Senegal (04/05/12)

April 5, 2012

Note to our readers: Background Notes are no longer being updated or produced. They are being replaced with Fact Sheets focusing on U.S. relations with countries and providing links to additional resources. For archived versions of Background Notes, see //


Area: 196,722 sq. km. (76,000 sq. mi.), slightly smaller than South Dakota.
Cities: Capital--Dakar. Other cities--Diourbel, Kaolack, Kolda, Louga, Rufisque, Saint-Louis, Thies, Tambacounda, Ziguinchor, Fatick, Matam, Kedougou, Sedhiou.
Terrain: Flat; foothills.
Climate: Tropical/Sahelian--desert or grasslands in the north, heavier vegetation in the south and southeast.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Senegalese (sing. and pl.).
Population (2011 est.): 12,643,799.
Annual population growth rate: 2.5%.
Ethnic groups: Wolof 43%; Fulani (Peulh) and Toucouleur 23%; Serer 15%; Diola, Mandingo, and others 19%.
Religions: Muslim 94%, Christian 5%, traditional 1%.
Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Serer, Diola, Mandingo, Soninke.
Education: Attendance--primary 75.8%, middle school 26.5%, secondary 11% (estimated). Literacy--59.1%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--56.4/1,000. Life expectancy--59.78 years.
Work force (5.53 million): Agriculture 77.5% (subsistence or cash crops); industry and services 22.5%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: April 4, 1960.
Constitution: March 3, 1963.
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state, commander in chief of armed forces). Legislative--bicameral parliament with a 150-member National Assembly and a 100-member Senate. Judicial--Constitutional Council (appointed by the president from senior magistrates and eminent academics and attorneys), Court of Final Appeals, Council of State.
Administrative subdivisions: 14 regions, 34 departments, 320 rural councils.
Political parties: 73 political parties are registered, the most important of which are the Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS), Rewmi, Socialist Party (PS), the Alliance of Forces for Progress (AFP), "AND JEF/PADS", the Union for Democratic Renewal (URD), "JEF JEL", the National Democratic Rally (RND), the Independence and Labor Party (PIT), and the Alliance for the Republic-Yakaar.
Suffrage: Universal adult, over 18.
Central government budget (2011): $4.726 billion.
National holiday: April 4, Independence Day.

GDP (2010): $12.877 billion.
Real annual growth rate (2010): 4.2%.
Per capita GDP (2010): $981.
Inflation rate (consumer prices, 2010): 1.2%.
Natural resources: Fish, peanuts, phosphate, iron ore, gold, titanium, oil and gas, cotton.
Agriculture represents 12.4% of GDP. Products--fish, peanuts, millet, sorghum, manioc, rice, cotton, vegetables, flowers, fruit, livestock, forestry.
Industry: 19.8% of GDP, of which manufacturing and construction compromise 16.3% and energy/mining represent 3.5%. Types--fish and agricultural product processing, light manufacturing, mining, and construction.
Services: 55.6% of GDP, of which transport, warehousing, and communications represent 13.4% of GDP and trade 16.6% of GDP.
Trade: Exports (2008)--$2.05 billion: fish products, peanuts, phosphates, cotton. Major markets (2009)--Mali 20.12%, India 9.84%, The Gambia 5.58%, France 5.02%, Italy 4.23%, U.S. 0.5%. Imports (2010)--$4.474 billion: food, consumer goods, petroleum, machinery, transport equipment, petroleum products, computer equipment. Major suppliers (2009)--France 19.58%, U.K. 9.64%, China 8.08%, Netherlands 5.64%, Thailand 4.75%, U.S. 3.97%.
Economic aid: The United States provided about $98.7 million in assistance to Senegal in fiscal year 2011, including $1.3 million for peace and security, $2 million for governing justly and democratically, $70.4 million for investing in people, and $25 million for economic growth.
Currency and exchange rate: West African franc (CFAF); 516 CFAF = U.S. $1 (January 11, 2012).

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.

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. 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.

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; 94% of Senegalese today are Muslims. 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 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.

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.

Principal Government Officials
President of the Republic--Macky Sall
President of the Senate--Pape Diop
President of the National Assembly--Mamadou Seck
Prime Minister--Abdoul Mbaye
Ambassador to the United States--Fatou Danielle Diagne

Senegal maintains an embassy in the United States at 2031 Florida Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-234-0540), and a Mission to the United Nations at 392 Fifth Avenue, 9th floor, New York, NY 10018 (tel. 212-517-9030).

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.

As of 2008, U.S. foreign direct investment stock in Senegal totaled $18 million. In 2010, U.S. exports to Senegal totaled almost $210.7 million (notably energy-related products, transportation equipment, chemicals, agricultural products, textiles/apparel, machinery, and electronics). U.S. imports from Senegal exceeded $5.1 million, primarily miscellaneous and agricultural products and special provisions. Senegal’s exports to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) were $341,000.

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

Senegal has well-trained and disciplined armed forces consisting of about 17,000 personnel in the army, air force, navy, and gendarmerie. The Senegalese military force receives most of its training, equipment, and support from France and the United States. Germany also provides support but on a smaller scale. Military noninterference in political affairs has contributed to Senegal's stability since independence.

