Learn more about Senegal

In the north, on the border with Mauritania Djoudj Park is a natural oasis consisting of humndreds of partially flooded kilometres, a “wet paradise” near the desert. The park, declared a “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO, is inhabited by over one million birds, both seasonal and migratory, that nest here.
Further to the north, Saint Louis, was built on two islands between the Senegal River and the ocean. This lively town deserves particular attention for its history and colonial atmosphere. The city, built on the estuary of the Senegal River, was the place of the the French colonial penetration. The best way to discover the colonial streets and neighbourhoods of fishermen is by horse and buggy, a transportation mode still in vogue among the population.
North, on the Savannah, live the Peul, the largest group of farmers in West Africa. They have a variety of traditions but they all recognised a common worship of beauty which, moreover, corresponds to their fine Nilotic features.
Most of the population of Senegal is Muslim. The point of reference is the holy city of Touba, where more than 500,000 followers of the brotherhood of the Muridi live. During the most important pilgrimage held once a year, the Grand Magal, brings between one and two million pilgrims to the city. The people are very welcoming and are proud to show off their great mosque.
To the south of Gambia, a country that is wedged in Senegal, is the region of Casamance, with an animist and Catholic majority. Of particular interest is the Diola clay architecture. Impluvium-style houses, authentic “fortified” buildings, where the harmony of shapes and the fusion of traditional materials (wood and clay) are a good example of “sculptural architecture”.

TO KNOW MORE

Senegal is a country in West African and its capital and largest city is Dakar.

Senegal covers a land area of almost 197,000 square kilometers (76,000 sq miles) in the western part of Sudanese Africa, on the banks of the Senegal River and some smaller rivers nearby; to the west the country borders the Atlantic Ocean. Senegal extends to the so-called Sahel, the transition area between the arid Saharan regions and the humid regions of Guinean Africa.  It is almost completely surrounded by the English–speaking Gambia, which extends along the river of the same name.

According to an estimate carried out in 2014, the population of Senegal is approximately 13 million inhabitants, and the density of the population is approximately 64 inhabitants/square kilometer. The population concentrates where the environmental conditions are better, that is to say, along the cost and the near hinterland; the areas that are largely arid or semi-arid are less populated, and the population concentrates only along the river, where the water supply is better. The biggest city is the capital, Dakar, with approximately 2.6 million inhabitants and representing the majority of the urban population of the country.

The population in Senegal is formed by different ethnic groups, the Wolof being the predominant, with approximately 43% of the population speaking Wolof. This language is a kind of national language together with French.

Population: 13,635,927 (estimated in July 2014)

Capital: Dakar

Area: 196,722 square kilometers

Ethnic groups: Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Djiola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, and Soninke 1.1%

Religions: 94% Muslim, 5% Christian, and 1% animist.

Passport: A valid passport with expiration at least 6 months from the time of entry and throughout the period of stay in the country is required.

Required vaccinations: Yellow fever

Entry visa: Not required

President: MackySall

HISTORY

There is evidence of Neolithic activity almost everywhere in the territory. There are many archaeological findings that prove it. The prehistoric period marks the emergence of metals in the valley of Senegal, with dig sites containing old melting furnaces with fireplaces and burial mounds.

The formation of the earliest known kingdoms occurs from the seventh century, particularly the Jolof, which has a distant family relationship with the Empire of Ghana, its eastern neighbor.

Islam, the dominant religion in Senegal and currently practiced by more than 90% of the population, came in the eleventh century, but only convinced the Peul (Fulani) in the east and Toucouleur (Tukrè) in the north along the Senegal River. The rest of Senegal remained animistic until 1800.

The first permanent European settlement, Portuguese, was on the island of Goree, off Dakar, in 1500: here the Portuguese people could buy the Wolof people, the dominant ethnic group in Senegal, the slaves that the Wolof themselves had kidnapped or bought within the country. Goree later passed to Dutch hands, peacefully continuing trade with the Wolof, until it was finally was acquired by the French. In 1659, Senegal came under French jurisdiction, who then founded the city of Saint-Louis, the first capital of Senegal and later the capital of French West Africa (FWA). In 1677 the French also occupied the island of Goree and Senegal became one of the main centers of the African slave trade. The French regarded the Wolof people as trusted and trusted them with tasks relating to the management of the African colonies, in public administration.

