Senegal

Population    14.13 million    

 

Geography

Senegal is located in Western Africa. The country is bordered by Mauritania to the north; Mali to the east; Guinea and Guinea Bissau to the south; and the Atlantic Ocean, to the west. The country also surrounds, in its entirety, the small country of The Gambia, which is a small, tongue looking sliver cutting into the middle of Senegal, off of the Atlantic Ocean.

The majority of the country is comprised of sandy plains, which form part of what is known as the western Sahel, a transition zone between the Sahara Desert and Sudanian Savannas. The more western part of the country also has a number of rolling hills and is more green, particularly closer to the ocean. The southern part of the country, known as Casamance, offers rich scenery, with beautiful, dense tree areas meeting sandy beaches.

 

People // Groups

The Senegalese people are some of the most friendly, peaceful people you will encounter in the world. The population is comprised of six different tribal groups, with the largest being the Wolof, which represent 43.3% of the population. Other groups include the Pular (23.8%); the Serer (14.7%), located primarily in the west-central part of the country; the Jola (3.7%), located in the Casamance region; the Mandinka (3%), located in the southeast and Casamance regions; and the Soninke (1.1%). Approximately 1% of the remaining population is either Lebanese or European and the remainder is comprised of “other,” with a number of immigrants from other Western African countries.

The Senegalese population is overwhelmingly Muslim (94%), with the majority of practicing Muslims being part of the Sufi brotherhoods. The remaining population is comprised of approximately 5% Christians and another 1% who practice traditional religions. While religion plays a predominant role in almost every aspect of Senegalese life, the population is overwhelming accepting of different religions and the country does not practice Sharia law.
 

Languages

The official language of Senegal is French, however, this language is predominantly spoken and used in Dakar and its surrounding areas. The majority of the Senegalese population speaks the language traditional to their tribe. Due to the large percentage of the population being Wolof, a large majority of the country speaks this language and it has, in many ways, become the de facto official language of the country. In the city of Dakar, the Wolof language is often mixed with French.

 

Political Structure

The Senegalese government and legal system is based largely on that in France. The country is a liberal democratic republic, with division of power vested in three branches of government. The legal system is a decentralized civil law system and the country’s laws are overseen by a number of different courts, including a Constitutional Council, which oversees constitutional matters and a State Council, which oversees administrative matters.

Senegal has had a relatively strong democracy in recent years, with a population that has been strong in expressing their political will. The most recent demonstration of this occurred in March 2016, when the people voted, by way of referendum, to reduce the number of years that the president can serve, from seven to give years per term, a change which must be implemented in 2019.

Since independence in 1960, Senegal has had four presidents, with its first two presidents, Léopold Sédar Senghor and Abdou Diouf remaining in power for twenty and nineteen years, respectively. Abdou Diouf was followed by Abdoulaye Wade, who served from 2000-2012. The current president is Macky Sall, who has been in power since April 2, 2012.

 

Art

The West African country of Senegal is world renowned for its artists. The country’s music scene alone, with world famous artists, particularly in hip hop and folk music, makes Senegal worth the visit. In addition, there are extremely talented painters, jewelry makers, shoe makers and fashion designers.

When in Senegal, keep a look at for these classic forms of art:

Handcrafted Musical Instruments

Jewelry made out of a variety of metals and stones

Underglass painting (literally paintings done on the backside of glass)

Sand paintings

Leather goods (particularly shoes and bags)

Fabrics (which can easily be turned into beautiful pieces by a talented tailor)

 

Finally, if you are in Dakar, be sure to take a day trip to Goree Island, which is full to the brim with incredible are by talented artists. You will certainly go home with a piece you love.

 

Holidays

The holidays celebrated in Senegal are predominately Islamic holidays, which are generally scheduled based on the position of the moon and vary on an annual basis.

The most popular of these holidays include Eid ul-Fitr, known as Korite in Senegal, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan. While this is a joyous day to be in the country, visitors should note that the month of Ramadan is strictly followed by the overwhelming majority of the population. While restaurants and tourist attractions will remain open as usual, it is important, in showing respect to the people and the country, that visitors do not act in a provocative way and attempt to limit the amount of public eating/drinking during hours where there is sunlight. We would ultimately suggest that trips to Senegal, if for strictly tourist reasons, be scheduled around this holy month.

Tobaski, another major Islamic holiday during the year, known as the feast of sacrifice, involves every adult, Muslim male in Senegal slaughtering a ram, which in the days leading up to this holiday will be found in large herds on the street, as their owners attempt to sell as many as possible. The most enjoyable way to celebrate this holiday, if at all possible, is by being invited into a family home or community celebration, which will be a truly unique and delightful experience.

Senegal also celebrates the traditional Christian holidays, particularly Christmas and Easter, which often involve large celebrations, with lots of dancing, both at home and in the clubs, particularly in Dakar.

Other notable holidays include:

  • Independence Day (April 4)

  • Labor Day (May 1)

  • Assumption (August)

  • Tamkharit (October)

  • Milad un Nabi, or the birth of Muhammad (December)

 

Universities

Seengal’s educational system is largely based on the French model. While the country has a number of notable intellects, with many individuals, particularly from earlier generations being educated abroad, often in France, the Seneglese government has recently been working with international organizations to improve the quality of higher education, as overall enrollment numbers remain low, in comparison to the overall population. One of the focuses has been on improving access to technology, as a great number of the growing number of university students in the country are from underprivileged families and often do not have access to computers, which are now essential in education. There is also some concern with the number of “private universities” opening in the country, which are often fraudulent or do not offer the caliber of the top universities.

The most notable universities in Senegal are:

  • Université Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar)

  • Université Gaston Berger (Saint-Louis)

  • Université Alioune DIOP de Bambey (Bambey)

  • Université de Thiés (Thiés)

  • Université du Sahel (Dakar)

  • Université Dakar Bourguiba (Dakar)

 

Literacy      49.7%

 

Imports/Exports

The Senegalese economy has been steadily developing in recent years, namely due to a growing industrial sector that produces a wide range of goods. Agriculture, however, continues to be the primary source of income, with three-quarters of the population being employed in this area.

Top Exports include:

  • Petroleum Oils

  • Gold

  • Frozen fish

  • Portland cement

  • Soups and broth in preparation

  • Groundnuts (peanuts)

 

Top Imports include:

  • Petroleum Oils

  • Oils from Bituminou

  • Broken rice

  • Medicines

  • Food products (flour, etc.)