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Country Profile

Area: 197 000 sq km
Population: 12.5 million (2009 UN estimate)
Capital City: Dakar (2.6 million, 2007 UN estimate)
People and language: Senegal is made up of numerous ethnic groups, including the Wolof, Pular, Serer and the Diola. French is the official Language, while Malinké, Wolof, Séerére, Soninké and Peul (Pular) are 'national languages'. African languages (most commonly Wolof) are widely spoken.
Religion(s): Around 95% of Senegalese are Muslim. Christianity and indigenous Africa religions are also practised.
Currency: CFA Franc. €1=656 Francs
Major political parties: The two largest parties are the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) and the Socialist Party (PS). Other political parties include the African Party for Democracy and Socialism (AJ/PADS); Alliance of Forces of Progress (AFP); Democratic League- (LD-; Independence and Labour Party (PIT); and the Union for Democratic Renewal (URD).
Head of State: President Abdoulaye Wade
Prime Minister/Premier: Souleymane Ndéné NDIAYE
Membership of international groupings/organisations: African Development Bank (AFDB), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA), African Union (AU), Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

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Basic Economic Facts

Annual Growth: 3.9% (2010 est)
GDP: US$12.76bn (2009 est)
Inflation: 0.8% (2009 est
Main economic sectors: agricultural products (groundnuts, millet, corn, sorghum, rice, cotton, market gardening and livestock), fish processing, phosphate mining, fertiliser production, petroleum refining, construction materials and tourism.
Exports: fish, groundnuts, petroleum products, phosphates, cotton
Main trade partners: EU, United States, Mali and India
Exchange rate: €1=656 CFA.
Senegal’s economy is based on primary product export (groundnuts, phosphates and fish) and tourism. Remittances from abroad also make a considerable contribution to the economy, especially in the booming construction industry..President Wade has advanced a liberal agenda for Senegal, including privatisations and other market-opening measures. The Liberalization of the economy is proceeding but at a slow pace. Privatisation of the parastatal which deals in groundnuts and groundnut products (Sonacos) was completed in 2005. The planned privatisation of the electricity sector (Senelec) has been halted and Senelec continues to experience problems in paying market prices for its fuel inputs.

The government’s economic policies continue to concentrate on large scale infrastructure projects, including the planned second international airport near Dakar (to be called The Blaise Diagne Airport - AIBD). Textiles, IT and tourism are other priority sectors for the government. A major project aimed at improving the Dakar to Bamako road is being financed by the Japanese and the EU. Telecoms is another dynamic sector, and plans are being considered to tender for a fourth mobile phone licence. However, despite these signs of success, several key sectors (groundnut oil, fertiliser production) are suffering from management problems and stiff competition from imports.

Senegal enjoys good relations with international donors, and reached HIPC completion point in April 2004, which has since led to debt alleviation measures by bilateral and multilateral donors. Senegal's IMF negotiated Poverty Reduction and Growth facility loan package expired in April 2006. Senegal has now negotiated a financial monitoring arrangement with the IMF (a Policy Support Instrument) which provides technical support for its domestic poverty reduction programme.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (

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The areas of Senegal around Dakar and St Louis, colonised in the 1840s, were the earliest parts of the formal French empire in sub-Saharan Africa. Dakar was the capital of French West Africa from the early 1900s. Some Africans from this region were granted full French citizenship, and a handful of individuals became prominent in French public life, such as Blaise Diagne and Leopold Sedar Senghor, both members of the French parliament in the colonial period.

On independence in 1960, Senghor became the country’s first President. Famous for his intellectual and literary achievements, his rule was peaceful and largely benevolent, although the country was a one party state from 1966 until multiparty democracy was introduced in 1974. In 1980 Senghor retired, handing the presidency to his Prime Minister Abdou Diouf, who subsequently confirmed his position by winning presidential elections in 1983 and again in 1988.

The presidential elections of 1988 were marred by allegations of fraud and followed by serious rioting. Opposition leaders were tried for incitement to violence, and some, including the veteran opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade, were convicted. The Socialist Party (PS) won legislative elections in 1993 and 1998 and President Diouf was re-elected in 1993. However, with the economy declining in the 1990s and with a series of splits within the PS, the party's old aura of invincibility began to fade.

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Senegal’s relations with all its neighbours are generally good. Its relationship with The Gambia is complicated by the fact that The Gambia is used as a base by Casamance rebels. Relations with Guinea-Bissau have improved since the death of former Junta leader Ansumane Mane in 1999, who was thought to have aided the Casamance rebels.

Senegal pursues an active foreign policy and aspires to represent Africa on the UN Security Council. While France is a close ally for historical reasons, Senegal has also sought to develop its relations with the emerging economies, particularly China (which it only recognised in 2005) and India, and with Arab countries such as Kuwait. Senegal also a enjoys good relations with the United States, where a large Senegalese community resides. A number of Senegalese hold high positions in international organisations.

Senegal has a prominent role in Africa, and has been actively engaged in the international community’s recent efforts in Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and Mauritania. . President Wade was instrumental in creating the NEPAD agenda - a plan for the regeneration of the African continent adopted by the African Union in 2001. Although he has criticised it for not doing enough, he remains a key supporter of the project. He has played an important role in promoting that agenda in the wider international community, including at meetings with G8 countries. Senegal has contributed troops to numerous international peacekeeping operations, with significant force presences in Liberia, DR Congo, Darfur and Cote d’Ivoire. Senior Senegalese military are respected across the continent for their role in political and military interventions.

