Background Notes: Senegal

Contributed By RealAdventures

About 70% of Senegal's population is rural. 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 established itself in the Senegal River valley in the 11th century--95% of Senegalese today are Muslims. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the area came under the influence of the great 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) each proclaimed separate independence. Leopold Sedar Senghor, internationally renowned 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. Dia was released in 1974.

Since assuming the presidency in 1981, Abdou Diouf has encouraged broader political participation, reduced government involvement in the economy, and widened Senegal's diplomatic engagements, particularly with other developing nations. Despite chronic economic problems, tempestuous domestic politics, which have on occasion spilled over into street violence, border tensions and a violent separatist movement in the southern region of the Casamance, Senegal's commitment to democracy and human rights appears reasonably strong in its fourth decade of independence.

Senegal is a republic with a strong presidency, weak legislature, reasonably independent judiciary, and multiple political parties. The president is elected by universal adult suffrage to a seven-year term. The unicameral National Assembly has 120 members, elected separately from the president. The Court of Cessation and the constitutional council, the justices of which are named by the president, are the nation's highest tribunals. Senegal is divided into 10 administrative regions, each headed by a governor appointed by and responsible to the president. The law on decentralization devolving significant central government authorities to regional assemblies came into effect in January 1997 following local elections held in November 1996.

Senegal's principal political party is the Socialist Party (name changed from Senegalese Progressive Union in 1976 after having joined the Socialist International), founded in 1949 by Leopold Senghor and now led by President Diouf. The Socialist Party, which has governed Senegal since independence in 1960, has advocated a moderate form of socialism based on traditional African concepts but increasingly has sought to encourage private enterprise, including foreign investment. Leopold Senghor was elected Senegal's first president in 1960 and served continuously until he stepped down in mid-term in 1980. In accordance with the constitution, Prime Minister Abdou Diouf succeeded Senghor as president. Diouf was elected to full five-year terms in his own right in 1983 and 1988. The constitution, which previously restricted the number of political parties to four, was amended in 1981 to legitimize previously unrecognized parties. The number of parties now stands at 25 of which several participated in the November 1996 regional and local elections. There are 120 seats in the National Assembly. The last national elections were held on February 21 and May 9, 1993. President Diouf was reelected for a 7-year term.

President of the Republic--Abdou Diouf
President of the National Assembly--Cheikh Abdou Khadre Cissokho
President of the Constitutional Council--Youssoupha Ndiaye

Prime Minister--Habib Thiam
Minister of State Without Portfolio--Abdoulaye Wade
Minister of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs--Moustapha Niasse
Minister of State for Presidential Affairs--Ousmane Tanor Dieng
Minister of State for Agriculture--Robert Sanga
Minister of Armed Forces--Cheikh Hamidou Kane
Minister of Interior-Lamine Cisse
Minister of Justice--Jacques Baudin
Minister of Economy, Finance and Planning-Lamine Loum
Minister of National Education--Andre Sonko
Minister of Equipment, Road transport, and Housing--Landing Sane
Minister of Industry and Mining--Magued Diouf
Minister of Health and Social Affairs--Ousmame Ngom
Minister of Commerce, Artisanry, and Industrialization--Idrissa Seck

Ambassador to the United States--General Mansour Seck
Ambassador to the United Nations--Ibra Deguene Ka

Senegal maintains an embassy in the United States at 2112 Wyoming Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20008 (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. Its economy is dominated by agriculture, particularly by peanut production. The modern sector includes fishing, phosphates, tourism, and chemical industries. Senegal's economy is highly vulnerable to declining rainfall, desertification, and changes in world commodity prices.

The January 1994 devaluation of the CFA franc was an explicit condition set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for resumption of financing for economic adjustment. Senegal's adjustment efforts were funded primarily by a stand-by agreement from the IMF, which was replaced, in August 1994, by a three-year enhanced structural adjustment facility for U.S. $192 million.

The World Bank also supported Senegal under an economic recovery credit, a private sector adjustment and competitiveness credit and an agricultural sector adjustment credit. Senegal
also benefited from assistance from other multilateral and bilateral donors, including debt rescheduling from the Paris Club and other creditors. At the consultative group meeting in Paris in July 1995--the first sponsored by the World Bank since 1987--Senegal received pledges of about U.S. $1.5 billion for program and project aid for the period of 1995-97, which completely covered the 1995 financing gap.

Macroeconomic indicators show that Senegal has turned in a respectable performance in meeting the targets set under the IMF's ESAF program: annual GDP growth has improved from 2.3% in 1994 to reach 4.5% in 1995. Inflation has reported to be 8% in 1995 compared to 36% in 1994, and the fiscal deficit has held to 3.3% of GDP.

