalent after independence with the creation of the National Organization of the Rural Sector. The organization, the backbone of President Léopold Senghor’s policy of African socialism, bought and sold peanuts, rice, and millet and also sold fertilizer, seed, tools, and equipment.
Under Abdou Diouf, president of Senegal from 1981 to 2000, the government began to move away from state intervention in the economy and to encourage the reintroduction of private initiatives. Privatization was pursued in agricultural marketing, some industries, and some public utilities, including telecommunications (Sonatel), textiles (Sotexka), electric utilities (Senelec), and peanut processing (Sonacos). The policy was encouraged and supported by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and was continued by Abdoulaye Wade when he became president in 2000. However, the large number of unionized workers and the problems associated with finding suitable buyers for large enterprises prevented complete implementation of the plan.
Since the late 1970s a population explosion, uncontrolled migration to the city, and declining prices for primary materials have depressed the economy. Only substantial foreign aid has prevented a decline in the standard of living. Foreign assistance has also allowed the government to revitalize its deteriorating transportation infrastructure.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Agriculture occupies about two-thirds of the economically active population and provides the basis for industry as well. The most important crop has been the peanut, but, beginning in the 1980s, agriculture has been diversified. Extensive acreage is devoted to millet, sorghum, and plants from the Pennisetum genus of Old World grasses, grown for fodder. Rice is cultivated both in naturally wet areas and by irrigation, although its large-scale cultivation is restricted to the lower Casamance valley and the lower Sénégal River valley below Richard-Toll. In addition, corn (maize), cassava (manioc), beans, and sweet potatoes are grown in significant quantities. Periodic drought at the end of the 20th century limited agricultural production, but the Manantali dam in Mali has alleviated some of this problem by providing water for large areas of newly irrigated land. New drought-resistant strains of plants have also been developed.
The climate and the savanna type of vegetation encourage the raising of livestock—including cattle, goats, sheep, horses, donkeys, camels, and pigs—which is carried on in almost all geographic regions but is especially characteristic of the north. Stock raising is not a major source of income for the farmer, however; the meat is consumed locally, and only the hides and skins are exported.
Senegal is well-forested, particularly in the south, and the country has conservation and reforestation programs in place. Sawn timber is produced for domestic consumption, and wood, particularly in the form of charcoal, is an important source of fuel in the country. Baobab trees provide fuel, and the fruit from the tree is also useful. Gum arabic, which is obtained from acacia trees, has been traded for centuries but is now of limited commercial value.
Although many fish are obtained from the rivers, the greater part of the catch is obtained from the sea. Fishing products now lead all exports in terms of value, the result of many years of building up the industry. The waters off Senegal—particularly those at some distance from the shore—have an abundance of economically significant fish. Senegal’s coastal waters are also known for their large variety of fish, unlike most other African countries on the Atlantic seaboard. However, overfishing by foreign fisheries threatens this very lucrative source of income.
- Resources and power
Senegal’s known mineral deposits consist primarily of phosphates of lime, located at Taïba, near Tivaouane, about 60 miles (100 km) northeast of Dakar, and aluminum phosphates at Palo, near Thiès. Some mineral reserves include petroleum deposits discovered off the Casamance coast, high-grade iron-ore reserves located in the upper Falémé River valley, gold reserves in the southeastern part of the country at Sabodala, and natural gas reserves located both onshore and offshore. The saltworks of Kaolack have considerable production potential.
Electric energy is produced and distributed by the Senegalese Electric Company (Société Sénégalaise d’Électricité [Senelec]). Before the 1980s all energy produced in Senegal was generated by thermal plants. Cheaper hydroelectric energy became available with the construction of hydroelectric projects on the Sénégal River undertaken with Mauritania and Mali, with dams at Diama in Senegal (completed in 1985) and Manantali in Mali (completed in 1988).