New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD) (
African Union (

Senegal's Relations with the UK

Senegal and the UK enjoy good relations including frequent consultations on pan-African issues. There is a community of many thousands of Senegalese in the UK There is a good level of military training cooperation. A significant Royal Marines exercise took place in Senegal in 2005. A UK naval and amphibious exercise took place in Senegal and other West African countries in Autumn 2006. Dakar was used as the Forward Mounting Base for British deployment to Sierra Leone in 2000 and was the evacuation point for British and other foreign nationals. Each year the UK sponsors a small number of scholarships for postgraduate courses in the UK under the Chevening Programme.

Diplomatic Representation

Britain's Ambassador in Senegal is Mr John Marshall. There is also a British Council office in Dakar, specialising in English Language Teaching. Senegal is represented in the UK by Ambassador Abdou Sourang.

Recent Visits


A substantial number of senior members of the Senegalese government have visited the UK in recent years. In 2003 President Wade made two visits to the UK, meeting the Prime Minister, the then Minister for Africa Baroness Amos, addressing a conference on NEPAD at the Royal Institute of International Affairs and delivering a lecture at St Anthony’s college Oxford. President Wade attended the G8 meeting in Gleneagles in Scotland in July 2005. Foreign Minister Madicke Niang visited London on 15 November 2010 and met with the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for Africa.


In February 2002, then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the then Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, visited Senegal as part of a tour of West Africa. Mr Blair was the first British Prime Minister to have visited the country. Baroness Amos, then Foreign Office Minister for Africa, visited in February and April 2002.The Earl of Wessex visited Senegal in early June 2004 in connection with the international Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Paul Boateng, visited Dakar in October 2004 and Hilary Benn, International Development Secretary in November 2004. Both visits were to promote the work of the Commission for Africa. The Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Amos, attended Dakar Agricole in February 2005. A delegation from the Inter-Parliamentary Unit, led by the Rt. Hon. Bruce George MP, visited Senegal in late September 2009. Home Office Minister, Alan Campbell MP, visited Senegal in October 2009 to discuss drug trafficking and strengthening law enforcement teams in this area.

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Senegal, the most westerly African state, occupies an area of 197,161 sq km between Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The Gambia almost divides Senegal in the south. The Casamance region, south of The Gambia, lies on the northern fringe of the monsoon climate, and has a rainy season of 4-5 months. Northern Senegal is arid and increasingly desiccated.

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Trade and Investment with the UK

In recent years Senegal has featured in the top ten UK export markets to Africa (goods). British exports in goods in 2010 were £509m. This was mostly petroleum and petroleum products but also included food, beverages, cigarettes, chemicals, machinery for transportation and manufactured goods. British imports from Senegal in 2009 were £22m, and included fish, oil seeds, fruit, rubber, fertiliser and animal feed.


Senegal faces serious development challenges. The average life expectancy is 59 years at birth and 22% of the population live on less than a dollar a day. There is a wide disparity between the over-crowded capital and the poor and isolated interior. France, the EU, Germany, the US, Japan, China and some Middle Eastern States are major donors. The UK aids Senegal’s development through UN agencies and the European Commission. In addition the British Embassy in Dakar finances a limited number of development micro-projects under the FCO’s Bilateral Fund.

World Bank (
European Union (EU) (
Zone Franc (IZF) (

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Senegal is a presidential republic, with an elected National Assembly. The Senate was abolished in 2001, but reintroduced in 2007. Constitutional amendments in 2000 limited the President to two terms of five years.

Wade won the Presidential elections in 2000 after a second round run off against Diouf. Diouf quickly conceded defeat and there was a peaceful transition to the country's first ever non-PS Government. Legislative elections were called in the following year. PDS centred coalition won convincingly. Presidential elections were held on 25 February 2007. President Wade won in the first round, with a score of 55.9 %. Wade's former Prime Minister and protege, Idrissa Seck, got 14.9% and the PS candidate Tanor Dieng got 13.9%. Legislative elections were held in June. The opposition boycotted, allowing the PDS centred ruling coalition to win 131 of the 150 seats, on a historically low turnout of 35%. Although the PDS won most seats at the local elections in March 2009, their defeat in most of the major cities, including Dakar and St Louis was seen as a setback for the President. Presidential elections in February 2012 - in which President Wade again hopes to be a candidate - are expected to be closely fought.

Since 1982 an armed separatist movement in the impoverished Casamance region of southern Senegal, known as the Mouvement des Forces Democratiques de Casamance (MFDC) has been fighting for independence. Negotiations with the Dakar government have been hindered by constant splits and leadership disputes within the MFDC. Much of the apparently rebel activity is little more than banditry, though in recent years the rebels have obtained better weaponry. Regular clashes take place between rebels and the Senegal Army and the rebels sometimes use landmines leading to both civilian and military casualties. On 14 January 2007, the historic leader of the MFDC Fr Augustin Diamacoune Senghor died in a hospital in Paris.

casamance0 (
Senegal government website (
BBC News: Africa (
Senegal National Assembly (" class="kinternallinkurl)
BBC News Online Country Profile for Senegal (">For recent statements of UK government policy towards Senegal go to the Hansard website ( and enter 'Senegal' in the search engine

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Senegal has a generally good record on Human Rights. The press, civil society organisations and political parties generally exercise their activities freely. In recent years, however, some concern has been expressed over intimidation of journalists, some of whom have been charged with disseminating 'false news'. Several journalists and opposition politicians were detained or arrested in the first half of 2006 in connection with revelations of alleged government corruption. The police have been responsible for at least two deaths of members of the public during demonstrations in 2010/11. Although investigations have been launched their conclusions have not yet been made public. These incidents and allegations of possible torture by the police have lead international human rights groups to express concern about the existence of a culture of impunity.

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Last Updated: June 2011

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