Senegal is located in West Africa, It has an estimated population of 13 million people and a total area of approximately 197,000 km2. The country’s population consists of 94 percent Muslims and 5 percent Christians (mostly Roman Catholic). While French is the official language, the Wolof, Pulaar, Jola and Mandinka dialects are also widely spoken. The capital of Senegal is Dakar which is located on the most westerly point of the coastline of Africa. Senegal gained its independence in 1960, following about 75 years of French rule and is a democratic republic governed under multiparty rule based on the French civil law system, making the country a location of choice for many foreign embassies and international banks as the headquarters for the West African region. Senegal lies within the Sahel, the semi-desert, or Savannah region that forms a broad band across Africa between the Sahara desert to the north and the forested countries to the south. The landscape is generally low, rolling plains rising to foothills in the southeast. The climate is tropical, with a hot and humid wet season during May to October. The dry season starts in November and lasts up to April dominated by hot Harmattan winds. Senegal’s economy is based on agriculture, primarily groundnuts, cotton, grain crops, livestock and fishing; Other industries include primarily food processing, gold, iron ore, phosphate mining, fertilizer, cement production, downstream petroleum products and services. Theses are the main contributor to Senegal’s GDP.

The estimated 2011 GDP breakdown by sector is: agriculture 15.4%; industry 22.6% (minerals industry approximately 20%) and services 61.9%. The minerals industry is responsible for approximately 20% of Senegal’s export earnings. Foreign exchange is also derived from tourism. Agriculture supports over three quarters of the labor force.The government is generally pro-mining and passed a new Mining Code in November 2003. Under the Mining Code, appropriate governmental authorization is required to undertake any form of mining activity. In this regard, the right to explore minerals is conferred only by a permit of exploitation or a mining concession. An exploration permit for mineral exploration activities is granted for a period not exceeding three years, and is renewable. During the exploration phase, the permit holder is exempt from sales tax and duties on imported equipment and supplies necessary for exploration activities, as well as on fuel used for operation of stationary installations. Following exploration success, the permit holder may enter into a mining contract agreement with the State, which provides the State a free carried interest of 10% of the project. Under the Senegalese Mining Code, numerous fiscal incentives are offered to mining license holders, including a minimum seven-year exemption from income tax, among other tax exemptions, and the opportunity to secure a lease of up to 25 years for a major project. All mining activities are subject to a royalty of 3% of the value of the mine site payable to the Government.

Foreign mining companies are allowed to expatriate profits.Senegal (French: le Sénégal), officially the Republic of Senegal (République du Sénégal, IPA: [ʁepyblik dy seneɡal]), is a country south of the Sénégal River in western Africa. It owes its name to the river that borders it to the East and North and that originates from the Fouta Djallon in Guinea. Senegal is externally bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south; internally it almost completely surrounds the Gambia, namely on the north, east and south, exempting Gambia’s short Atlantic Ocean coastline. Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, is located at the westernmost tip of the country on the Cap-Vert peninsula. About 300 miles off the coast, of the Atlantic Ocean, which lie near the Cape Verde Islands. During colonial times, numerous trading counters belonging to various colonial empires, were established along the coast. The town of St. Louis became the capital of French Western Africa (Afrique-Occidentale Française, or AOF) before it was moved to Dakar in 1902. Dakar later became its capital in 1960 at the time of independence from France.

Etymology

The origin of the name Senegal is controversial. One possible source is in 1850 in the abbot David Boilat’s Esquisses sénégalaises (“Senegalese Sketches”), one sees a deformation of the wolof phrase suñu gaal, which means “our canoe”. This is the version most often relayed in the media. This theory has been contested since the 1960s, and other etymologies have been advanced; for example, some state that the name is connected to that of a Berber tribe from the Sahara, the Zenaga. The scientific debate tends to favor the Zenaga theory today.

