Senegal, republic in western Africa, bounded 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 Gambia, a small, narrow country, forms an enclave in southern Senegal, extending inland along the Gambia River. The republic’s total area is 196,722 sq km (75,955 sq mi). Dakar is the capital and largest city.
|II||LAND AND RESOURCES|
Most of Senegal is an undulating plain lying below 100 m (330 ft). Elevations rise above 500 m (1,600 ft) only in the extreme southeast in the foothills of the Fouta Djallon (Futa Jallon). The main rivers are the Sénégal, which forms the northern boundary, and the Saloum, Gambia, and Casamance. Although these rivers are subject to seasonal variations in their flow, all are navigable on their lower courses.
Most of Senegal has a transitional climate from the dry desert zone in the north to the moist tropical zone in the south. The rainy season lasts from July to October in the north, where rainfall averages 380 mm (15 in); in the south the rainy season lasts from June to October, with annual rainfall of 1,400 mm (55 in). Average temperature on the coast is 22°C (72°F) in January and 28°C (82°F) in July.
|B||Vegetation and Animal Life|
The northern section of Senegal is part of the Sahel, a transition zone between the Sahara on the north and the wetter regions to the south. Vegetation here consists largely of savanna grass with scattered clumps of trees and spiny shrubs. Farther south, in the region of the Gambia River, trees become more common. In the extreme south are mangrove swamps and dense forests of oil palm, mahogany, teak, and bamboo. Wildlife is diverse, but larger mammals, such as elephants, lions, cheetahs, and antelopes, are largely confined to the less populated eastern half of the country. Hippopotamuses and crocodiles are found in the rivers. Among Senegal’s numerous varieties of snakes are the cobra and boa constrictor.
Phosphates, mined near Thiès, are Senegal’s principal exploited mineral resource. Reserves of petroleum and natural gas were discovered offshore in the late 1970s. Large deposits of iron ore exist in the country but have not been exploited because of their remoteness.
Population pressures in Senegal have led to the clearing of forests for additional farmland and fuelwood, as well as to increased livestock grazing on fragile rangelands. This deforestation and overgrazing, combined with drought conditions, have caused desertification in large areas of the country. In 2005, 44 percent of the country’s total land area was forested. Senegal is the world’s largest exporter of exotic birds, and there is much poaching of other animals.
The government of Senegal has initiated reforestation programs to combat desertification and has protected 11 percent (2007) of the country as parks and reserves. The Niokolo Koba National Park in southeastern Senegal, consisting of 9,000 sq km (3,000 sq mi) of forests and savanna, protects a diverse range of animal species. The park was declared a World Heritage Site in 1981. The government has ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, hazardous wastes, law of the sea, marine life conservation, ozone layer protection, ship pollution, wetlands, and whaling.
The population of Senegal incorporates a diversity of ethnic groups. The largest of these include the Wolof (44 percent of the population), Fulani and Tukulor (24 percent), Serer (15 percent), Diola (5 percent), and Mandinka (also known as Mandingo or Malinke; 4 percent).
The population of Senegal is 12,853,259 (2008 estimate). The overall population density is 67 persons per sq km (173 per sq mi), but the majority of the population is concentrated along the western coast. The population is 49 percent rural. Senegal’s population experiences a high annual growth rate of 2.6 percent (2008).
Dakar (population, 2003, 2,167,000) is the capital and principal port and commercial center. Other major urban centers are Thiès (228,017), Kaolack (199,023), and Saint-Louis (132,425), all of which are in western Senegal.
|C||Language and Religion|
French is the official language of Senegal, although Wolof is the most widely understood of the many African languages. Sunni Muslims make up approximately 94 percent of the population, while the remaining 6 percent are Christian or follow traditional beliefs.
|D||Education and Culture|
Education in Senegal is, in theory, compulsory for all children between the ages of 7 and 12. In 2002–2003, however, only 80 percent of primary school-age children and 19 percent of secondary school-age children were actually attending school. Institutions of higher learning include the Cheikh Anta Diop University (also commonly known as the University of Dakar), which has a noted research institute for studies of black Africa. The principal art, history, and maritime museums are in Dakar.
Although most of the population works in agriculture, Senegal has a growing industrial sector, one of the largest in West Africa. Nevertheless, two cash crops remain at the foundation of the economy—peanuts and cotton. Important technical and economic assistance has been provided by France and other countries of the European Union and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank). In 2006 the gross domestic product (GDP) was $9.2 billion, or $760.90 a person.