In 1904, the capital of French West Africa, and a self-governing colony, was Dakar. In 1914, African residents in the cities of Dakar, Goree, Rufisque and Saint-Louis received French citizenship and chose their own deputies to the French parliament. In 1946, Senegal became part of French territory and citizenship was granted to all Senegalese. In 1958, Senegal was granted the status of autonomous republic and in 1960, after gaining full independence, Senegal and French Sudan (now Mali) joined to form the Federation of Mali on April 4, 1960 as a self-governing territory within the French Community, which became independent, after a series of negotiations with France, on June 20, 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.

In September 1960, Leopold Sedar Senghor was elected Senegal’s first president and remained in power for 20 years. In 1981, Senghor retired from political life and the presidency passed to his successor Abdou Diouf. In the nineties, Diouf pledged to return the country to democratic life: in the presidential election of 2000, opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade, managed to beat Diouf; Wade in 2007 again won the presidential election. In 2012, MackySall beat the outgoing president and became the fourth president of Senegal.

Geography and climate

The territory is largely plains. A small are has mountainous terrain of volcanic origin. The most important rivers are the Senegal, which marks the northern border, the River Gambia and Casamance River. The rest are basically ephemeral. The northern coasts are low in the south is surrounded by lagoons.

The climate is warm and tropical, with dry and wet seasons; the north-eastern borders with the Sahel and has the risk of drought: Senegal is, in fact, one of the states most threatened by desertification.

Economy

Main agricultural and livestock products: peanuts, millet, corn, sorghum, rice, cotton, tomatoes; cattle, farm animals, pigs and fish.

Main industrial products: Fish processing, phosphate mining, fertilizer production, petroleum refining, zircon, gold mining, building materials, shipbuilding and repair

Main export products: fish, peanuts, petroleum products, phosphates, cotton to Mali, Switzerland, India, Guinea, and France.

Export and import partners: Food and beverages, instrumental goods, fuel from France, Nigeria, China, Netherlands, India, Spain.

Per capita GDP: $2,300 (2014 estimate)

Senegal is a developing country, and thanks to their greater political and social stability, its economy is more developed compared to that of neighboring countries. There are many foreign capital investments, above all, from France. In the past, until about twenty years ago, the main crop was peanuts; currently they have developed other food crops and fisheries, which have given a boost to the recent development of the industry: mills, facilities for fish processing, sugar and breweries. Cotton and sugar plantations are particularly important. Subsistence farming produces millet, maize and cassava but not enough to feed a rapidly growing population. Breeding cattle, goats and sheep are also important for the population. The subsoil provides phosphate, titanium minerals and recently found major oilfields. The main industries are food and textile; while chemical, mechanical and footwear industries are growing.

Transportation

The road network is very small (14,576 km of which only 4,271 is paved) and the rail network is also very small (922 km) linking the main railway line from Dakar to Bamako (Mali), but it is currently inoperative.

In the capital, Dakar, and in a few other inhabited areas of Senegal, public and private companies manage urban, suburban and intercity transport by bus.

Senegal has 897 km of navigable inland waters that belong to the Senegal River (785 km) and Saloum River (112 km).

The main airport and harbor are in Dakar.

Food

Senegalese cuisine is considered one of the best in Africa: Senegalese cuisine uses many combinations of foods and many species and offers a mixture of tastes, smells and colors that result in a rich and varied dining experience.

For the people of Senegal, dishes represent an important moment of exchange, solidarity and meeting, and hence the custom of eating together, sitting on a carpet around the same source containing portions for six to 18 people.

The base of the Senegalese meals consists of cereals, among which, besides millet, rice imported by French settlers in the late nineteenth century is consumed and cultivated throughout Senegal. Fonio is grown in the southern part of the country and in Casamance, a grain with delicate taste that is known for its nutritional and therapeutic qualities against diabetes; and like millet, is used for the preparation of couscous.

