Senegal country profile

  • 23 March 2016
  • From the section Africa
Map of Senegal

Long considered one of Africa's model democracies, the western African nation of Senegal has a tradition of stable governments and civilian rule.

Hundreds of Senegalese were killed in a local separatist conflict in the southern region of Casamance. But violence has waned since a 2014 ceasefire.

The country's stability has allowed it to send peacekeeping troops to DR Congo, Liberia and Kosovo.

Slaves, ivory and gold were exported from the coast during the 17th and 18th centuries and now the economy is based mainly on agriculture. The money sent home by Senegalese living abroad is a key source of revenue.


Republic of Senegal

Capital: Dakar

  • Population 13.1 million

  • Area 196,722 sq km (75,955 sq miles)

  • Major languages French (official), Wolof

  • Major religion Islam

  • Life expectancy 59 years (men), 61 years (women)

  • Currency CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc

Getty Images


President: Macky Sall

Image copyright Getty Images

Once an ally of former President Abdoulaye Wade, Macky Sall created his own opposition party in 2008 and defeated Wade in the 2012 elections.

During his time in office, the separatist conflict in the southern Casamance region has waned; in 2014 separatist rebel leader Salif Sadio declared a unilateral ceasefire.

Mr Sall proposed reducing the presidential term from seven years to five, saying he wanted to set an example within Africa, where many leaders cling to power beyond their allotted term. The proposal won approval in a March 2016 referendum but will only be implemented after Mr Sall's term.

Senegal has a lively political scene, with parties competing across ethnic, religious and ideological lines.


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Senegalese island of Goree was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast

Senegal has traditionally enjoyed one of the most unrestricted press climates in the region. But Reporters Without Borders warned media freedom faced threats before the 2012 elections when there were "physical attacks on news media, jamming of radio broadcasts, abusive prosecutions and the jailing of journalists".

Laws that ban reports that discredit the state, incite disorder or spread "false news" have encouraged self-censorship. The private media, however, is often critical of the government.


Some key dates in Senegal's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Leopold Senghor was independent Senegal's first president and led the country for two decades

8th century - Present-day Senegal is part of the Kingdom of Ghana.

1677 - French take over island of Goree from the Dutch, the start of nearly 300 years of French oversight.

1756-63 - Seven Years' War: Britain takes over French posts in Senegal, forms colony of Senegambia. France regains its holdings during American Revolutionary War of 1775-83.

1960 - Senegal becomes an independent country.

2000 - Opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade wins second round of presidential elections, ending 40 years of Socialist Party rule.

2004 - Casamance Movement of Democratic Forces (MFDC) and government sign pact aimed at ending secessionist struggle in the southern province of Casamance. Violence continues, however until rebel leader Salif Sadio declares a unilateral ceasefire in 2014.

2012 - Macky Sall wins presidential elections and his coalition wins the parliamentary elections. MPs abolish the upper house, the Senate, and the post of vice president in an effort to save money for flood relief. Critics say the aim is to weaken the opposition.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Abdoulaye Wade (left) agreed a peace deal with the founder of the separatist Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), Father Augustin Diamacoune Senghor in 2004. However, the agreement did not last

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