History

Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Eastern Senegal was once part of the Empire of Ghana. It was founded by the Tukulor in the middle valley of the Senegal River. Islam, the dominant religion in Senegal, first came to the region in the 11th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time. In the Senegambia region, between 1300 and 1900, close to one-third of the population was enslaved. Various European powers—Portugal, the Netherlands, and Great Britain—competed for trade in the area from the 15th century onward, until in 1677, France ended up in possession of what had become a minor slave trade departure point—the island of Gorée next to modern Dakar, used as a base to purchase slaves from the warring chiefdoms on the mainland.

The first kingdoms were created around the 7th century, the Tekrour, the Namandirou kingdom and then the Djolof with distant ties to the Ghana empire. In the 14th century the Djolof kingdom became a powerful empire having regrouped the Cayor, the Baol, the Sine and Saloum, the Waalo, the Fouta-Toro and the Bambouk kingdoms. The empire was founded by Ndiadiane N’diaye who was able to form a coalition with many ethnicities but collapsed around 1549 with the defeat and killing of Lele Fouli Fak by Amari Ngone Sobel Fall. French colonialists progressively invaded and took over all kingdoms under their governor Louis Faidherbe. Islam was introduced in Senegal between the 8th and 9th century by Berber merchants. They peacefully converted the Toucouleurs and Sarakholles who in turn propagated it. Later on, in the 11th century, the Almoravids, with the help of the Toucouleurs used Jihad as a mean of conversion. This movement faced resistance from ethnicities of traditional religion and caused them to moved away further in the country (Sineisties) and to the South( Casamance). Eventually, Berbers won a peaceful conversion thanks to the intervention of leaders like Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba ,El Hadj Malick Sy, and Seydina Limamou Laye who were able to convince their followers. They saw Islam as a way to unite and fight against colonial power. The populations were getting weary of repeated jihads and forced colonization. Europeans missionaries introduced Christianity to the Sine and Casamance in the 19th century. An emblematic figure of Casamance is Aline Sitoe Diatta, a woman who led the resistance movement against European colonialists.

It was only in the 1850s that the French began to expand onto the Senegalese mainland (by now rid of slavery and promoting abolitionist doctrine), adding native chiefdoms such as Waalo, Cayor, Baol, and Jolof. Senegalese chiefs’ resistance to the French expansion and curtailing of their lucrative slave trade was led in part by Lat-Dior, Damel (great chief) of Cayor. In January 1959 Senegal and the French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on 20 June 1960, as a result of the independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on 4 April 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on August 20. Senegal and French Sudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Léopold Senghor was proclaimed Senegal’s first president in September 1960. Senghor was a very well read man, educated in France. He was a poet, a philosopher and personally drafted the Senegalese national anthem, “Pincez tous vos koras, frappez les balafons”. As such he was not really a politician but was handed the presidency by the French authorities who saw in him a brilliant and peaceful man and not a revolutionary like Ahmed Sekou Toure of the neighboring Guinea.

Later, after the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. Senghor always feared his Prime Minister who was a very charismatic figure and a hard-liner. In December 1962, he accused him of an attempted coup and Dia was wrongfully convicted of treason and briefly jailed. Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the president’s power. In 2006, the current president Abdoulaye Wade vacated the conviction and bestowed upon him a Medal of Honor. In 1980, President Senghor decided to retire from politics, and he handed power over in 1981 to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf. Mamadou Dia ran for re-election in 1983 against Abdou Diouf but did not win the election. Senghor moved to France where he later died at the age of 96 having been married to a French woman. Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia on  February 1st 1982. However, the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group in the Casamance region had clashed sporadically with government forces since 1982. Senegal has had a long history of participating in international peacekeeping. Abdou Diouf was president between 1981 and 2000. He encouraged broader political participation, reduced government involvement in the economy, and widened Senegal’s diplomatic engagements, particularly with other developing nations. Domestic politics on occasion spilled over into street violence, border tensions, and a violent separatist movement in the southern region of the Casamance. Nevertheless, Senegal’s commitment to democracy and human rights strengthened. Diouf served four terms as president. In the presidential election of 1999, opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade defeated Diouf in an election deemed free and fair by international observers. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another. On December 30th, 2004 President Abdoulaye Wade announced that he would sign a peace treaty with the separatist group in the Casamance region. This, however, has yet to be implemented. There was a round of talks in 2005, but the results did not yet yield a resolution.

