total: 196,722 sq km
land: 192,530 sq km
water: 4,192 sq km
Total: 2,684 km
border countries (5):
The Gambia 749 km,
Guinea 363 km,
Guinea-Bissau 341 km,
Mali 489 km,
Mauritania 742 km
Coastline: 531 km
Total: 3215 km
rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds;
dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind
generally low, rolling, plains rising to foothills in southeast
mean elevation: 69 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed elevation 2.8 km southeast of Nepen Diaka 648 m
fish, phosphates, iron ore
agricultural land: 46.8%
arable land 17.4%; permanent crops 0.3%; permanent pasture 29.1%
other: 9.4% (2011 est.)
1,200 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
the population is concentrated in the west, with Dakar anchoring a well-defined core area; approximately 70% of the population is rural
lowlands seasonally flooded; periodic droughtsPeople and Society
Senegal has a large and growing youth population but has not been successful in developing its potential human capital. Senegal’s high total fertility rate of almost 4.5 children per woman continues to bolster the country’s large youth cohort – more than 60% of the population is under the age of 25. Fertility remains high because of the continued desire for large families, the low use of family planning, and early childbearing. Because of the country’s high illiteracy rate (more than 40%), high unemployment (even among university graduates), and widespread poverty, Senegalese youths face dim prospects; women are especially disadvantaged.
Senegal historically was a destination country for economic migrants, but in recent years West African migrants more often use Senegal as a transit point to North Africa – and sometimes illegally onward to Europe. The country also has been host to several thousand black Mauritanian refugees since they were expelled from their homeland during its 1989 border conflict with Senegal. The country’s economic crisis in the 1970s stimulated emigration; departures accelerated in the 1990s.
Destinations shifted from neighboring countries, which were experiencing an economic decline, civil wars, and increasing xenophobia, to Libya and Mauritania because of their booming oil industries and to developed countries (most notably former colonial ruler France, as well as Italy and Spain). The latter became attractive in the 1990s because of job opportunities and their periodic regularization programs (legalizing the status of illegal migrants).
Additionally, about 16,000 Senegalese refugees still remain in The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau as a result of more than 30 years of fighting between government forces and rebel separatists in southern Senegal’s Casamance region.
14,668,522 (July 2017 est.)
Wolof 41.6%, Pular 28.1%, Serer 15.3%, Mandinka 5.4%, Jola 3.4%, Soninke 0.8%, other 5.4% (includes Europeans and persons of Lebanese descent) (2016 est.)
French (official), Wolof, Pular, Jola, Mandinka, Serer, Soninke
Muslim 96.1% (most adhere to one of the four main Sufi brotherhoods), Christian 3.6% (mostly Roman Catholic), animist 0.3% (2016 est.)
There are various ethnic groups in Senegal, none of which forms the ethnic majority in the country. Many subgroups of those can be further distinguished, based on religion, location and language. According to one 2005 estimate, there are at least twenty distinguishable groups of largely varying size
The largest group is the Wolof, representing 43.3% of the population of the country. They live predominantly in the west, having descended from the kingdoms of Cayor, Waalo, and Jolof that once existed in that area. Their population is focused in large urban centers. The Fula, those who speak the Fula language, is the second most populous group, representing 23.8% of the country’s population. This figure includes the Toucouleurs, but according to surveys, this subgroup is sometimes considered separate from the Fula.
The third group is the Serer, who represent 14.7% of the national population. Serer pre-colonial kingdoms included: the Kingdom of Sine, Kingdom of Saloum, Biffeche and previously the Kingdom of Baol (ruled by the Joof family). The Jola represent 5% of the country’s population and mostly live in Ziguinchor where they primarily make their living from rice cultivation and fishing. Traditionally animist, they have historically resisted the spread of both Islam and Christianity in the country
Other groups also live in the Ziguinchor Region. While these groups lead lifestyles that are very similar to the Jola, they speak different languages and are much less populous. This is the case of the Bainuk, the Balanta, the Manjack, the Mankanya, the Karoninka, and the Bandial. Several small ethnic groups in Senegal are related to the Mandinka, together constituting 4% of the population of the country. These include the Malinké, the Sossé, the Bambara, the Dyula, the Yalunka, and the Jakhanke.
