May 4, 2013, 2:29 pm
Source: CIA World Factbook
Content Cover Image

Dakar Skyline. Source: Mohamed Ndaw/Wikipedia

Senegal is a nation of thirteen million people in West Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Guinea to the south and  Mauritania to the north. The nation of Gambia is a coastal enclave of Senegal.

Senegal is generally low, rolling, plains rising to foothills in southeast. It represents the western edge of the Sahel. About 45% of Senegal is forest or woodland.

Senegal's major environmental issues include:

Senegal is susceptible to having its lowlands seasonally flooded; and to periodic droughts.

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 attempt to change the constitution in June 2011 prompted large public protests and 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 is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. The Gambia penetrates more than 320 kilometers (200 mi.) into Senegal. Well-defined dry and humid seasons result from northeast winter winds and southwest summer winds. Dakar's annual rainfall of about 61 centimeters (24 in.) occurs between June and October when maximum temperatures average 27oC (82oF); December to February minimum temperatures are about 17oC (63oF). Interior temperatures are higher than along the coast, and rainfall increases substantially farther south, exceeding 150 centimeters (60 in.) annually in some areas.

Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania

Geographic Coordinates: 14 00 N, 14 00 W

Area: 196,190 km2 (192,000 km2 land and 4,190 km2 water)

Land Boundaries: 2,640 km. Border countries: The Gambia 740 km, Guinea 330 km, Guinea-Bissau 338 km, Mali 419 km, Mauritania 813 km

Coastline: 531 km

Maritime Claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Natural Hazards: lowlands seasonally flooded; periodic droughts

Terrain: Generally low, rolling, plains rising to foothills in southeast. Its lowest point is the Atlantic Ocean (0 metres) and its highest point is an unnamed feature near Nepen Diakha (581 metres)

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; rainy season (May to November) has strong southeast winds; dry season (December to April) dominated by hot, dry, harmattan wind.

Topography of senegal. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Trimmed Satellite view of senegal. Source: The Map Library


Ecology and Biodiversity

  1. Sahelian Acacia savanna
  2. West Sudanian savanna
  3. Guinean forest-savanna mosaic
  4. Guinean mangroves

See also:

People and Society

Population: 12,969,606 (July 2012 est.)

About 58% of Senegal's population is rural (2010). In rural areas, density varies from about 77 per square kilometer (200 per sq. mi.) in the west-central region to 2 per square kilometer (5 per sq. mi.) in the arid eastern section.

Source: World Wildlife Fund

About 50,000 Europeans (mostly French) and Lebanese reside in Senegal, mainly in the cities.

French is the official language but is used regularly only by the literate minority. All Senegalese speak an indigenous language, of which Wolof has the largest usage.

Ethnic groups: Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 43.3% (male 2,748,457/female 2,722,633)
15-64 years: 53.9% (male 3,200,056/female 3,611,173)
65 years and over: 2.9% (male 166,577/female 194,903) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: 2.532% (2012 est.)

Birth Rate: 36.19 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 9.05 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: -1.82 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Urbanization: 42% of total population (2010) growing at a 3.3% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth:  60.18 years 

male: 58.22 years
female: 62.19 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 4.69 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka

Literacy (2002 est.): 39.3% (male: 51.1% - female: 29.2%)

Urbanization: 42% of total population (2010) growing at a 3.3% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)


Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Islam was established in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century AD; 94% of Senegalese today are Muslim. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Soudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on June 20, 1960, as a result of the independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on April 4, 1960. Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on August 20, 1960. Senegal and Soudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Leopold Sedar Senghor, internationally known poet, politician, and statesman, was elected Senegal's first President in August 1960.

After the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together under a parliamentary system. In December 1962, their political rivalry led to an attempted coup by Prime Minister Dia. Although this was put down without bloodshed, Dia was arrested and imprisoned, and Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the President’s power. In 1980, President Senghor decided to retire from politics, and he handed over power in 1981 to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf. Abdou Diouf was president from 1981 to 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, until his 2000 defeat by opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade (pronounced "wahd") in a free and fair election. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one political party to another.

Senegal’s principal political party was for 40 years the Socialist Party (PS). Its domination of political life came to an end in March 2000, when Wade, the leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and leader of the opposition for more than 25 years, won the presidency. The Socialist Party dominated the National Assembly until April 2001, when in free and fair legislative elections President Wade’s coalition won a majority (89 of 120 seats).