Politics

Senegal is a republic with a presidency; the president is elected every five years as of 2001, previously being seven years, by adult votes. The current president is Abdoulaye Wade, re-elected in March 2007. Senegal has more than 80 political parties. The bicameral parliament consists of the National Assembly, which has 120 seats, and the Senate, which has 100 seats and was re-instituted in 2007. An independent judiciary also exists in Senegal. The nation’s highest courts that deals with business issues are the constitutional council and the court of justice, members of which are named by the president.

Currently Senegal has a democratic political culture, being one of the more successful post-colonial democratic transitions in Africa. Local administrators are appointed by and responsible to the president. The marabouts, religious leaders of the various Senegalese Muslim brotherhoods, also exercise a strong political influence in the country. In 2009, however, Freedom House downgraded Senegal’s status from ‘Free’ to ‘Partially Free’, based on increased centralization of power in the executive.

In 2008, Senegal finished in 10th position on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of sub-Saharan African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens. In 2009, Senegal’s ranking slipped substantially to 17th but rose to 3rd out of the original 53 countries in 2008. place. However, this is partially accounted for by the addition of Northern African nations to the rankings.

Geography

Senegal is located on the westerly part of the African continent. The Senegalese landscape consists mainly of the rolling sandy plains of the western Sahel which rise to foothills in the southeast. This is also found to be Senegal’s highest point, an otherwise unnamed feature near Nepen Diakha at 584 m (1,916 ft). The northern border is formed by the Senegal River, other rivers include the Gambia and Casamance Rivers. The capital Dakar lies on the Cap-Vert peninsula, the westernmost point of continental Africa.

The Cape Verde islands lie some 560 kilometers (348 mi) off the Senegalese coast, but Cap Vert (“Cape Green”) is a maritime place-mark, set at the foot of “Les Mammelles” , a 105-metre (344 ft) cliff resting at one end of the Cap Vert peninsula onto which is settled Senegal’s capital Dakar, and 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) south of the “Pointe des Almadies”, the western-most point in Africa.

Climate

The local climate is tropical with well-defined dry and humid seasons that result from northeast winter winds and southwest summer winds. The dry season (December to April) is dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind. Dakar’s annual rainfall of about 600 mm (24 in) occurs between June and October when maximum temperatures average 30 °C (86.0 °F) and minimums 24.2 °C (75.6 °F); December to February maximum temperatures average 25.7 °C (78.3 °F) and minimums 18 °C (64.4 °F). Interior temperatures are higher than along the coast, for example, the average daily temperatures in Kaolack and Tambacounda for May are 30 °C (86.0 °F) and 32.7 °C (90.9 °F) respectively, compared to Dakar’s 23.2 °C (73.8 °F) and rainfall increases substantially farther south, exceeding 1,500 mm (59.1 in) annually in some areas. In the far interior of the country, in the region of Tambacounda, particularly on the border of Mali, temperatures can reach as high as 54 °C (129.2 °F).

Administrative Divisions

Senegal is subdivided into 14 regions, each administered by a Conseil Régional (Regional Council) elected by population weight at the Arrondissement level. The country is further subdivided by 45 Départements, 103 Arrondissements (neither of which have administrative function) and by Collectivités Locales, which elect administrative officers.

Regional capitals have the same name as their respective regions:

  • Dakar
  • Diourbel
  • Fatick
  • Kaffrine
  • Kaolack
  • Kédougou
  • Kolda
  • Louga
  • Matam
  • Saint-Louis
  • Sédhiou
  • Tambacounda
  • Thiès
  • Ziguinchor

Major Cities

Senegal’s capital of Dakar is by far the largest city in Senegal and has over two million residents. The second most populous city is Touba, a de jure communaute rurale (rural community), with half a million people.