French is the official language, spoken at least by all those who enjoyed several years in the educational system that is of French origin (Koranic schools are even more popular, but Arabic is not widely spoken outside of the 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 Fulas and Toucouleur. The Serer language is widely spoken by both Serers and non-Serers (including President Sall, whose wife is Serer); so are the Cangin languages, whose speakers are ethnically Serers. Jola languages are widely spoken in the Casamance.
The Senegalese education system is based on its French equivalent. The state is responsible for the creation of an educational system that enables every citizen access to education. The Constitution adopted in January 2001 guarantee access to education for all children. However, due to limited resources and low demand for secular education in areas where Islamic education is more prevalent, the law is not fully enforced. Senegalese governments and authorities set out to make a revision to the educational system. Senegal’s Ten-Year Education and Training Program (PDEF) facilitated this reform in the United Nations special initiatives for Africa.
Preschool is provided for children ages 3–5, for up to three years of study. Children who attend preschool have the opportunity to enroll in induction courses at the age of six instead of having to wait until they are seven. Since 2007 there has been a focus on DIPE (développement intégré de la petite enfance). DIPE is a national priority for Senegal is based on the needs of the nations’ children. In 2007, 57% of preschools and 36.9% of daycares were in Dakar.
Primary school is designed for children ages 7 to 12. The Senegalese primary education system divides six years of study into three cycles of two years that culminate in the successful completion of the CFEE (Certificate of Elementary Completion) and an entrance test into the next cycle of education. For children enrolled in the education system, attendance is mandatory until the completion of the second-year elementary course.
Middle school education is aimed at students ages 13 and is composed of four years of study. To successfully pass middle school students must succeed on their BFEM (brevet de fin d’études moyennes). In 2007 624 public middle schools and 376 private middle schools were registered. Of these schools, 58.4% were centralized in urban areas, with 51.4% residing in Dakar, Thiès, and Ziguinchor.
Senegalese secondary education can be “general” or technical (adhering to the standards of the French system of the lycée). These secondary study programs last three years and are officially approved by the French baccalaureate. The technical secondary education program culminates in the passing of the BEP (brevet d’études professionals) and the BT (brevet de technician).
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.
After decades of very modest growth, the Government of Senegal adopted the Plan Senegal Emergent (PSE) in 2014. The development plan is designed to get Senegal out of a cycle of low-growth and weak poverty reduction. Preliminary figures put Senegal’s economic growth at 6.8 percent by 2017—the third year in a row of a growth rate of over 6 percent. Implementation of the plan, which boosted public investment and promoted private sector activity, helps explain this, plus a growth-conducive macroeconomic framework and favorable exogenous conditions (good weather, relatively low oil prices). Despite high growth, inflation remains low and under control.
The primary sector of the economy is the most dynamic, growing at over 7% (due particularly to agriculture), but the secondary sector is picking up and expected to take the lead in a few years’ time. Public debt has also continued to increase, though at a slower pace, to 60.8 percent of GDP in 2017, while debt servicing increased from 24 to 30 percent of government revenues between 2014 and 2017. Nonetheless, according to the latest IMF–WB Debt Sustainability Analysis, public debt remains at low risk of distress; however, this may be revised if debt indicators worsen.
Meanwhile, the government continues to implement the PSE, or national development plan, and its related reforms. To maintain high growth, these include investment projects in energy, transport infrastructure, and agriculture, and other in-depth reforms to attract further private investment. But, despite the adoption of reforms for sectors like energy, agriculture, and ICT, progress has been significantly slower in implementing them, something that could undermine the sustainability of economic growth.
Senegal’s medium-term economic prospects will remain positive for as long as its new structural reforms are sustained and deepened, and the external environment remains benign. Economic growth is projected to stay at 6.8 percent for 2018. Senegal’s blueprint for becoming a middle-income country sets targets of over 7 percent growth in following years, though rising energy prices and other fiscal and external pressures may prevent this. To accelerate growth, Senegal will need all its economic drivers pointing in the same direction at the same time. This means more reforms to resolve bottlenecks in productivity and competitiveness; sustaining a credible fiscal policy and avoiding currency overvaluation, and putting the country in a position to reap the benefits of a positive international environment.