During 1995, Senegal made some encouraging progress in the implementation of structural adjustment policies aimed at creating a better regulatory framework for private sector development. Measures implemented to date include the:

--Elimination of barriers to free domestic trade (price liberalization of soap, milk, coffee, soft drinks, cement, tomato paste, and fresh tomatoes);
--Abolition of monopolistic agreements in major industries (cement, textiles, wheat flour, tomato paste, packing materials, and fertilizers.);
--Elimination of export subsidies;
--Liberalization of rice and sugar imports;
--Abolition of the requirement for prior government authorization to lay off workers during economic downturns; and
--Preparation of a list of 18 major public enterprises to be privatized during the next three years.

Senegal's economy is principally agricultural, with more than 70% of the labor force engaged in farming. Peanut production accounts for half of agricultural output, and food crops, especially millet, rice, corn, sorghum, and beans, currently provide about two-thirds of the country's food needs. Export earnings from peanut oil and peanut cake have increased slightly since the January 1994 CFA devaluation. The government has invested heavily in the Senegal River basin with the aim of moving Senegal closer to food self-sufficiency.

The fishing sector has replaced the groundnut sector as Senegal's export leader. Its export earnings reached $274 million in 1995. The industrial fishing operations struggle with high costs and Senegalese tuna is rapidly losing the French market to more efficient Asian competitors.
Phosphate production, the third major foreign exchange earner, has been steady at about
$33 million. Receipts from tourism, the fourth major foreign exchange earner, have picked up since the January 1994 devaluation.

Senegal has met with limited success in attracting foreign investment to hasten economic development. Under the provisions of the 1987 investment code, the approval process has been shortened. Currently, there are no restrictions on the transfer or repatriation of capital and income earned, or investment financed with convertible foreign exchange. Direct U.S. investment in Senegal remains about $38 million, mainly in petroleum marketing, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, chemicals, and banking. Economic assistance, about
$350 million a year, comes largely from France, the IMF, the World Bank, and the United States. Assistance also is provided by Canada, Italy, Japan, Germany, and others.

Senegal has relatively good infrastructure. It includes well-developed though costly port facilities, a major international airport serving 24 international airlines, including scheduled service by U.S. firm world airways in its Newark, NJ-Johannesburg route, and direct and expanding telecommunications links with major world centers.

President Senghor advocated close relations with France and negotiation and compromise as the best means of resolving international differences. To a large extent, President Diouf has 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.

President Diouf was chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1985-86 and again in 1992-93, host of the Third Francophone Conference in 1989 and host of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in 1991. Friendly to the West, especially to France and to the U.S., Senegal also is a vigorous proponent of more assistance from developed countries to the Third World.

Senegal enjoys mostly cordial relations with its neighbors. In spite of clear progress on other fronts with Mauritania (border security, resource management, economic integration, etc.), there remains the problem of some 35,000 to 40,000 Afro-Mauritanian refugees living in Senegal. Senegal practices energetic diplomacy, including the creation of bilateral and multilateral fora, to achieve peaceful resolution to its diplomatic problems.

Senegal enjoys an excellent relationship with the United States. The Government of Senegal is known and respected for its able diplomats and has often supported the U.S. 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. President Diouf paid his first official visit to Washington, D.C., in August 1983 and has traveled several times to the U.S. since then. 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.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implements the U.S. Government's development assistance efforts, providing program assistance linked to reforms in finance, agriculture, and natural resource management. USAID provides project assistance in the fields of health and family planning, agriculture and natural resources (including forestry), and market liberalization. The primary development goal of the U.S. Government in Senegal is to help raise the per capita incomes of those people in Senegal whose incomes depend on the sustainable exploitation of natural resources. USAID provided $23-million in program (including food aid) and project assistance to Senegal in fiscal year 1995. The Peace Corps program in Senegal involves 122 volunteers, engaged in forestry, health, and small business development. The cultural exchange program consists of three Fulbright professors and about 20-30 international visitor grants per year.

Ambassador Designate--Dane Smith
Deputy Chief of Mission--James Ledesma
USAID Director--Anne Williams
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--Gerald Huchel
Peace Corps Director--Patrick Barry
Defense Attache--Lt. Col. Paul Cariker
Political Counselor-David G. Wagner
Economic Officer--Whitney Young-Baird
Consular Officer--Lili Ming
Administrative Counselor-Mark Stevens

The U.S. Embassy in Senegal is located on Ave. Jean XXIII at the intersection of Ave. Kleber, (P.O. Box 49), Dakar.

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