Senegal -- Geography --
Official name: Republic of Senegal
Official language: French
Official currency: franc of the African financial community - CFA franc (XOF)
Population: 12,5 million
Territory: 197 000 sq km
Senegal is subdivided into 14 regions:
Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times.
Eastern Senegal was once part of the Empire of Ghana. It was founded by the Tukulor in the middle valley
of the Senegal River. Islam, the dominant religion in Senegal, first came to the region in the 11th century.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of
Senegal also was founded during this time. Various European powers—Portugal, the Netherlands, and Great
Britain—competed for trade in the area from the 15th century onward, until in 1677, France ended up in
possession of what had become a minor slave trade departure point—the island of Goree next to modern Dakar,
used as a base to purchase slaves from the warring chiefdoms on the mainland.
It was only in the 1850s that the French began to expand onto the Senegalese mainland (by now rid of slavery and
promoting abolitionist doctrine), adding native chiefdoms such as Waalo, Cayor, Baol, and Jolof. Senegalese chiefs
resistance to the French expansion and curtailing of their lucrative slave trade was led in part by Lat-Dior,
Damel (great chief) of Cayor.
In January 1959 Senegal and the French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on
20 June 1960, as a result of the independence and the transfer of power agreement signed with France on 4 April 1960.
Due to internal political difficulties, the Federation broke up on August 20. Senegal and Sudan (renamed the Republic
of Mali) proclaimed independence. Leopold Senghor was proclaimed Senegal's first president in September 1960. Senghor
was a very well read man, educated in France. He was a poet, a philosopher and personally drafted the Senegalese
national anthem, "Pincez tous vos koras frappez les balafons". As such he was not really a politician but was handed
the presidency by the French authorities who saw in him a brilliant and peaceful man and not a revolutionary like
Ahmed Sekou Toure of the neighboring Guinea.
Later after the breakup of the Mali Federation, President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia governed together
under a parliamentary system. Senghor always feared his Prime Minister who was a very charismatic figure and a hard liner.
In December 1962 he accused him of an attempted coup and Dia was wrongfully convicted of treason and briefly jailed.
Senegal adopted a new constitution that consolidated the president's power.In 2006, the current president Abdoulaye
Wade vacated the conviction and bestowed upon him a Medal of Honor. In 1980 President Senghor decided to retire from
politics, and he handed power over in 1981 to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf. Mamadou Dia ran for reelection in
1983 against Aboud Diouf but lost.Senghor moved to France where he later died at the age of 96 having been married to a
Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia on 1 February 1982. However,
the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group in the Casamance region
had clashed sporadically with government forces since 1982. Senegal has had a long history of participating in
Abdou Diouf was president between 1981 and 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.
In the presidential election of 1999, opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade defeated Diouf in an election deemed free and
fair by international observers. Senegal experienced its second peaceful transition of power, and its first from one
political party to another. On 30 December 2004 President Abdoulaye Wade announced that he would sign a peace treaty
with the separatist group in the Casamance region. This, however, has yet to be implemented. There was a round of talks
in 2005, but the results did not yet yield a resolution.
Senegal -- Economy --
In January 1994 Senegal undertook a bold and ambitious economic reform program with the support
of the international donor community. This reform began with a 50 percent devaluation of Senegal's currency, the CFA
franc, which was linked at a fixed rate to the former French franc and now to the euro. Government price controls and
subsidies have been steadily dismantled.
After seeing its economy retract by 2.1 percent in 1993, Senegal made an important turnaround, thanks to the reform
program, with real growth in GDP averaging 5 percent annually during the years 1995–2001. Annual inflation was reduced to
less than 1 percent, but rose again to an estimated 3.3 percent in 2001. Investment increased steadily from 13.8 percent
of GDP in 1993 to 16.5 percent in 1997.
Thanks to this, Senegal's economy is starting to be one of the fastest growing in the world.
Parts of this article (those related to the 1990's GDP & export partners (percent), and the 2001 inflation stats in the
paragraph above & the paragraph below) may no longer be up to date. Please update this article to reflect recent events or
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The main industries include food processing, mining, cement, artificial fertilizer, chemicals, textiles, refining
imported petroleum, and tourism. Exports include fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, groundnuts, and calcium phosphate,
and the principal foreign market is India at 26.7 percent of exports (as of 1998). Other foreign markets include the US,
Italy, and the UK.
As a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Senegal is working toward greater regional
integration with a unified external tariff. Senegal is also a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of
Business Law in Africa (OHADA).
Senegal realized full Internet connectivity in 1996, creating a mini-boom in information technology-based services.
Private activity now accounts for 82 percent of GDP. On the negative side, Senegal faces deep-seated
urban problems of chronic high unemployment, socioeconomic disparity, and juvenile delinquency.
Senegal -- Culture --
Islam is the predominant religion, practiced by approximately 95 percent of the country's population;
the Christian community, at 4 percent of the population, includes Roman Catholics and diverse Protestant denominations.
There is also a 1 percent population who maintain animism in their beliefs, particularly in the southeastern
region of the country.
The Baha'i Faith in Senegal begins after `Abdu'l-Baha, the son of the founder of the religion, mentioned Africa as a
place the religion should be more broadly visited by Baha'is. The first to set foot in the territory of French
West Africa that would become Senegal arrived in 1953. The first Baha'i Local Spiritual Assembly
of Senegal was elected in 1966 in Dakar. In 1975 the Baha'i community elected the first National Spiritual
Assembly of Senegal. The most recent estimate, by the Association of Religion Data Archives in a 2005 report
details the population of Senegalese Baha'is at 22,000. Baha'is claimed there are 34 local assemblies in 2003.
Senegal's musical heritage is better known than that of most African countries, due to the popularity of mbalax,
which is a form of Wolof percussive; it has been popularized by Youssou N'Dour. Sabar drumming
is especially popular. The sabar is mostly used in special celebrations like weddings. Another
instrument, the tama, is used in more ethnic groups. Other popular Senegalese musicians are Cheikh Lo,
Orchestra Baobab, Baba Maal, Thione Seck, Akon and Pape Diouf.
Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution adopted in January 2001 guarantee access to education for all children.
Education is compulsory and free up to the age of 16. The Ministry of Labor has indicated that the public school
system is unable to cope with the number of children that must enroll each year. Illiteracy is high, particularly
among women. The net primary enrolment rate was 69 % in 2005. Public expenditure on education was 5.4 % of
the 2002-2005 GDP.
Senegal -- Political system, law and government --
Senegal is a republic with a presidency; the president is elected every five years as of 2001, previously being
seven years, by universal adult suffrage. The current president is Abdoulaye Wade, re-elected in March 2007.
Senegal has more than 80 political parties. The bicameral parliament consists of the National Assembly, which has
120 seats, and the Senate, which has 100 seats and was reinstituted in 2007.
An independent judiciary also exists in Senegal. The nation's highest courts that deal with business issues are
the constitutional council and the court of justice, members of which are named by the president.
Currently Senegal has a democratic political culture, being one of the more successful post-colonial democratic
transitions in Africa. Local administrators are appointed by, and responsible to, the president. The marabouts,
religious leaders of the various Senegalese Muslim brotherhoods, also exercise a strong political influence in the country.
In 2009, however, Freedom House downgraded Senegal's status from 'Free' to 'Partially Free', based on increased
centralisation of power in the executive.
In 2008, Senegal finished in 10th position on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. The Ibrahim Index is a
comprehensive measure of sub-Saharan African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the
success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens. In 2009, Senegal's ranking slipped
substantially, to 17th place; however, this is partially accounted for by the addition of Northern African nations
to the rankings.