Although still high, poverty appears to have fallen in recent years. A 2011 survey calculated the poverty rate at 47 percent, but poverty appears to have fallen by 4 to 7 percent since due to good economic growth. Senegal ranked 162 of 188 countries in the global 2017 Human Development Index (based on 2015 data), but has one of the largest safety net programs in Africa, covering 30 percent of its poorest households.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$43.07 billion (2017 est.)
$40.33 billion (2016 est.)
$37.78 billion (2015 est.
note: data are in 2017 dollars
$16.06 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
6.8% (2017 est.)
6.7% (2016 est.)
6.5% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$2,700 (2017 est.)
$2,600 (2016 est.)
$2,500 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
22% of GDP (2017 est.)
21.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
17.7% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 58.8% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
peanuts, millet, corn, sorghum, rice, cotton, tomatoes, green vegetables; cattle, poultry, pigs; fish
agricultural and fish processing, phosphate mining, fertilizer production, petroleum refining, zircon, and gold mining, construction materials, ship construction and repair
Population below poverty line:
46.7% (2011 est.)
revenues: $3.863 billion
expenditures: $4.474 billion (2017 est.)
Agriculture employs around 75 percent of the working population and comprises 17 percent of GDP. Groundnuts, cotton, gum arabic and sugarcane are the primary cash crops. Millet, corn, sorghum and rice are the main food crops. With groundnut production accounting for 40 per cent of cultivated land and cotton production another 33 per cent, cash crops dominate agriculture. The vast majority of crops are rain-fed, making water availability one of the country’s biggest agricultural challenges. Successive droughts and occasional flooding have also led to declining yields as soils have become degraded and eroded. Despite having the potential to irrigate up to 240,000 hectares, at present, the country irrigates only one-third of this area.
Until recently most government subsidies and agricultural extension services were directed to groundnut production. Decreasing yields due to environmental degradation and fluctuating world prices have encouraged attempts to increase domestic production of staple food crops such as rice, millet, and sorghum. President Abdoulaye Wade has promoted diversification to end the “tyranny of mono-cropping”, reducing dependence on groundnuts. However, Senegal is still a net importer of food and is the second largest importer of rice in Africa, buying in 850,000 tonnes in 2005. A further 300,000 tonnes of wheat and 200,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables were also purchased from abroad in the same year.
Poultry production is relatively common amongst the rural population, and raising cattle, sheep, and goats is the primary activity for pastoralists. Pastoralists in the northern regions are generally nomadic; located in the arid Sahel they are faced with shortages of pasture and watering points. Most pastoralists participate only marginally in the export of meat, although UEMOA and PPLPI are currently attempting to increase domestic and intra-regional livestock trade through trade liberalization and improving access to veterinary services.
The fishing sector represents one of the largest sources of national revenue, accounting for 22 percent of all exports and generating US$366 million in 2005. And the fishing sector has become increasingly valuable, generating income both through exports and the sale of fishing rights to foreign countries, particularly the EU. However, foreign vessels have contributed to overfishing and an increase in harmful practices such as dynamite fishing and bottom trawling. The inevitable collapse of fish stocks has now made an important source of dietary protein increasingly unaffordable for the poor.
The county’s new strategy is the Great Agricultural Offensive for Food and Abundance (GOANA), which aims to dramatically increase production of staple crops by 2015. Plans include the conversion of unused land to agriculture, which President Wade has said could result in the country producing two million tonnes of corn, three million tonnes of manioc and 500,000 tonnes of maize each year. Other measures include increasing irrigation and encouraging foreign investment.
population without electricity: 6,400,000
electrification – total population: 55%
electrification – urban areas: 90%
electrification – rural areas: 28% (2013)
Electricity – production:
3.673 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
3.014 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity – imports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
965,000 kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
88.5% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 285,933
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 104 (July 2016 est.)Internet country code:
percent of population: 25.7% (July 2016 est.)
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 food processing 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.
Food & Beverages is the leading industrial sector. The main product is flour and by-products, peanut oil, sugar, milk produce, beer & soft drinks, bottled mineral water and tinned vegetables and fish products. The Textile Industry is very vertically integrated with companies that encompass all stages of the production process. This starts with the cotton crop and picking to the manufacture of clothing, home textiles, etc. As is the case with the food processing industry, the textile sector manufactures using local inputs, cotton above all.