On February 25, 2007 President Wade won 56% of the vote in a field of 15 candidates, with 73% of registered voters going to the polls. Twice-postponed parliamentary elections took place on June 3, 2007, but most of the major opposition parties boycotted them (after unsuccessfully demanding revisions to the electoral roll and the creation of a new, more independent electoral commission), allowing the ruling PDS and its allies to capture 131 of the 150 seats in the National Assembly. Wade won open, peaceful, and highly competitive elections in 2000 and 2007 due to a strong Senegalese national desire for change after nearly 40 years of Socialist Party governments. Having come under tough scrutiny and criticism for not realizing many of his campaign promises, he undertook major public works projects that benefited him politically. In the March 22, 2009 local elections held nationwide, the opposition made substantial gains, including the defeat of Wade’s own son, Karim, in Dakar.

President Wade advanced a liberal agenda for Senegal, although the country had limited means with which to implement ambitious ideas. The liberalization of the economy proceeded under Wade, including privatizations and other market-opening measures, but at a slow pace. Wade had a strong interest in raising Senegal's profile, with the country playing a significant role in regional and international affairs. This included Senegal's successful brokering with the African Union of the June 4, 2009 agreement among the three main parties to Mauritania’s crisis regarding a return to constitutional order in Nouakchott.

President Wade’s decision to run for a third consecutive term generated controversy and sparked violent protests and six deaths in the months leading up to Senegal’s February 2012 presidential elections. While the 2001 constitution limits a president to two terms, Wade argued that his 2000 election to his first 7-year term fell under the previous constitution, which did not provide for term limits. On June 23, 2011, massive public rioting forced Wade to withdraw his attempt to amend the constitution to reduce the proportion of votes needed to win a presidential election from more than 50% to 25%, and to create the elected position of a vice president. President Wade denied claims that he was attempting to facilitate the election of his son, whom he had appointed a “super minister” for International Cooperation, Regional Development, Air Transport, and Infrastructure after his March 2009 defeat for the mayoralty of Dakar.

On February 26, 2012, some 52% of eligible Senegalese voters cast ballots in what observers termed a largely peaceful and orderly process, with only isolated reports of questionable practices. Official results indicated that of the 14 contenders (who united in opposing Wade’s third-term bid), President Wade garnered almost 35% of the vote and former Prime Minister Macky Sall received almost 27%. In the March 25, 2012 runoff election, in which 55% of the electorate cast ballots, Macky Sall defeated President Wade with 66% of the vote. Macky Sall took office on April 2, 2012. Parliamentary elections will take place on July 1, 2012.

Astronaut photograph of Dakar (May 6, 2011). Source: NASA.


Government Type: Republic

Senegal is a secular republic with a strong presidency, bicameral legislature, reasonably independent judiciary, and multiple political parties. Senegal is one of the few African states that has never experienced a coup d’etat. Power was transferred peacefully, if not altogether democratically, from Senghor to Diouf in 1981, and once again, this time in fully democratic elections, from Diouf to Wade in March 2000.

The president is elected by universal adult suffrage to a 5-year term. Under the terms of the 2001 constitution, presidents are limited to two terms. The bicameral parliament has a National Assembly with 150 members who are elected separately from the president, and a Senate with 100 members of which 35 are elected and 65 are chosen by the president. The Cour de Cassation (Highest Appeals Court, equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court) and the Constitutional Council, the justices of which are named by the president, are the nation's highest tribunals. Senegal is divided into 14 administrative regions, each headed by a governor appointed by and responsible to the president. The law on decentralization, which came into effect in January 1997, distributed significant central government authority to regional assemblies.

Capital: Dakar - 2.777 million (2009)

Dakar. Source: Creative Commons.

Administrative Divisions: 14 regions (regions, singular - region):

  • Dakar,
  • Diourbel,
  • Fatick,
  • Kaffrine,
  • Kaolack,
  • Kedougou,
  • Kolda,
  • Louga,
  • Matam,
  • Saint-Louis,
  • Sedhiou,
  • Tambacounda,
  • Thies,
  • Ziguinchor

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Independence Date: 4 April 1960 (from France); note - complete independence achieved upon dissolution of federation with Mali on 20 August 1960

Legal System: based on French civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts in Constitutional Court; the Council of State audits the government's accounting office; accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction with reservations; and accepts International criminal Court (ICCt) jurisdiction.