Agriculture occupies 77 percent of the economically active population. However, only 13 percent of the land area is cultivated. Senegal is among the world’s largest producers of peanuts, which are grown in many areas, especially the northwest. The country produced 460,500 metric tons of peanuts in 2006. Peanuts and peanut oil provide a significant share of yearly export earnings, although their contribution declined from 29 percent of earnings in the early 1980s to 9 percent in 1993. The other important cash crop is cotton; in 2006, 19,000 metric tons were produced. Attempts are being made to diversify agriculture, including the expansion of rice and tomato cultivation, to achieve self-sufficiency in food. Other crops included maize (494,345 metric tons), rice (190,493 metric tons), and sugarcane (829,500 metric tons). Livestock included 3.1 million cattle, 5 million sheep, 4.3 million goats, and 29 million poultry.
|B||Forestry and Fishing|
Roundwood production in 2006 amounted to 6.1 million cu m (215 million cu ft). Senegal’s coastal waters are rich in fish, and the country has a modern fishing fleet. Landings in 2005 totaled 405,264 metric tons.
|C||Mining and Manufacturing|
Phosphates are the leading mineral product of Senegal. In 2004 output totaled 576,000 metric tons. A petroleum refinery with an annual capacity of 900,000 metric tons makes use of imported oil. Other manufactures include food products, such as peanut oil, refined sugar, canned tuna, and flour; cement; fertilizers; textiles; chemicals; and tobacco products.
In 2003 Senegal produced 1,332 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. All electricity was thermally generated.
|E||Transportation and Communications|
Senegal is served by a good road network of 13,576 km (8,436 mi), of which 29 percent is paved. The country also has 906 km (563 mi) of railroads, which connect the cities along the coast and run inland to Mali. The government of Senegal operates radio and television broadcasting. In 1997 the country had 141 radio receivers and 37 television sets for every 1,000 inhabitants. Senegal has 13 daily newspapers, with a circulation of 45,000.
|F||Currency and Foreign Trade|
The currency is the CFA franc, consisting of 100 centimes (523 CFA francs equal U.S.$1; 2006 average). Central banking functions are exercised by the Central Bank of the West African States. Senegal has a chronic trade deficit. In 2003 exports earned $1,151 million and imports cost $2.4 billion. Major exports include basic manufactures, fish products, peanuts, petroleum products, and phosphates. Main imports are crude petroleum, basic manufactured goods, and grain. Chief trading partners for exports are France, Italy, Mali, Spain, India, and Côte d’Ivoire; principal partners for imports are France, Cameroon, Nigeria, Italy, Thailand, Algeria, China, and Japan.
The government of Senegal has encouraged tourism, and during the 1970s tourist facilities were greatly expanded. Among the country's attractions are its fine beaches and national parks, which include a wild game reserve. The country received about 769,000 visitors in 2005.
Senegal is a democratic republic, governed under a constitution promulgated in 2001. The 2001 constitution replaced the country’s first constitution, which had been promulgated in 1963.
Executive power is vested in a president, who is popularly elected to a five-year term. The president appoints the prime minister, who, in consultation with the president, appoints a cabinet, called the Council of Ministers.
Senegal’s legislative body is the unicameral (single-chamber) National Assembly, whose 120 members are popularly elected to five-year terms.
In addition to lower courts and tribunals that cover civil and criminal cases, the Senegal judicial system consists of three higher courts: the Constitutional Council, the Council of State, and the Court of Cassation (also known as the Court of Final Appeal). The Constitutional Council is made up of five members, who are appointed by the president of Senegal to serve for six years, without possibility of renewal. This court reviews international agreements and legislation to verify their accordance with the constitution; decides disputes between the executive and legislative branches; and determines the jurisdictions of the Council of State and the Court of Cassation. The Council of State hears cases against the executive branch, such as complaints of abuse of power, and resolves electoral disputes. The Court of Cassation is the highest court of appeal, and it supervises lower courts and tribunals.
For the purpose of local administration, Senegal is divided into ten regions, each with a governor appointed by the president and an elected local assembly.
After April 2001 elections, the largest political bloc in the National Assembly was the Sopi (Wolof for “change”), an alliance of former opposition parties that formed around the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS; Senegalese Democratic Party). Until 2001 the PDS was the main opposition party in Senegal. The Parti Socialiste (PS; Socialist Party) was the ruling party of Senegal from the time of independence in 1960 until the presidential election of 2000.
Remains of Paleolithic and Neolithic civilizations have been discovered by archaeologists in the region now occupied by Senegal. About ad 500 Wolof and Serer peoples arrived from the northeast. In the 9th century Tukolor settled in the Sénégal River valley, and the powerful Tekrur state of the Tukolor dominated eastern Senegal from the 11th to the 14th century. By the 15th century a pattern of Wolof and Serer states was well established there. Until far into the 18th century the decentralized Wolof empire near the coast retained nominal suzerainty over the other Wolof states, including those of Baol, Wale, and Cayor.