Senegal is one of the West African countries where more vegetables are consumed. Peanuts, high in protein and niacin, are mainly consumed roasted, but can be eaten fresh or dried, boiled, or a paste for peanut butter, which is used as a component in various traditional sauces and dishes, such as Maafe.

Okra is a vegetable that is collected before the first ripening, when it is still green. Its appearance is similar to an elongated pepper, but can be eaten fresh or dried to preserve it better. Okra is used as a component of Soupou Kandja.

Niebes (in Wolof), is a sweet tasting small black and white bean they call the “meat of the poor”. They are used to enrich sauces, fried in oil accompanied by onion or sauces to make tasty meatballs eaten with tomato sauce, onions and peppers. Diakhatou is a kind of bitter, green or yellow eggplant, it is used as an ingredient in sauces and traditional dishes.

Since 1990, Senegal has given a big boost to fishing, which has become an important resource both economically and for food. Fish and shellfish are used in the preparation of traditional dishes such as Thieboudien and Soupou Kandja.

Meat can be prepared grilled or pan fried with various sauces, and can be smoked or marinated with spices and lemon juice. Beef, lamb or sheepmeat and chicken are all popular, while pork is less common, especially because Senegal is a country with a majority Muslim population.

The most widespread fruit in Senegal, in addition to the banana, is mango. It can be eaten fresh, dried or as a juice.

Communications media

The Senegalese media landscape is characterized by a strong concentration in the hands of groups like Walf, Sud Communication, AvenirCommunication, FutursMédias, and D-MEDIA1.

Nevertheless, the press and TV has major economic problems. Independence and pluralism are therefore threatened even though the fact that the law of 1996 stipulates that the Senegalese cannot own more than three communication media companies and foreigner cannot own more than one.

The media has a regulatory body, the “National Council for Audiovisual Regulation” directed from 2012 for the first time by a journalist: BabacarTouré.

The first television station began broadcasting in 1963, with the help of UNESCO, but only began regular programming in 1965. Currently, RTS (Radio-Television Senegal) no longer has a monopoly. Other television networks appeared: 2sTV, RDV, WALF TV, SN2, TFM, TOUBA TV, 2S Racines, RDV MUSIC; SENTVTSL AFRICA7,LCS.

EDUCATION

In Senegal, despite the development of school structures that are among the best in West Africa, the illiteracy rate remains high, reaching an average of 59.8%. It is purely theoretical data, which varies according to age, sex, region and even the ethnicity or the neighborhood, in the case of Dakar. The school system in Senegal can be said to be like an upside down pyramid: Pretty good when it comes to the quality of higher education, while underdeveloped, particularly in peripheral or rural areas, in primary education. Despite the political control of access to secondary school, a lack of intellectual concern is widespread and vocational training is still poorly adapted to local realities.

University education in Senegal is well developed, both scientifically and humanistic, and is mainly provided in Dakar by the Cheikh Anta Diop University and in Saint-Louis by Université Gaston-Berger. The percentage of students entering college is less than 10% of all students and is further reduced in the years after the university entrance due to the difficulty to meet the necessary expenses for study materials, accommodation and food.

HEALTH

Life expectancy:

  • Total 61 years
  • Men: 59
  • Women: 63

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 42.5%
  • 15-64 years: 20.5%
  • 25-54 years: 30.4%
  • 55-64 years: 3.8%

More than 65 years: 2.9%

Average age: 18.4 years

Mortality rate at birth: 52 out of 1000

Percentage of HIV/AIDS: 0.46%

Healthcare professionals: Doctors: 0.06/1000 inhabitants

Budget invested in healthcare: 4.2% of GDP

MUSIC

Senegal’s musical heritage is among the best known in Africa, thanks to the popularity of Mbalax, which is a genre of music with Wolof percussion, which has made Youssou N’Dour famous.

Senegalese music has its roots in the songs of the griot, singing the glory of kings and their courts. As regards Islam, Muslims have produced texts that subsequently have become chanted prayers.

In Dakar, the Daniel Sorano National Theater meets offers famous artists such as the great poet and griot NdiagaMbaye, who joined the institution in 1966.

The next generation of musicians inspired by the traditions of the griots gives it a more modern style.