CityPopulation (2005)
Dakar (Dakar proper, Guédiawaye, and Pikine)2,145,193
Touba (Touba Mosquee)475,755
Thiès240,152
Kaolack181,035
M'Bour170,875
Saint-Louis165,038
Rufisque154,975
Ziguinchor153,456

Economy

In January 1994 Senegal undertook a bold and ambitious economic reform program with the support of the international donor community. This reform began with a 50 percent devaluation of Senegal’s currency, the CFA franc, which was linked at a fixed rate to the former French franc and now to the euro. Government price controls and subsidies have been steadily dismantled. After seeing its economy retract by 2.1 percent in 1993, Senegal made an important turnaround, thanks to the reform program, with real growth in GDP averaging 5 percent annually during the years 1995–2001. Annual inflation was reduced to less than 1%, but rose again to an estimated 3.3% in 2001. Investment increased steadily from 13.8% of GDP in 1993 to 16.5% in 1997. This in turn has caused Senegal’s economy to be one of the fastest growing in the world.

The main industries include food processing, mining, cement, artificial fertilizer, chemicals, textiles, refining imported petroleum, and tourism. Exports include fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, groundnuts, and calcium phosphate, and the principal foreign market is India at 26.7 percent of exports (as of 1998). Other foreign markets include the US, Italy, and the UK. As a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Senegal is working toward greater regional integration with a unified external tariff. Senegal is also a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (OHADA). Senegal realized full Internet connectivity in 1996, creating a mini-boom in information technology-based services. Private activity now accounts for 82 percent of GDP. On the negative side, Senegal faces deep-seated urban problems of chronic high unemployment, socioeconomic disparity, and juvenile delinquency. Senegal is a major recipient of international development assistance. Donors include USAID, Japan, France and China. Over 3000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Senegal since 1963.

Demographics

Senegal has a population of over 12.5 million, about 42 percent of whom live in rural areas. Density in these areas varies from about 77 inhabitants per square kilometre (199/sq mi) in the west-central region to 2 inhabitants per square kilometre (5/sq mi) in the arid eastern section.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Senegal has a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 23,800 in 2007. The majority of this population (20,200) is from Mauritania. Refugees live in N’dioum, Dodel, and small settlements along the Senegal River valley.

Ethnicity

Senegal has a wide variety of ethnic groups and, as in most West African countries, several languages are widely spoken. The Wolof are the largest single ethnic group in Senegal at 43 percent; the Peul and Toucouleur (also known as Halpulaar, Fulbe or Fula) (24 percent) are the second biggest group, followed by others that include the Serer (15 percent), Lebou (10 percent), Jola (4 percent), Mandinka (3 percent), Maures or Naarkajors, Soninke, Bassari and many smaller communities (9 percent). (See also the Bedick ethnic group.) About 50,000 Europeans (mostly French) and Lebanese as well as smaller numbers of Mauritanians and Moroccans reside in Senegal, mainly in the cities. The majority of Lebanese work in commerce. Also located primarily in urban settings are small Vietnamese communities as well as a growing number of Chinese immigrant traders, each numbering perhaps a few hundred people. There are also tens of thousands of Mauritanian refugees in Senegal, primarily in the country’s north.

From the time of earliest contact between Europeans and Africans along the coast of Senegal, particularly after the establishment of coastal trading posts during the fifteenth century, communities of mixed African and European (mostly French and Portuguese) origin have thrived. Cape Verdean migrants and their descendants living in urban areas and in the Casamance region represent another recognized community of mixed African and European background. French is the official language, used regularly by a minority of Senegalese educated in a system styled upon the colonial-era schools of French origin (Koranic schools are even more popular, but Arabic is not widely spoken outside of this context of recitation). Most people also speak their own ethnic language while, especially in Dakar, Wolof is the lingua franca. Pulaar is spoken by the Peuls and Toucouleur. Portuguese Creole is a prominent minority language in Ziguinchor, regional capital of the Casamance, where some residents speak Kriol, primarily spoken in Guinea-Bissau. Cape Verdeans speak their native creole, Cape Verdean Creole, and standard Portuguese.

Religion

Sufi Islam is the predominant religion, practiced by approximately 90 percent of the country’s population; the Christian community, at 10% of the population, includes Roman Catholics and diverse Protestant denominations. There is also a 1% population who maintain animism in their beliefs, particularly in the southeastern region of the country.

