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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #41 of 54: Sao Tome and Principe | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #43 of 54: Seychelles »

August 13, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #42 of 54: Senegal

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
Flag of Senegal

Formal Name: Republic of Senegal.

Term for Citizens: Senegalese.

Capital: Dakar. Population: 2, 160,000.

Independence Achieved: April 4, 1960, from France.

Major Cities: St Louis, Dakar.


Senegal is located in West Africa. It is bordered by Gambia, Mauritania and Mali. Senegal encompasses an area of 75, 749 square miles; the maximum north-south length is 286 miles, and east-west length is 360 miles. Senegal’s topography is characterized by flat savanna that begins at the coast and extends inland. The climate is tropical, sub-desert with two distinct seasons, wet (summer) and dry (winter). Temperature ranges from warm at the coast to very hot inland.


The population of Senegal is estimated at 10, 095,000. Twenty percent of the population lives in the Dakar area. Scant population in the interior, sub-desert regions.

Ethnic Groups: Six ethnic groups live in Senegal: Wolof, Serer, Peul, Mandingo, Diola and Sarakole.

Languages: each of the six ethnic groups speaks its own language. French is the official language.

Religion: 80% of all Senegalese are estimated to be Muslim and about 10% Christian, the remainder are adherents to indigenous beliefs.

Education: Primary school education is available to all children but less than 50% of the children attend school. Literacy rate is estimated at 40.2 %.

Economy: Small-scale peasant cultivation, especially peanuts, predominates. Tourism is relatively well developed part of the economy. French ownership of aspects of the private sector predominates. GDP estimate: $16.2 billion; Per Capita GDP: $1,500. Monetary Unit: CFA Franc BCEAO (XOF).

History and Government:

The Portuguese came to the Coast of Portugal in the fifteenth century and thereafter started the slave trade. Senegal was a site of much slave trading during the slave trade. The French took over in 1883. Upon independence, Senegal adopted the French presidential system. The president appoints a prime minister to govern the country on day to day. President Leopold Sedar Senghor and his party ruled virtually unopposed until he retired from power and transferred power to a hand chosen protégée. Senegal appears very stable and has successfully transferred power from one ruler to another. The country is divided into seven administrative regions with each headed by a governor appointed by the president and responsible to him.


What is now called Senegal was part of West Africa’s ancient kingdoms of Mali and, as such, came into contact with the Muslim world in the tenth century. Senegal’s modern history, on the other hand, began when the Portuguese came along in the fourteen hundreds and chose one of its ports, St Louis, as from where they bought slaves to be sold to the Americas.

During the scramble for African territory, the French took control of Senegal and ruled it until 1960 when they gave her independence.

Senegal inherited French political institutions and was lucky in electing Leopold Sedar Senghor as their first president. He was the first African head of state that voluntarily retired from office, the rest of them are usually carried out in coffins. Mr. Senghor was replaced by Mr. Abdou Diouf and the later was replaced by Abdoulaye Wade. Thus Senegal has established the tradition of peacefully handing power to elected officials.

Senegal is mostly arid and does not have much going for it economically, except phosphates and some agricultural products. The country, however, is making headways trying to attract industries. Its relative clean government and lack of corruption bodes well for attracting investors, who prefer such clean and stable environments. The GDP is growing at an annual rate of 5% and inflation is down.

Senegal is divided into 11 regions, which in turn are subdivided into districts and communes.

On the whole, Senegal is one of the success stories of Africa. Though it is largely a Moslem country (over 95%), it elected a Christian as its first president, and from all available evidence respected him despite his different religion. This shows maturity, the ability to make judgment on independent grounds, not sentimental grounds: does the leader have what it takes to govern or is he there just because he wants to serve his interests? The leader’s ethnicity should not make a difference in voting for him.

Posted by Administrator at August 13, 2006 09:44 AM


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