“Senegal remains the economic centre in the region and is the most visited country in West Africa. The coastline also places the country at the intersection of important maritime paths”
SENEGAL lies in western Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea- Bissau and Mauritania. It covers a land area of approximately 196,000km and has a total coastline of 700km.The capital city, Dakar, is located on the Cap Vert peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean. Senegal is the westernmost country on the African continent, and shares borders with Mauritania,Mali,The Gambia, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
Senegal has a typical sub-tropical African climate with dry and rainy seasons dictated by the wind patterns from the north-east and south-west. Annual rainfall in the country’s capital does not normally exceed 600mm, and the main rainy season occurs between June and October. Maximum temperatures during the rainy season average 27°C. Between December and January, the climate is colder and dryer, with average temperatures rarely exceeding 17°C.The coastal area stays cooler than the hinterland and the southern area receives the majority of the country’s rainfall, often exceeding 1,500mm annually in some areas. The terrain ranges from desert land in the north to moister, more tropical areas in the south but is generally low-lying land, rising slightly from the coastal plains to foothills in the south-east.
Senegal has a population of some 12.5 million (estimate as of July 2007), of which 70% live in rural areas. The population is growing at an annual rate of over 2.3%, and the population density varies from 77 per km2 in the west-central area to 2 per km2 in the east. Senegal has a young population, 43% of which are under the age of 15.The average life expectancy is 58 years for women and 55 years for men. As with most West African countries, Senegal has a broad ethnic mix of people but is dominated by the Wolof tribe, which accounts for 43% of the Catholic) comprising 5% and indigenous religions 1%.
After centuries of colonial exploitation, Senegal achieved independence in 1960, after having merged with French Sudan in 1959. Shortly after independence, the merged countries split: French Sudan becoming Mali and Senegal proclaiming national independence under Léopold Sédar Senghor, elected president in September 1960. A union was attempted with West Gambia in 1982 to form Senegambia. However, the move was abandoned in 1989.
Senegal was led by the Socialist Party from independence until 2000, when the party’s candidate, long-time president Abdou Diouf, was defeated by the leader of the Senegalese Democratic Party, Abdoulaye Wade, in a second round of voting.
The Senegalese currency is the Communauté Financière d’Afrique franc (CFA), which is used in 12 African countries and issued from the Central Bank headquarters in Dakar for the Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA). In 2006, the GDP for Senegal was given as US$8.3 billion, per capita income US$710 and public debts were estimated at 17.8% of GDP.
Despite its small size, Senegal is one of the most economically successful countries in the region. Private-sector activity accounts for 82% of current GDP, which is dominated by services (62.5%) as well as agriculture (18.0%) and industry (19.2%).
Agriculture still provides the main source of economic activity for 77% of the labour force in Senegal but remains highly dependent on weather patterns, which are increasingly unreliable.
Senegal’s main exports are peanuts, fish, petroleum products, phosphates and cotton, and its main trading partners are Mali (19.0%), India (14.3%) and France (6.9%). In terms of imports, Senegal is heavily reliant on France (23.0%) as well as Nigeria (10.6%).The industrial sector, which accounts for about 20% of GDP, is heavily dependent on agro-industries and mining.
Senegal’s commitment to economic reform is supported by its well-developed social and physical infrastructure, as well as its diversified economic base. It remains the economic centre in the region and is the most visited country in West Africa. The coastline also places the country at the intersection of important maritime paths. Dakar currently has the second biggest port in West Africa (although, once finished, Port du Futur will be the biggest) and sees the transit of 90% of the country’s foreign commerce.