Islam

Islamic communities are generally organized around one of several Islamic Sufi orders or brotherhoods, headed by a khalif (xaliifa in Wolof, from Arabic khalīfa), who is usually a direct descendant of the group’s founder. The two largest and most prominent Sufi orders in Senegal are the Tijaniyya, whose largest sub-groups are based in the cities of Tivaouane and Kaolack, and the Murīdiyya (Murid), based in the city of Touba. The Halpulaar, a widespread ethnic group found along the Sahel from Chad to Senegal, representing 20% of the Senegalese population, were the first to convert to Islam. The Halpulaar, composed of various Fula people groups, named Peuls and Toucouleurs in Senegal.

Many of the Toucouleurs, or sedentary Halpulaar of the Senegal River Valley in the north, converted to Islam around a millennium ago and later contributed to Islam’s propagation throughout Senegal. Most communities south of the Senegal River Valley, however, were not thoroughly Islamized until the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the mid-19th century, Islam became a banner of resistance against the traditional aristocracies and French colonialism, and Tijānī leaders Al-Hajj Umar Tall and Màbba Jaxu Ba established short-lived but influential Islamic states but were both killed in battle and their territories then annexed by the French.

The spread of formal Quranic school (called daara in Wolof) during the colonial period increased largely through the effort of the Tijaniyya. In Murid communities, which place more emphasis on the work ethic than on literary Quranic studies, the term daara often applies to work groups devoted to working for a religious leader. Other Islamic groups include the much older Qādiriyya order and the Senegalese Laayeen order, which is prominent among the coastal Lebu. Today, most Senegalese children study at daaras for several years, memorizing as much of the Qur’an as they can. Some of them continue their religious studies at informal Arabic schools (majlis) or at the growing number of private Arabic schools and publicly funded Franco-Arabic schools. A modern messianic sect in Islam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is also present in the country.

Christianity

About 10% of the population of Senegal adheres to Christianity. Small Roman Catholic communities are mainly found in coastal Serer, Jola, Mankanya and Balant populations, and in eastern Senegal among the Bassari and Coniagui.
The Protestant churches are mainly attended by immigrants but during the second half of the twentieth century Protestant churches led by Senegalese leaders from different ethnic groups have evolved. In Dakar Catholic and Protestant rites are practiced by the Lebanese, Cape Verdean, European, and American immigrant populations, and among certain Africans of other countries as well as by the Senegalese themselves. Although Islam is Senegal’s majority religion, Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, was a Catholic Serer.

Other Religions

Animism, once widely practiced, has declined in Senegal in recent decades, though some Muslims and Christians incorporate elements of animism in their worship. There are small numbers of adherents of Judaism and Buddhism. Judaism is followed by members of several ethnic groups, while Buddhism is followed by a number of Vietnamese.

Bahá’í Faith. The Bahá’í Faith in Senegal was established after `Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, mentioned Africa as a place the religion should be more broadly visited by Bahá’ís. The first Bahá’is to set foot in the territory of French West Africa that would become Senegal arrived in 1953.The first Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly of Senegal was elected in 1966 in Dakar. In 1975 the Bahá’í community elected the first National Spiritual Assembly of Senegal. The most recent estimate, by the Association of Religion Data Archives in a 2005 report details the population of Senegalese Bahá’ís at 22,000.

Culture

Senegal’s musical heritage is better known than that of most African countries, due to the popularity of mbalax, which is a form of Wolof percussive; it has been popularized by Youssou N’Dour. Sabar drumming is especially popular. The sabar is mostly used in special celebrations like weddings. Another instrument, the tama, is used in more ethnic groups. Other popular Senegalese musicians are Ismael Lô, Orchestra Baobab, Baba Maal, Thione Seck, Akon, Viviane, Titi, and Pape Diouf.

Education

Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution adopted in January 2001 guarantee access to education for all children. Education is compulsory and free up to the age of 16. The Ministry of Labor has indicated that the public school system is unable to cope with the number of children that must enroll each year, Illiteracy is high, particularly among women.The net primary enrollment rate was 69% in 2005. Public expenditure on education was 5.4% of the 2002–2005 GDP.

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