Industrial production in Senegal is more developed than in most Western African countries. Both food-processing and handicraft industries are well established. Most of the former is located in the Cape Verde area, where many plants produce peanut oil. In good years Senegal is the leading producer of peanut oil in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa. However, the world market for this product is decreasing, and the government’s push for the greater privatization of markets has led to peanut cooperatives’ selling directly to local oil producers. Developments in the chemicals industry, metalworking, mineral, and truck and bicycle assembly plants are aimed at processing the country’s own raw materials and reducing reliance on imports. Senegal has fish canneries, a shoe factory, and a cement-manufacturing plant, the last two located in Rufisque. Other industrial establishments, all of which are located in Dakar, include flour mills, a textile plant, a sugar refinery, a tobacco factory, and a brewery, in addition to a naval shipyard, chemical plants, and an automobile assembly plant. Traditional handicrafts, such as wood carvings, glass paintings, jewelry, painted fabrics, drums, and masks, are produced mainly in Dakar and Saint-Louis, home to the most-skilled artisans.
- Finance and trade
Senegal’s currency is the CFA franc, which has been officially pegged to the euro since 2002. Currency is issued by the Central Bank of West African States, an agency of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, consisting of eight countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo) that were once French colonies in Africa. Other state and private banks exist, including Islamic ones. A stock exchange based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, also services Senegal.
The value of imports is usually greater than that of exports, and Senegal generally has a significant balance-of-trade deficit. The principal imports are agricultural products, capital goods, and petroleum products, and exports include seafood, refined petroleum, chemical products, peanut oil, and phosphates. France is the primary trading partner.
Tourism, one of the country’s primary sources of foreign exchange, has made Senegal one of the most visited countries in West Africa. Although most of the tourists are Europeans, the government has tried to attract others, especially Americans. Gorée Island, site of a former slave warehouse, is a popular attraction, as are Senegal’s national parks. Dakar is an important international conference centre. Tourism declined in 1993 because of instability in the Casamance area but had recovered by the mid-1990s. At the beginning of the 21st century, the country was accommodating about a half million tourists per year.
- Labour and taxation
The majority of Senegal’s labour force are agricultural workers, although a sizable minority work as traders. The constitution guarantees workers the right to unionize, but the union can legally exist only after registering with the Ministry of the Interior. The constitution grants all people the right to work; however, until 1989 husbands were allowed to prevent their wives from working outside the home. Women, who represented some four-tenths of the labour force at the beginning of the 21st century, were employed mainly in the agricultural sector, although they were well represented in small trade. Women merchants often join the African Network for the Promotion of Working Women (Réseau Africain pour la Promotion de la Femme Travailleuse; RAFET), an organization that provides employment training and support to women.
Most governmental revenue is obtained indirectly from local taxes on alcohol, gasoline, tobacco, firearms, automobiles, and commerce. Land, professional licenses, profits, and income are directly taxed.
- Transportation and telecommunications
The transport network has developed primarily in the western part of the country within the area bounded by Saint-Louis, Kaolack, and Dakar. About half of Senegal’s extensive road network is passable year-round.
The rail system, which is being rehabilitated and expanded, includes a line from Saint-Louis to Dakar, with a branch line running from Louga inland to Linguère, and a line from Dakar to the Niger River at Koulikoro, Mali. Locomotives are run entirely on diesel fuel. Phosphates represent the great bulk of freight carried by rail.
Senegal’s three seaports are Kaolack, Ziguinchor, and Dakar. Only Dakar is an international port; the others are limited to handling local traffic. Dakar is one of the busiest ports in Western Africa and accommodates ships up to 100,000 tons along 6 miles (10 km) of quay. The quays provide refrigerated facilities that serve 1,000 fishing boats each year.
The international airport of Dakar-Yoff near Dakar is served by a number of airlines, including Air Sénégal. Its three runways can accommodate any kind of aircraft. Airports at Saint-Louis and several other cities provide domestic service.
Historically, Senegal’s rivers, especially the Sénégal, were important transportation arteries, despite limited navigability. However, their significance has diminished since the end of the 19th century, with the construction of rail lines. Navigation of the Sénégal was facilitated by the completion of the Diama and Manantali dams in the late 20th century. Activity on the Saloum River centres on peanut shipping from Kaolack, and traffic on the Casamance is to and from the port of Ziguinchor.