The Chemical Industry is a fundamental component in the economy and is markedly diversified. There is an oil refinery with an annual capacity of 1.4 million tons and industries producing phosphoric and sulphuric acid, fertilizers, plastics, paints, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and perfumery & cosmetics. Currently, production is above all for domestic consumption whilst a small part is re-exported to Mali in the main.
Mining is dominated by the exploitation of the large phosphate deposits to be found in the country. There are, however, also deposits of gold, iron, marble, peat, and titanium which are still under-exploited. In total mining only makes up 0’9% of the GNP. Over recent years there has been a certain amount of restructuring in the phosphate industry as the production of phosphoric acid and fertilizers has been consolidated with the mining arm under the wing of the ICS. This vertical integration and increase in production were financed using French, German and North American capital.
Over half of energy consumption in Senegal still comes from traditional sources such as wood and charcoal, with the consequent problem of forest stripping. The production of fossil fuels in Senegal has always been very meager and is, to all intents and purposes, limited to the Tullow Oil natural gas fields near Dakar. Given that Senegal is very poor in energy sources, it will remain import dependent to a very great extent.
Banking and Finance
Senegal’s financial sector is dominated by the banking sector. Financial depth increased in the past years with credit to the economy at almost 30 percent of the GDP, higher than in most WAEMU countries. However, credit remains largely short-term and directed mainly to trade and food and oil imports. Authorities have recently embarked on several reform initiatives through an updated and consolidated financial sector action plan which sets to adopt measures to improve the institutional, operational, and legal environment of the financial sector. The action plan also aims to increase bank penetration as well as develop safeguards against vulnerabilities in the sector.
There are currently 19 commercial banks mostly operating in the three largest cities and accounting for about 90 percent of the financial system. The total aggregate balance rose by 12.5% in 2010 to reach XOF 3.02 trillion following a strong rise in deposits from clients that reached XOF 2.28 trillion. Average margins of 24.2% from loans and securities settlements helped an improvement in net banking product of 6% and in operating income of 23.3%. The sector is relatively concentrated with the five largest banks accounting for 66 percent of the assets and 79 percent of deposits. The amount of non-performing loans has been increasing in the past years reaching 20 percent in 2010.
The country enjoys a dynamic microfinance sector: large microfinance institutions (MFIs) are sound and profitable, but smaller ones are fragile and supervision of the sector calls for strengthening. Access to finance for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) remains a challenge, with an estimated 80 percent of bank credit applications being denied because of insufficient collateral. Senegal is one of eight member countries of the Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières, BRVM, the regional Stock Exchange, but only one Senegalese company is listed on the Exchange.
Regional and national fixed incomes markets are still in their early development stages. Issuance by corporate entities remains limited. Investors can directly access primary markets, and various brokers and dealers provide indirect access, while foreign investors participate through local banks. Commercial banks still largely dominate the investor base as the main purchasers of treasury bills and bonds. Access to secondary markets within the WAEMU remains limited; all transactions can only be conducted by certified intermediaries, while most investors adopt a buy-and-hold approach. There is no derivatives market in the region.
The Senegalese insurance industry accounts for a small part of the country’s financial system: total insurance premiums amount to 1.4 percent of GDP. Penetration rates remain low, although life insurance products are becoming more widespread amongst the population thanks to a 2002 change in their tax treatment. As of 2008, six life insurance and sixteen non-life insurance companies were active in Senegal, all of which were represented by the Senegalese Federation of Insurance Companies (Federation Sénégalaise des Sociétés d’Assurance, FSSA).
Remittances to Senegal amounted to an estimated 10.5 percent of GDP in 2010. 15 percent of the population lives and works abroad and regularly sends money home or invests in real estate, contributing to the construction boom that the country has witnessed in recent years.
Sunny Senegal, the westernmost country on the African continent, sees about a million visitors a year. The country’s 350 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean traditionally has been one of its major draws. If you are looking for more than a resort vacation, Senegal also has plenty of tourist attractions inland: parks crawling with wildlife, massive mosques and historic sites recalling the dark days of slavery.
With 330 miles (531 kilometers) of dazzling Atlantic coastline, Senegal has plenty of opportunities for uninterrupted sun lounging within easy distance of the capital. Stretching south from Dakar, the Petite Cote is a sweep of buzzing coastal towns, dozing fishing villages and idyllic beaches. Saly is Senegal’s beach-vacation hub, but its crowds are best avoided by heading to Tama Lodge, a boutique hotel on the edge of neighboring Mbour.