Senegal has participated in many international and regional peacekeeping missions. Its history of participation in peacekeeping is impressive. Most recently, Senegal provided peacekeeping forces for the African Union (AU) mission in Darfur, Sudan (AMIS), the UN mission in Liberia (UNIMIL), and the UN mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI), where Lieutenant General Abdoulaye Fall, who is now Chief of Defense of the Senegalese Armed Forces, was the Force Commander. In 2000, Senegal sent a battalion to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to participate in MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission, and agreed to deploy a U.S.-trained battalion to Sierra Leone to participate in UNAMSIL, another UN peacekeeping mission. A Senegalese contingent was deployed on a peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic in 1997, and in 1994, Senegal sent a battalion-sized force to Rwanda to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission there. In 1992 Senegal sent 1,500 men to the ECOMOG peacekeeping group in Liberia, and in 1991, it was the only sub-Saharan nation to send a contingent to participate in Operation Desert Storm in the Middle East.

In August 1981, the Senegalese military was invited into The Gambia by President Dawda Kairaba Jawara to put down a coup attempt. In August 1989, Senegalese-Gambian military cooperation, which began with the joint Senegalese-Gambian efforts during the 1981 coup attempt, ceased with the dissolution of the Senegambian Confederation. Senegal intervened in the Guinea-Bissau civil war in 1998 at the request of President Joao Bernardo Vieira.

President Senghor advocated close relations with France and negotiation and compromise as the best means of resolving international differences. To a large extent, the two succeeding Presidents carried on Senghor's policies and philosophies. Senegal has long supported functional integration among French-speaking West African states through the West African Economic and Monetary Union. Senegal has a high profile in many international organizations and was a member of the UN Security Council in 1988-89. It was elected to the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1997. Friendly to the West, especially to France and to the United States, Senegal also is a vigorous proponent of more assistance from developed countries to developing nations. The country sent 500 troops as the 19th-largest contingent as part of the active-duty multinational force in the 1990-1991 Gulf War theater of operations. Senegal enjoys mostly cordial relations with its neighbors. Progress has been made on many fronts with Mauritania, including border security, resource management, economic integration, and the return of an estimated 30,000 Afro-Mauritanian refugees living in Senegal.

Senegal enjoys an excellent relationship with the United States. The Government of Senegal is known and respected for its able diplomats and often has supported the United States in the United Nations, including with troop contributions for peacekeeping activities. The United States maintains friendly relations with Senegal and provides considerable economic and technical assistance. About 300 Senegalese students come to the United States each year for study.

President Diouf paid his first official visit to Washington, DC, in August 1983 and traveled several times to the U.S. thereafter. In June 2001, President Wade met President George W. Bush at the White House. Senegal was President Bush’s first stop in his July 2003 visit to Africa. Senegal hosted the Second African - African-American Summit in 1995. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton began her trip to Africa in March 1997 with a visit to Senegal, and President Bill Clinton visited Senegal in 1998. Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio met Secretary of State Colin Powell in September and November 2001. Senegal took a strong position against terrorism in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S., and in October 2001 hosted a conference establishing the African Pact Against Terrorism. On July 20, 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the fourth annual AGOA Forum held in Dakar, Senegal. That year’s Forum focused on increasing investment initiatives and facilitating economic and political development in Africa. In June 2007, First Lady Laura Bush made Senegal her first stop during a four-country Africa tour in support of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). President Wade met Secretary Hillary Clinton during the September 16, 2009 signing of the $540 million compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) for road rehabilitation and food security initiatives in some of the poorest regions of Senegal.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implements the U.S. Government's development assistance program. USAID's strategy focuses on promoting economic growth/private sector development by expanding microfinance and business development services and commercializing natural and nontraditional products; improving local delivery of services and sustainable use of resources; increasing use of decentralized health services; and improving middle school education, especially for girls. In addition, there is a conflict resolution and rehabilitation program to improve conditions for peace in Senegal's two southern regions known as the Casamance.

The Peace Corps program in Senegal has approximately 150 volunteers serving in agriculture, forestry, health, and small business development. The U.S. Embassy's Cultural Affairs Section administers the Fulbright, Humphrey, and International Visitor exchange programs. The Fulbright teacher, researcher, and lecturer programs are two-way exchanges; hence the section also supports American grantees in Senegal during their stay. In addition to exchanges, the section organizes numerous programs for the Senegalese public including U.S. speaker programs, fine arts programs, film festivals, and a book club. Finally, the section organizes an annual regional colloquium for American Studies professionals, journalists, and civic leaders from over 15 countries in Africa.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Lewis Lukens
Deputy Chief of Mission--Robert Yamate
Peace Corps Director--Christopher Hendrick
Defense Agency Chief--COL Matthew Sousa
Political Counselor--David Whiting
Economic Officer--Steve Perry
Public Affairs Officer--Kristin M. Kane
Consular Officer--Mea Arnold

The local address of the U.S. Embassy in Senegal is U.S. Embassy, B.P. 49, Ave. Jean XXIII, Dakar, Senegal.