Senegal has a strong, reliable telephone system, especially in urban areas. Sonatel, the national telecommunications company, provides telephone service. Senegal became wired for Internet use in 1996, providing the opportunity for many technology-based services to develop in the country. Internet and mobile phone services are provided by a small number of private companies, as well as Sonatel. Both services are growing in popularity in Senegal.
Government and Society of Senegal
- Constitutional framework
The first constitution of Senegal was promulgated in 1963 and revised through March 1998. A new constitution, approved by voters in January 2001 and since amended, proclaims fundamental human rights; respect for individual and collective property rights; political, trade-union, and religious freedoms; and a democratic and secular state.
Senegal is a multiparty republic. The 2001 constitution provides for a strongly centralized presidential regime—the head of state and government is the president, assisted by the prime minister—elected by direct universal adult suffrage. The president, who can be elected to two seven-year terms, appoints the prime minister. Ministers are appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the president. Senegal has a unicameral legislature (the National Assembly), three-fourths of which is directly elected, with the remaining one-fourth indirectly elected. All legislators serve five-year terms. Judicial, executive, and legislative powers are separated.
- Local government and justice
Senegal is divided into 14 régions, which in turn are divided into départements and arrondissements. Each région is administered by a governor whose role is coordinative and who is assisted by two deputy governors, one dealing with administration and the other with development. Regional assemblies, the powers of which were increased in 1996, are composed of general councillors responsible for local taxation. In each département the prefect represents the republic, as do the ministers. There are also autonomous urban communes. Dakar is governed by an elected municipal council.
Judicial power in Senegal is exercised by the Constitutional Council, the Council of State, the Court of Cassation, the Court of Accounts, and the Courts and Tribunals. Senegal also has a High Court of Justice, whose members are elected by the National Assembly. The High Court tries government officials for crimes committed while in performance of their government duties.
- Political process
The Senegalese played a pioneering role in the development of a modern political system in the territories of French West Africa. At first, political life was of concern only to an elite consisting of intellectuals, traditional chiefs, and the inhabitants of the four communes—Saint-Louis, Dakar, Rufisque, and Gorée—who had been French citizens since 1916. After World War II universal suffrage was introduced in stages, and the electorate increased from 890,000 voters in 1958 to 3,164,827 in 1998. Senegalese citizens now participate in the elections of the president, members of the National Assembly, and regional and municipal councillors.
Unlike most African states, which tend to pivot on a single political party, Senegal has a solidly entrenched multiparty system that is guaranteed by constitutional provision. Elections are contested by several parties representing a wide range of political views. In spite of this diversity, party politics since national independence was long dominated by the Socialist Party (until 1976 the Senegalese Progressive Union). Not until the 21st century did another party become dominant.
In addition to political party and trade union activities, other institutions also permit participation in the political process. These include societies for mutual assistance, which are organized at the regional as well as the village level, youth associations, and religious groupings, which are most influential. Muslims, particularly Sunnis, are aware of their political power and have even called for the establishment of an Islamic state. The government remains committed to a secular state.
Mame Madior Boye became Senegal’s first female prime minister in 2001. There have been several other women ministers in the government, and women accounted for almost two-fifths of members in the National Assembly after the 2012 elections.
Senegal has a small military force consisting of army, navy, and air force contingents. Conscription is practiced, and conscripted recruits enter the military for two years. Senegalese troops have been involved in various United Nations-sponsored missions as well as peacekeeping functions sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
- Health and welfare
Although Senegal has a considerable range of medical facilities, most of them are concentrated in Dakar and are thus insufficient for the country’s health needs. They include hospitals, clinics, maternity homes, and various services specializing in diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, and leprosy. The Senegalese Red Cross, the Research Institute for Development, and the World Health Organization are also active. Most of the population, however, continues to utilize traditional African and Islamic forms of healing because they are more accessible and affordable.