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

International Environmental Agreements

Senegal is party to international agreements on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, and Whaling


Total Renewable Water Resources: 39.4 cu km (1987)

Freshwater Withdrawal:  Total: 2.22 cu km/yr (4% domestic, 3% industrial, 93% agricultural).

Per capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 190 cu m/yr (2002)

Access to improved sources of drinking water: 69% of population

Access to improved sanitation facilities: 51% of population


Agricultural Products: peanuts, millet, corn, sorghum, rice, cotton, tomatoes, green vegetables; cattle, poultry, pigs; fish

Irrigated Land: 1,200 sq km (2003)


Natural Resources: fish, phosphates, iron ore.

Land Use:

arable land: 12.51%
permanent crops: 0.24%
other: 87.25% (2005)


Energy in Senegal
  Production Consumption Exports Imports Reserves
Electricity 2.232 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
1.763 billion kWh
(2008 est.)
0 kWh (2008 est.) 0 kWh (2008 est.)  
Oil 65.12 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
41,000 bbl/day
(2010 est.)
4,550 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
36,290 bbl/day
(2009 est.)
0 bbl
(1 January 2011 est.)
Natural Gas 50 million cu m
(2009 est.)
50 million cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(2009 est.)
0 cu m
(1 January 2011 est.)
Source: CIA Factbook


The former capital of French West Africa, Senegal is a semi-arid country located on the westernmost point of Africa. Predominantly rural and with limited natural resources, the country earns foreign exchange from fish, phosphates, peanuts, tourism, and services. Its economy is highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall and changes in world commodity prices. Senegal depends heavily on foreign assistance, which in 2007 represented about 23% of overall government spending--including both current expenditures and capital investments--or U.S. $630 million.

The fishing sector is Senegal's export leader. In 2007, fishery products contributed 22% of Senegal’s export earnings and employed about 15% of the population. Industrial fishing operations struggle with high costs, more efficient Asian and European Union (EU) competitors, and ineffective patrolling of the country's territorial waters against poachers. Receipts from tourism, the second major foreign exchange earner, contribute between 4.6%-6.8% of GDP annually. Senegal has about 320 tourist-class hotels, and the sector employs about 100,000 people serving over 700,000 tourists annually. Agriculture employs 77% of the economically active populace, while groundnut cultivation (which in 1960 had provided 80% of Senegal’s export earnings) engages about 10% of the population and is done on 50% of sown land in rotation with millet and sorghum. Mining, especially of phosphates, employs about 33,000 people and provides about 15% of export value.

Senegal’s Agency for the Promotion of Investment (APIX) plays an important role in the government’s foreign investment program. Its objective is to increase the investment rate from 20.6% to 30%. There are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or investment financed with convertible foreign exchange. Economic assistance comes largely from France, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the United States. The European Union, the African Development Bank, China, Canada, Spain, Japan, and Germany also fund significant aid programs.

Senegal has well-developed though costly port facilities, an international airport serving 28 international airlines that serves as a regional hub, and a reasonable telecommunications infrastructure, including a fiber optics backbone. Cellular phone penetration exceeds 50% of the population, and there are 1.818 million Internet users.

Remittances in 2010 reached $1.4 billion and were worth 10% of Senegal’s GDP.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $25.4 billion (2011 est.)

GDP (Official Exchange Rate): $14.7 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $1,900 (2011 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 15.9%
industry: 21.7%
services: 62.3% (2011 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line: 54% (2001 est.)

Industries: agricultural and fish processing, phosphate mining, fertilizer production, petroleum refining; iron ore, zircon, and gold mining, construction materials, ship construction and repair

Exports: fish, groundnuts (peanuts), petroleum products, phosphates, cotton

Export Partners: Mali 20.12%, India 9.84%, Gambia, 5.58%, France 5.02%, Italy 4.23% (2009)

Imports: food and beverages, capital goods, fuels

Import Partners: France 19.58%, UK 9.64%, China 8.08%, Netherlands 5.64%, Thailand 4.75%, US 3.97% (2009)

Currency: Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)

Ports and Terminals: Dakar



Agency, C., Fund, W., & Department, U. (2013). Senegal. Retrieved from


To add a comment, please Log In.