Just south of the Petite Cote, a journey into Sine Saloum’s labyrinth of mangrove creeks and lost-in-time fishing villages offers a stress-banishing taste of the simple life. One of the best places to feel the region’s calm is Mar Lodj, a small, car-free island in the Saloum delta where the electricity cuts at 11 p.m. to expose an unfettered explosion of stars.
In stark contrast to Saloum, bustling Dakar shakes your senses with a warm, salty blast of humidity as soon as you get off the plane. Dakar is home to the trendy and traditional, Senegal’s old and new. It’s a fascinating city for dancing, bargain-hunting, and authentic culture. In the relaxed neighborhood of Mamelles, La Calebasse is a good spot to sample traditional African cuisine on an elegant covered rooftop.
Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Dakar, the quiet, picturesque streets of Ile de Gorée hide its horrific past — it was the last glimpse of Africa for thousands forced from the region as slaves. Still standing, the 18th-century prison’s “door of no return” bears witness to this chilling chapter of history. A deep source of pride for its people and a treat for visitors, Senegal’s “teranga,” or hospitality, is part of its identity. Friendly locals are quick to invite visitors for Senegalese tea — a strong infusion of green tea leaves with mint and sugar brewed over glowing coals.
Dripping in history and charm, Saint-Louis was the colonial capital of the whole of French West Africa until Dakar usurped it in 1902, largely thanks to its superior port and growing peanut trade. Easily explored on foot, the city’s bougainvillea-laced streets offer the perfect antidote to Dakar in size, pace and atmosphere.
The first human beings in Senegal were hunters but by about 3,000 BC they had learned to farm. About 500 BC knowledge of how to make iron tools reached West Africa. By 500 AD a sophisticated society arose in Senegal capable of building stone circles. Towns and trade flourished. In the 13th century, the Empire of Mali included much of western Africa including Senegal. However, the power of Mali declined in the 15th century and Senegal broke up into small kingdoms.
The earliest evidence of human life is found in the valley of the Falémé in the south-east. The presence of man in the Lower Paleolithic is attested by the discovery of stone tools characteristic of Acheulean such as hand axes reported by Théodore Monod at the tip of Fann in the peninsula of Cap-Vert in 1938, or cleavers found in the south-east. There were also found stones shaped by the Levallois technique, characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic. Mousterian Industry is represented mainly by scrapers found in the peninsula of Cap-Vert, as well in the low and middle valleys of Senegal and the Falémé. Some pieces are explicitly linked to hunting, like those found in Tiémassass, near M’Bour, a controversial site that some claim belongs to the Upper Paleolithic, while others argue in favor of the Neolithic
In the Senegambia, the period when humans became hunters, fishermen and producers (farmer and artisan) are all well represented and studied. This is when more elaborate objects and ceramics emerged. But gray areas remain. Although the characteristics and manifestations of civilization from the Neolithic have been identified their origins and relationship have not yet fully defined. During the digging of Cape Manuel, the Neolithic deposit Manueline Dakar was discovered in 1940. Basalt rocks including ankaramite were used for making microlithic tools such as axes or planes. Such tools have been found at Gorée and the Magdalen Islands, indicating the activity of shipbuilding by nearby fishermen. There were also other findings, which the Neolithic axes, adzes and pottery, and statuette the Venus Thiaroye found in Bel-Air.
In the absence of written sources and monumental ruins in this region, the history of the early centuries of the modern era must be based primarily on archaeological excavations, the writing of early geographers and travelers, written in Arabic and data derived from oral tradition. Combining these data suggests that Senegal was first populated from the north and east in several waves of migration, the last being that of the Wolof, the Fulani and the Serer.
Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times and has been continuously occupied by various ethnic groups. Some kingdoms were created around the 7th century: Takrur in the 9th century, Namandiru (wo) and the Jolof Empire during the 13th and 14th centuries. Eastern Senegal was once part of the Ghana Empire. Islam was introduced through Toucouleur and Soninke contact with the Almoravid dynasty of the Maghreb, who in turn propagated it with the help of the Almoravids, and Toucouleur allies. This movement faced resistance from ethnicities of traditional religions, the Serers in particular.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal was also founded during this time. The Jolof Empire was founded by a voluntary confederacy of States; it was not an empire built on military conquest in spite of what the word “empire” implies. The Serer tradition of Sine attests that the Kingdom of Sine never paid tribute to Ndiadiane Ndiaye nor to any member of his descendants that ruled Djolof.
