République du Sénégal
Republic of Senegal
Error creating thumbnail: Coat of arms of Senegal
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Un Peuple, Un But, Une Foi"  (French)
"One People, One Goal, One Faith"
Anthem: Pincez Tous vos Koras, Frappez les Balafons
Location of Senegal
Capital Dakar
Largest city Dakar
Official language French
Government Republic
 - President Abdoulaye Wade
 - Prime Minister Macky Sall
 - from France June 20 1960 
 - Total 196,722 km² (87th)
75,955 sq mi 
 - Water (%) 2.1
 - 2005 estimate 11,658,000 (72nd)
 - Density 59/km² (137th)
153/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2005 estimate
 - Total $20.504 billion (109th)
 - Per capita $1,759 (149th)
HDI  (2006) 0.460 (low) (156th)
Currency CFA franc (XOF)
Time zone UTC (UTC)
Internet TLD .sn
Calling code +221

Senegal (French: le Sénégal), officially the Republic of Senegal, is a country south of the Sénégal River in western Africa. Senegal is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The Gambia lies almost entirely within Senegal, surrounded on the north, east and south; from its western coast, The Gambia's territory follows the Gambia River more than 300 km inland. The Cape Verde islands lie some 560 km (348 miles) off the Senegalese coast.




Archaeological findings throughout the area indicate that Senegal was inhabited in prehistoric times. Since then, Senegal has a varied cultural history of kingdoms, empires, brotherhoods and colonial struggles (between and against colonizing powers).

Eastern Senegal was once part of the Empire of Ghana. The Kingdom of Tekrur 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 Mandingo empires to the east; the Jolof Empire of Senegal also was founded during this time.

Various European powers - Portugal, the Netherlands, and England - competed for trade in the area from the 15th century onward, until in 1677, France ended up in possession of what had become an important slave trade departure point - the infamous island of Gorée next to modern Dakar. It was only in the 1850s that the French began to expand their foothold onto the Senegalese mainland, at the expense of native kingdoms such as Waalo, Cayor, Baol, and Jolof.

In January 1959, Senegal and the French Sudan 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. Senegal and Sudan (renamed the Republic of Mali) proclaimed independence. Léopold Senghor was elected Senegal's first president in September 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 power over in 1981 to his handpicked successor, Abdou Diouf.

Senegal joined with The Gambia to form the nominal confederation of Senegambia on February 1 1982. However, the union was dissolved in 1989. Despite peace talks, a southern separatist group in the Casamance region has clashed sporadically with government forces since 1982. Senegal has a long history of participating in international peacekeeping. (this passage is plagarized from

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 2000, 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 December 30 2004 President Abdoulaye Wade announced that he would sign a peace treaty with the separatist group in the Casamance region.



Senegal is a republic with a powerful presidency; the president is elected every seven years, amended in 2001 to every five years, by universal adult suffrage. The current president is Abdoulaye Wade.

Senegal also has 65 political parties which contribute to development of the country through working towards a successful transition to democracy in the country, and even among other developing countries on the African continent. The unicameral National Assembly has 120 members elected separately from the president. A single house legislature, and a fair and independent judiciary also exist 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.

Senegal has a reputation for transparency in government operations. The level of economic corruption that has damaged the development of the economies in other parts of the world is very low. Today Senegal has a democratic political culture, being part of one of the most successful democratic transitions in Africa.

Local administrators are all appointed by and very responsible to the president.



Sine Saloum Mangrove in Mar Lodj, Senegal.
Sine Saloum Mangrove in Mar Lodj, Senegal.

Senegal is located on the west of the African continent. The Senegalese landscape consists mainly of the rolling sandy plains of the western Sahel which rise to foothills in the southeast. Here is also found Senegal's highest point, an otherwise unnamed feature near Nepen Diakha at 581 m. The northern border is formed by the Senegal River, other rivers include the Gambia and Casamance Rivers. The capital Dakar lies on the Cap-Vert peninsula, the westernmost point of continental Africa.



Senegalese savannah.
Senegalese savannah.
The Gambia River winds through the Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal.
The Gambia River winds through the Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal.

The local climate is tropical with well-defined dry and humid seasons that result from northeast winter winds and southwest summer winds. Dakar's annual rainfall of about 600mm (24 in) occurs between June and October when maximum temperatures average 27°C (80.6°F); December to February minimum temperatures are about 17°C (62.6°F). Interior temperatures are higher than along the coast, and rainfall increases substantially farther south, exceeding 1.5m (59.1 in) annually in some areas.



Street vendors.
Street vendors.

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 contract by 2.1% in 1993, Senegal made an important turnaround, thanks to the reform programme, with real growth in GDP averaging 5 % annually during 1995-2001. Annual inflation had been pushed down to less than 1%, but rose to an estimated 3.3% in 2001. Investment rose steadily from 13.8% of GDP in 1993 to 16.5% in 1997.

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 also realised full Internet connectivity in 1996, creating a miniboom in information technology-based services. Private activity now accounts for 82% of GDP. On the negative side, Senegal faces deep-seated urban problems of chronic unemployment, socioeconomic disparity, juvenile delinquency, and drug addiction; much as produced within hierarchically class-based populations in the developed/industrialized world's urban environs.