Malaria is the leading cause of death by infectious disease in Senegal. There also has been a resurgence in tuberculosis, part of a worldwide trend, but polio, once a significant menace, has been nearly eliminated. In 1999 government legislation banned female genital cutting (also referred to as female genital mutilation or female circumcision). Cases of AIDS have been reported in Senegal, but the overall infection rate is not high compared with those of other sub-Saharan countries. This is due in large measure to a conscious effort on the part of the Senegalese government to educate its population about the disease when it began spreading throughout Africa. Pioneering work on the virus, particularly the strain most prevalent in West Africa, HIV-2, has been done at Senegalese universities by researchers such as Souleymane Mboup.
The standard of living in the countryside is low compared with that of the cities. Many people aspire to live in Dakar, but once they arrive there, they find a great disparity between exclusive wealthy neighbourhoods and sprawling shantytowns that are growing at an increasing rate. Power outages are common, as are crimes of property.
In rural areas dwellings are usually well constructed and roofed with straw, with walls made of either earth or straw. In more-prosperous villages roofs may be made of corrugated iron; the walls may be made of cement brick. Houses in towns are constructed of cement and have roofs either of tile or of corrugated iron; typically, many families are crowded together in these dwellings. Migration from the countryside has expanded the population of urban areas and resulted in the proliferation of shantytowns.
Wolof villages, which are small, contain about a hundred households. Because the topography provides no natural obstacles, each village may easily be moved from place to place. The houses are built of locally obtained materials. Harvests are kept in straw granaries, located far from the housing compounds for fear of fire. In the area around the Saloum River, each Wolof village is surrounded by three concentric zones of vegetation. The first of these—the inner zone—consists of fields and vegetable gardens. The second circle consists of land that has been exhausted, except for peanut cultivation. The third, the farthest from the village, is where cereal crops are cultivated.
The typical Malinke village has between 200 and 300 inhabitants living in enclosed compounds and crowded together in geometrically aligned rectangular huts. Agriculture and stock raising are the principal economic activities. Each village is usually headed by a chief or a Muslim marabout, who, like most traditional leaders, is conservative in outlook.
Unlike Wolof and Malinke villages, Serer family compounds are more dispersed, and each one is autonomous. On the islands at the mouth of the Saloum River, each Nyiominka Serer compound contains solidly built houses and a granary.
Diola villages contain 5,000 or more people. Like those of the Serer, the compounds are not grouped in any distinguishable hierarchy. These villages are characteristically built on the edge of a plateau or on ground overlooking the rice fields, which are associated with Diola life. Their houses are the best-built and most-permanent village dwellings in Senegal. On occasion they constitute veritable fortifications, as in Thionck-Essil and Oussouye. The villages near Essil also can be quite sophisticated, with many of them equipped with rainwater-catchment systems. Diola and Serer villages have no chiefs with authority or prestige comparable to those of Wolof or Malinke villages.
Western education has existed in Senegal since the 19th century; its first goal was to train the Senegalese in French culture and to help with colonial administration. Since independence Senegal has made particular efforts to increase school enrollment in rural areas, although with limited success; the literacy rate remains one of the lowest in the world. Among the secondary schools, the Faidherbe Lycée at Saint-Louis and the Van Vollenhoven Lycée at Dakar are the oldest and most renowned. Technical education is expanding and is provided by institutions in Dakar, Saint-Louis, Diourbel, Kaolack, and Louga.
Higher education developed from the School of Medicine of Dakar (1918). It achieved full status as a university in the French system in 1957 and became known as the University of Dakar. The name was changed in 1987 to University Cheikh Anta Diop to honour a Senegalese scholar and politician. Following disturbances in 1968, Senegal concluded an agreement with France that emphasized a more African-based curriculum. The College of Sciences and Veterinary Medicine for French-speaking Africa is also located in Dakar, and a polytechnic college opened at Thiès in 1973. The University of Saint-Louis, founded in 1990, was renamed University Gaston-Berger in 1996 for a Senegalese philosopher who was born in Saint-Louis. Approximately one-fifth of the students attending these schools are foreign, mostly from the French-speaking countries of Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
Culture Life of Senegal
History of Senegal
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.
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