Ndiadiane Ndiaye received his name from the mouth of Maissa Wali (the King of Sine). In the epics of Ndiadiane and Maissa Wali, it is well acknowledged that Maissa Wali was pivotal in the founding of this Empire. It was he who nominated Ndiadiane Ndiaye and called for the other states to join this confederacy, which they did, and the “empire” headed by Ndiadiane, who took residence at Djolof. It is for this reason scholars propose that the empire was more like a voluntary confederacy than an empire built on military conquest.
The Arrival of European
According to several ancient sources, including occasions by the Dictionnaire de pédagogie et d’instruction primaire by Ferdinand Buisson in 1887, the first French settlement in Senegal dates back to the Dieppe Mariners in the 14th century. Flattering for Norman sailors, this argument gives credence also to the idea of a precedence of the French presence in the region, but it is not confirmed by subsequent work.
In the mid-15th century, several European nations reached the coast of West Africa, vested successively or simultaneously by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, and French. Europeans first settled along the coasts, on islands in the mouths of rivers and then a little further upstream. They opened trading posts and engaged in the “trade:” – a term which, under the Ancien Régime, means any type of trade (wheat, pepper ivory…), and not necessarily, or only, the slave trade, although this “infamous traffic”, as it was called at the end of the 18th century, was indeed at the heart of a new economic order, controlled by powerful companies in privilege.
Encouraged by Henry the Navigator and always in search of the Passage to India, and not forgetting gold and slaves, Portuguese explorers explored the African coast and ventured still farther south. In 1444 Dinis Dias went off the mouth of the Senegal River to reach the westernmost point of Africa he calls Cabo Verde, Cape Vert, because of the lush vegetation is seen there. He also reached the island of Gorée, referred to by its inhabitants as Berzeguiche, but which he called Ilha de Palma, the island of Palms.
The Portuguese did not settle there permanently, but used the site for landing and engaged in commerce in the region. They built a chapel there in 1481. Portuguese trading posts were installed in Tanguegueth in Cay, a town they renamed Fresco Rio (the future Rufisque) because of the freshness of its sources in the Baol Sali (later the seaside town of Saly) which takes the name of Portugal, or to Joal in the Kingdom of Sine. They also traversed the lower Casamance and founded Ziguinchor in 1645; accompanied by the introduction of Christianity, trade, and business.
European rivalry over Senegal
After the Act of Abjuration in 1581, the United Provinces flouted the authority of the King of Spain. In West Africa, trading posts were opened at some points of current Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, and Angola. Created in 1621, the Dutch West India Company purchased the island of Gorée in 1627. The company built two forts that are in ruins today: in 1628 on the face of Nassau Cove and 1639 at Nassau on the hill, as well as warehouses for goods destined for the mainland trading posts.
The Dutch settlers occupied the island for nearly half a century, but were dislodged several times: in 1629 by the Portuguese, in 1645 and 1659 by the French and in 1663 by the British troops. They dealt in wax, amber, gold, ivory and also participated in the slave trade, but kept away from trading posts on the coast. The “trade” and the slave trade intensified in the 17th century. The French and English competed mainly on two issues, the island of Gorée and St. Louis. On 10 February 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War and reconciled, after three years of negotiations, France, Great Britain and Spain. Great Britain returned the island of Gorée to France.
In 1626 Richelieu founded the Norman Company, an association of Dieppe and Rouen merchants responsible for the operation in Senegal and the Gambia. It was dissolved in 1658 and its assets were acquired by the Company of Cape Vert and Senegal, itself expropriated following the creation by Colbert in 1664 of the French West India Company.
Grand Master of the naval war of Louis XIV, Admiral Jean Estrées seized Gorée on November 1, 1677. The island was taken up by the English on 4 February 1693 before being again occupied by the French four months later. In 1698 the Director of the Company of Senegal, Andre Brue, restored the fortifications. But Gorée became English once again in the middle of the 18th century.