Modern trade links with Europe were forged after the Portuguese reached the mouth of the Sénégal River and Cap Vert in 1444 and 1445. The Portuguese traded cloth and metal goods in return for gold dust, gum arabic, and ivory.
Shortly after 1600 the Portuguese were displaced by the Dutch and French, and by 1700 the French dominated commerce along the coast. Despite British-French rivalry and conflicts in the area during the late 17th and 18th centuries, French influence was extended far into the interior. But most Franco-African trade continued to be handled by African middlemen, who brought goods to the French settlements at the coast. The growth of the Fulani state of Fouta Toro along the lower Sénégal River in the 18th century, however, undermined French activity, and during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) the British captured the French trading stations; they were returned later in the century. European influence at this time was economic rather than political.
Under Captain Louis Faidherbe, and his successors after the mid-19th century, French control of the Wolof, Serer, and Tukolor states was forcefully extended and consolidated. In 1895 Senegal officially was made a French colony, administered from Saint-Louis. In 1902 government headquarters was shifted to Dakar, which was also the capital of French West Africa. The French developed Senegal’s economy around the cultivation of peanuts for export.
Along with French residents, the black Africans of Saint-Louis and Gorée (an island near Dakar) had elected a deputy to the French National Assembly during the period from 1848 to 1852 and again after 1871, when they were joined by the inhabitants of Dakar and Rufisque. In 1914 the first black African, Blaise Diagne, was elected to the French Parliament, and he served until 1934. After World War II (1939-1945) a territorial assembly was established in Senegal, and citizens of the entire colony were enfranchised. Local politics were dominated by Lamine Guèye and Léopold Sédar Senghor, the deputies to the French Parliament.
In 1958 Senegal was granted almost complete internal autonomy, and in June 1960 it became fully independent as part of the Mali Federation, which joined Senegal with the Sudanese Republic (now Mali). On August 20, 1960, Senegal withdrew from the federation and became a separate republic. Senghor was elected the first president; he was reelected in 1963, 1968, 1973, and 1978. Following an alleged coup d’état attempt in 1962 by Prime Minister Mamadou Dia, the powers of the president were greatly increased in a new constitution that went into effect in 1963. Under Senghor’s regime the country made progress in diversifying its economy, but income from foreign sales of peanuts remained crucial. At times, notably in 1968 and 1973, students staged large demonstrations to protest the concentration of power in Senghor’s hands. A multiparty system was established by constitutional amendment in 1976, and at the beginning of 1981 Senghor stepped down and named Abdou Diouf, who had been prime minister since 1970, as his successor. After adopting a popular anticorruption program, Diouf won 1983 presidential elections by a wide margin.
In 1982 Senegal joined with its neighbor, The Gambia, to form the confederation of Senegambia, headed by Diouf; the confederation collapsed in 1989, but in 1991 the two nations signed a new treaty of cooperation. The late 1980s were marked by border tensions with Mauritania, sparked by a dispute over grazing rights. More than 400 people, mostly Senegalese, were killed in border clashes, and war was barely averted. Also in the 1980s, an armed separatist movement arose in the Casamance region (the part of Senegal south of The Gambia). This movement, which claims that Casamance is a historically distinct region from the rest of Senegal, staged periodic attacks on military posts and governmental offices in Casamance in the 1980s and 1990s.
The popularity Diouf enjoyed in his first years as president began to fade in the mid-1980s, as the economy faltered and many opposition groups protested the ruling Socialist Party’s grip on political power. When Diouf and the Socialist Party won the 1988 presidential and legislative elections by a large majority, the opposition accused the ruling party of electoral fraud and protested by rioting in Dakar. In 1991 Diouf initiated electoral reforms, but the Socialist Party retained control over the electoral commission (which oversees elections and tallies the votes). The presidential term was extended from five to seven years, and a two-term limit was imposed (effective after the next election). Diouf was reelected in 1993, but again the opposition protested, charging electoral fraud. The Socialist Party again won a majority of legislative seats in May 1998 and, in August, voted to abolish the presidential two-term limit. The controversial vote was boycotted by all opposition legislators but one.
In presidential elections held in February and March 2000, the 40-year dominance of the Socialist Party—and Diouf’s 19-year reign—came to a peaceful end. In a runoff election, Diouf was defeated by Abdoulaye Wade, leader of the Parti Démocratique Sénégalais (PDS; Senegalese Democratic Party). A new constitution, approved by public referendum in January 2001, reduced the presidential term to five years and dissolved the Senate, the upper house of the legislature. A PDS-dominated coalition won an overwhelming majority of the seats in the National Assembly in April legislative elections. Wade easily won a second term in the 2007 presidential election.