Senegal, or Republic of Senegal, a country in western Africa. It faces the Atlantic Ocean at the westernmost part of the continent and extends 350 miles (560 km) inland. Bordering Senegal are Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Gambia. The area of Senegal is 75,750 square miles (196,192 km 2 ).
|Facts in brief about Senegal|
|Official language: French.|
|Official name: République du Sénégal (Republic of Senegal).|
|Area: 75,955 mi2 (196,722 km2). Coastline—310 mi (499 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—1,634 feet (498 meters), in the southeast. Lowest—sea level.|
|Population: Current estimate—12,507,000; density, 165 per mi2 (64 per km2); distribution, 55 percent rural, 45 percent urban. 2002 census—9,956,202.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—peanuts, millet, cassava, cotton, poultry, rice, vegetables. Manufacturing and processing--peanut products, fish products, refined petroleum, flour milling. Mining—phosphates.|
|Flag: Senegal's flag has three vertical stripes of green, yellow, and red (left to right). A green star lies in the center of the yellow.|
|National anthem: "Pincez Tous Vos Koras, Frappez les Balafons" ("Pluck Your Koras, Strike the Balafons").|
|Money: Basic unit—CFA franc. CFA stands for Communaute Financiere Africaine (African Financial Community).|
Most of Senegal is flat to gently rolling steppe or savanna grassland; there is forest only in the southwest. Nearly everywhere the land is only slightly above sea level. In the southeast, however, foothills of Guinea's Fouta Djallon highlands reach elevations of 1,640 feet (500 m). The coast, some 300 miles (480 km) long, varies from wide, sandy beaches north of Cape Verde to a maze of flat, swampy islands and meandering streams in the south.
Senegal's rivers, which drain westward to the Atlantic, include the Senegal and the Gambia. Both have year-round flows. Most other streams except the Casamance are dry for part of the year.
The climate throughout Senegal is tropical, with temperatures averaging about 70° F. (21° C.) to more than 80° F. (27° C.), depending on location and time of year. Most of the rain falls from June to October. The heaviest amounts, up to 65 inches (1,650 mm) annually, fall in the south. Northward, rainfall decreases gradually to about 12 inches (300 mm) a year. Devastating droughts occur periodically, especially in the northern half of Senegal, which is part of the Sahel, a transitional region bordering the Sahara.
Agriculture is the basis of the economy; manufacturing, commercial fishing, and tourism are growing steadily. Although Senegal is one of West Africa's more prosperous nations, it remains to a large extent underdeveloped. Poverty and illiteracy are widespread; unemployment is high; and a large foreign debt is owed. One of the most pressing problems is the country's inability to produce enough food for its own needs. Senegal's basic currency unit is the CFA franc.
Peanuts are by far the most important crop. They are grown as a cash crop on small farms in much of western Senegal. Peanuts and their products, especially peanut oil, are major exports. Cotton ranks second among cash crops and is also a leading export. Subsistence crops include rice, corn, millet, sorghum, tomatoes, onions, beans, mangoes, and oranges. Where water is abundant, as in the far south and in irrigated parts of the Senegal River valley, rice and sugarcane are cultivated. Livestock, especially cattle, sheep, and goats, are raised by many farmers and nomadic tribesmen but are of little commercial value.
Manufacturing and processing industries are better developed in Senegal than in most West African countries. The processing of foods and beverages is the nation's leading manufacturing activity. Also significant is the making of cotton textiles, shoes, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, refined petroleum products, cement, and metalwares and machinery. Most of the manufacturing is in the Dakar area.
Few mineral resources have been found in Senegal, and only one—phosphate rock—is mined in large quantities. The phosphate is largely exported for use as fertilizer.
Fishing provides the chief livelihood in many villages along the coast and on the major rivers. Dakar is the base for a tunafishing fleet and has a number of modern fish canneries. Fish is a major export.
Most of Senegal's railways and roads center on Dakar, the capital and largest seaport. One rail line extends eastward into Mali, another northward to Saint-Louis. Most of the roads are unpaved, and many are impassable in the rainy season. Dakar is an important stopover on both sea and air routes between Europe, South America, and southern Africa. Kaolack, Saint-Louis, and Ziguinchor are lesser seaports.
Senegal's average population density is about 91 persons per square mile (35 per km 2 ). The majority of the people are concentrated in the west and in the Senegal River valley.
Most of the Senegalese belong to the Wolof, Serer, Diola, Toucouleur, and Fulani ethnic groups. Islam is the religion of more than 90 per cent of the people. There are small minorities of animists and Christians. The official language is French, but most Senegalese speak indigenous languages, which belong to the Niger-Congo linguistic family. Primary education begins at age seven and lasts six years; secondary education lasts seven years. Higher education is available at Cheikh Ant Diop University in Dakar and Gaston-Berger University in Saint-Louis. The literacy rate is about 40 per cent.
Senegal is a republic. The chief executive is the president, elected for a five-year term. The president appoints the prime minister and a cabinet to help run the government. Senegal's national legislature is called the National Assembly; its 120 members are elected to five-year terms and make the country's laws.