In 1783 the Treaty of Versailles returned Senegal to France. The monopoly of gum acacia is licensed to Senegal Company. Appointed governor in 1785, Knight Boufflers focuses for two years to enhance the colony, while engaged in the smuggling of gum arabic and gold with signatures. In 1789 people of St. Louis write a List of Complaints. The same year the French were driven out of Fort St. Joseph in Galam and kingdom of Galam.
The establishment of Senegal as a French colony is merely one part of the French colonial effort in West Africa during the 1880s and 1890s. By 1895 there are no fewer than six French colonies in the region, covering a vast unbroken stretch of the continent. In that year they are grouped together as French West Africa. Among them, Senegal is the colony with the strongest French presence. Dakar, founded by the French in 1857 on the mainland opposite the island of Gorée, becomes the capital of the territory in 1902 (succeeding St Louis in the role). Senegal, therefore, remains at the center of France’s West African empire, until all the separate colonies win their independence in 1960.
When France gained control of the Senegal River valley in the 1870s, it was able to begin transforming into a colony the network of forts and trading posts it had by then established in territory once part of various empires and kingdoms. Hierarchical, strongly Islamized societies, after some resistance, proved highly compatible by French colonialism. The Sufi brotherhoods initially resisted, but subsequently in central and northern Senegal (but not in southern or eastern Senegal), they became facilitators of French colonization. Over the course of the remainder of the 19th Century, France imposed the production of cash crops, chiefly groundnuts, millet, and cotton, and commenced two railroad construction projects in Senegal.
France discriminated among the different types of subjects it conquered. Most groups fell under the Code of Indigenous Status, while marabouts and traditional chiefs enjoyed the different treatment. In 1848, the natives of the four municipalities of St. Louis, Gorée, Dakar, and Rufisque were recognized as French citizens with the privilege of electing their municipal councilors and one deputy to the French National Assembly.
In 1902 the part east of Kays, comprising the protected Stales along upper Senegal and the Middle Niger, was detached from Senegal and was constituted a separate division of French West Africa under the name of the Senegambia and Niger Territory. In 1904 this Territory was dissolved, one part of it, the Senegal Protectorate, having been restored to that colony, but with a separate budget, and the rest of it formed into the Colony of Upper Senegal-Niger, with its capital at Bamako, on the Niger.
Senegal colony proper consisted of the towns of Dakar, St Louis, Goree and Rufisque, a narrow strip of territory on either side of the Dakar-St Louis railway, and a few detached spots, and had an area of 438 sq. m. with a population (census of 1904) of 107,826. The total white population of the four towns was about 5000.
In 1945, the French Provisional Government allocated 10 seats to French West Africa in the new Constituent Assembly, of which five would be elected by African subjects. In 1946, France granted rights of limited citizenship to all its African subjects, and each territory was able to elect local representatives, bringing to prominence a nascent political class of French-educated Africans who began advocating for independence. In 1956, France granted universal suffrage, and municipal elections were held throughout Senegal; the following year in 1957, there were elections to a Territorial Assembly.
On April 4, 1959, Senegal and French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on 20 June 1960, as a result of a transfer of power agreement signed with France on 4 April 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on 20 August, when Senegal and French Sudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) each proclaimed independence. Léopold Sédar Senghor was Senegal’s first president in September 1960. Senghor was a very well-read man, educated in France. He was a poet and philosopher who personally drafted the Senegalese national anthem, “Pincez tous vos koras, frappez les balafons”. Pro-African, he advocated a brand of African socialism
The first president of independent Senegal, after the dissolution of French West Africa, is an experienced and distinguished politician within the French system. Léopold Senghor has been a socialist deputy for Senegal in the national assembly in Paris since 1946 and has played a part in drafting de Gaulle’s new constitution of 1958. In 1963 he provides Senegal with a constitution, modeled to some extent on de Gaulle’s, with executive powers in the hands of the president. Senghor himself remains in office until resigning at the end of 1980. He is succeeded as president by Abdou Diouf (who is still head of state in 1999).
In 1976 Senghor authorizes the formation of two opposition parties, and in 1978 the first multiparty elections are held. They have remained the norm in Senegal, though invariably won by the president’s party (the Socialist Party). This prompts claims of electoral malpractice by the Democratic Party of Senegal and the Union for Democratic Renewal, who between them win only a small minority of seats in the national assembly.