Senegal's population, 1961-2003
Senegal's population, 1961-2003

Senegal has a population of some 11 million, about 70 percent of whom live in rural areas. Density in these areas varies from about 77km² in the west-central region to 2 km² in the arid eastern section.



Senegal has a wide variety of ethnic groups and, as in most West African countries, several languages are widely spoken. The Wolof are the largest single ethnic group in Senegal at 43%; the Fula and Tukulor (24%) are the second biggest group, followed by others that include the Serer (15%), Lebou (10%), Jola (4%), Mandinka (3%), Maures or Naarkajors, Toucouleur, Soninke, Bassari and many smaller communities (9%). About 50,000 Europeans (1%) (mostly French) as well as smaller numbers of Mauritanians and Lebanese reside in Senegal, mainly in the cities. Also located primarily in urban settings are the minority Chinese and Vietnamese communities. From the time of earliest contact between Europeans and Africans along the coast of Senegal, particularly after the establishment of coastal trading posts during the fifteenth century, communities of mixed African and European (mostly French and Portuguese) origin have thrived. Cape Verdeans living in urban areas and in the Casamance region represent another recognized community of mixed African and European background. French is the official language, used regularly by a minority of Senegalese educated in a system styled upon the colonial-era schools of French origin (Koranic schools are even more popular, but Arabic is not widely spoken outside of this context of recitation). Most people also speak their own ethnic language while, especially in Dakar, Wolof is the lingua franca. Portuguese Creole is a prominent minority language in Ziguinchor, regional capital of the Casamance, where some residents speak Kriol, primarily spoken in Guinea-Bissau. Cape Verdeans speak their native creole.



Islam is the predominant religion, practiced by approximately 94 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 tiny minority who practice animism, particularly in the southeastern region of the country.



Mosquée de la Divinité, Ouakam, Senegal.
Mosquée de la Divinité, Ouakam, Senegal.

Islamic communities are generally organized around one of several Islamic Sufi orders or brotherhoods, headed by a khalif (xaliifa in Wolof, from Arabic khalīfa), who is usually a direct descendant of the group’s founder. The two largest and most prominent Sufi orders in Senegal are the Tijaniyya, whose largest sub-groups are based in the cities of Tivaouane and Kaolack, and the Murīdiyya (Murid), based in the city of Touba. The Halpulaar, a widespread ethnic group found along the Sahel from Chad to Senegal, representing 20 percent of the Senegalese population, were the first to be converted to Islam. The Halpulaar, composed of various Fula people groups, named Peuls and Toucouleurs in Senegal. Many of the Toucouleurs, or sedentary Halpulaar of the Senegal River Valley in the north, converted to Islam around a millennium ago and later contributed to Islam's propagation throughout Senegal. Most communities south of the Senegal River Valley, however, were not thoroughly Islamized until the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. During the mid-nineteenth century, Islam became a banner of resistance against the traditional aristocracies and French colonialism, and Tijānī leaders Al-Hajj Umar Tall and Màbba Jaxu Ba established short-lived but influential Islamic states but were both killed in battle and their empires than annexed by the French.

The spread of formal Quranic school (called daara in Wolof) during the colonial period increased largely through the effort of the Tijaniyya. In Murid communities, which place more emphasis on the work ethic than on literary Quranic studies, the term daara often applies to work groups devoted to working for a religious leader. Other Islamic groups include the much older Qādiriyya order and the Senegalese Laayeen order, which is prominent among the coastal Lebu. Today, most Senegalese children study at daaras for several years, memorizing as much of the Qur'an as they can. Some of them continue their religious studies at informal Arabic schools (majlis) or at the growing number of private Arabic schools and publicly funded Franco-Arabic schools.



Small Roman Catholic communities are mainly found in coastal Serer, Jola, Mankanya and Balant populations, and in Oriental Senegal among the Bassari and Coniagui. In Dakar, Catholic and Protestant rites are also practiced by a portion of the Lebanese, Capeverdian, European, and American immigrant population, and among certain Africans of other countries. Although Islam is Senegal's majority religion, Senegal's first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, was a Catholic Serer.


Other religions

Other religions in Senegal are mostly Animism, followed by Judaism and Buddhism. Judaism is followed by any people beyond racial lines and Buddhism is followed by a number of Chinese and Vietnamese.


Administrative divisions

Regions of Senegal
Regions of Senegal

Senegal is divided into 11 regions (régions) and subdivided into 34 departments (départements), 94 arrondissements and multiple communes. The regions are:

  • Dakar
  • Diourbel
  • Fatick
  • Kaolack
  • Kolda
  • Louga
  • Matam
  • Saint-Louis
  • Tambacounda
  • Thiès
  • Ziguinchor


On the beach at Mbour.
On the beach at Mbour.
Dakar market.
Dakar market.

Internationally known Senegalese


Miscellaneous topics

  • Communications in Senegal
  • Confédération Sénégalaise du Scoutisme
  • Education in Senegal
  • Foreign relations of Senegal
  • Indigenous cultures et al
  • Agriculture in Senegal
  • List of Senegal-related topics
  • Military of Senegal
  • Senegal national football team
  • Transport in Senegal
  • University of Dakar

Notable people born in Senegal


External links


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