Geography
LOCATION
The People
POPULATION
Collecting Salt: Salt collected from Lake Retba, northeast of Cape Verde near Senegal’s northern Atlantic coast, is used domestically by local people. A promontory between the Sénégal and Gambia rivers, Cape Verde is the site of the capital city of Dakar.
Black African ancestors of the Wolof and Serer lived in the area now called Senegal before traders arrived from North Africa and introduced Islam in the 10th century. By the 14th century Senegal had been incorporated into the extensive Mali empire. In the mid-15th century, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to trade in the area. They were followed in the 16th century by traders from France, England, and the Netherlands. The traders also established a slave trade—several million West Africans were shipped to the Americas as slaves before France, the dominant power in the area at the time, abolished slavery in 1848. French colonial influence in the region expanded in the early 19th century, and by the turn of the century, Dakar, the capital of Senegal, was the administrative centre of French West Africa. Demands for greater autonomy grew after World War II, and in the 1950s, an independence movement was formed. In 1960 Senegal gained independence, although ties with France have remained close.Most of the people of Senegal are black African: the Wolof, who account for 36 per cent of the population; the Fulani (also known as the Peul) and Serer, each accounting for 17 per cent; and the Toucouleur, Diola, and Mandingo, who each account for 9 per cent. European, Lebanese, and other smaller groups together account for about 1 per cent of the population. Dakar, the capital, has about two million inhabitants, but more than half of the population lives in rural areas.
LANGUAGE
Although French is the official language of education, business, and government, at least 24 languages are spoken in Senegal. Wolof, the language of the dominant ethnic group, is used as a second language by most other groups. Educated Senegalese also speak French, and some people speak English. Senegalese languages have little or no written tradition, but many Muslims use the Arabic alphabet to write in Wolof or one of the other languages.
RELIGION
Ballouk Dancers: These Ballouk dancers live in the tropical southern part of Senegal, home to several distinct culture groups. The Serere, Wolof, Toucouleur, and Souninke live in semiarid territories of the north near the Sénégal River. The Diakhanke and Bedik peoples are found in the equally semi-arid northeast. Although these nations live near one other, their different cultures reflect Senegal’s varying geographic features and climates.
About 90 per cent of the population is Sunni Muslim, 6 per cent follows animism and other tribal beliefs, and about 3 per cent is Christian (mostly Roman Catholic). The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Both Muslim and Catholic holy days are national holidays. In practice, however, Islam dominates social and political activities. The marabouts (Muslim religious leaders) have considerable political influence.
DRESS
On Fridays almost everyone wears traditional dress. Traditional clothing for men includes loose-fitting cotton robes worn over wide trousers and a loose shirt. Women wear a long robe over a long, wraparound skirt, called a sar. Muslim women in Senegal do not wear veils. Women who have made a pilgrimage to Mecca(Makkah) wear a white scarf, while men who have made the pilgrimage wear a white turban and scarf.
GREETINGS AND GESTURES
In urban areas, people commonly shake hands or kiss alternate cheeks up to three times (in the French tradition) when greeting or taking leave of others. In rural areas, a handshake is usual, although traditionally men do not shake hands with women. On parting, most Senegalese ask each other to extend best wishes to their families and mutual friends.In general, Senegalese receive and give objects with the right hand or with both hands. Public displays of affection are considered impolite, although some urban young people hold hands. It is inappropriate to eat while on the street. In traditional families, children and women curtsy to their elders to show respect. Eye contact is avoided with a person considered to be a superior (in age or status) or with one of the opposite sex. Men and women keep their distance in public and are expected to be dignified and reserved around members of the opposite sex. More informal behaviour is acceptable with members of the same gender, age, or status.
The Lifestyle
FAMILY
Collective Cooking in Touba: Senegalese women often combine efforts in providing and processing food for meals. A prevalent custom in Senegal forbids the eating of certain foods by women, and, as a consequence, many women here are malnourished.

Popular Music: Popular music that developed in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mali after the 1960s is rooted in the centuries-old jali or griot tradition of nomadic praise singing. Though western instruments such as the electric guitar and saxophone are central to the new sound, popular music in the region is constructed rhythmically from traditional multirhythmic music. In addition, the kora, an instrument most associated with the jali, has been incorporated into the new electric sound. The kora is a 21-string harp lute with a large gourd resonator. Today, popular Senegalese musicians such as Baaba Maal, pair the kora with synthesizers and other nontraditional instruments.
In general, the family is a source of strength and pride in Senegal. In most rural areas and among traditional urban families, extended families live together in family compounds (with a separate dwelling for each nuclear family), but there is a trend in urban areas to live only with the nuclear family. Ceremonies such as baptisms, circumcisions, marriages, and funerals are celebrated elaborately. Most families live at subsistence levels as agricultural workers, although there is a growing middle class and a small, wealthy elite. The elderly receive great respect and are cared for by their families. Women are responsible for the daily functions of the household. Some women also hold public office, and others are employed in business or agriculture.Traditionally, marriages are arranged by the family, but in urban areas, individual choice of marriage partner has become more common. Senegalese are often encouraged to marry early, although it has become acceptable for college students to wait until they finish their education. Some Muslims practise polygamy. Islamic law permits a man to have up to four wives, provided he is able to care for all equally and has the consent of the other wives.
DIET AND EATING
Sorting Millet: Millet, a grain that may have been cultivated in Africa for as long as 4,000 years, is being replaced by rice as the staple food in Senegal. Corn, sorghum, potatoes, cassava, tomatoes, beans, and fish supplement the Senegalese diet. Many of the country’s rural residents endure a food shortage each year, after the previous year’s harvest has been consumed and before the current year’s crop ripens. This problem is exacerbated when drought causes low crop yields.
Meals usually consist of one main dish of rice, millet, or corn, which is served with a sauce made of vegetables, meat (Muslims do not eat pork), poultry, fish, beans, or milk and sugar. A dessert of fruit and yogurt might be served. One popular dish is yassa, or rice and chicken covered with a sauce of sliced onions and spices. Another is thiebou dien, a meal of fish and rice that is often eaten at lunchtime. A traditional Wolof dish is mbaxal-u-Saloum, a sauce of crushed groundnuts, dried fish, meat, tomatoes, and spices, served with rice. In urban areas, wealthier people enjoy French-style cuisine. Generally, breakfast is between 6 AM and 9 AM, lunch from noon to 1:30 PM, and the evening meal is between 8 PM and 9:30 PM. In traditional homes, people eat in separate groups according to age and gender. The main dish is usually served in large bowls placed on mats on the floor or ground, or on coffee tables. Several people eat from the same bowl using the fingers of the right hand, or a spoon, depending on personal habit, the occasion, and the dish. Mealtime etiquette is taught to children at an early age—for example, they are taught that they should have clean hands, eat only from the portion of the communal dish directly in front of them, and avoid eye contact with people who are still eating. Senegalese use only the right hand to eat, although the left may be used when necessary, but not to put food into the mouth—for example, fruit might be held in the left hand and peeled with the right. Occasionally, particularly when playing host to foreign visitors, some urban Senegalese follow French customs, eating at tables from individual plates with utensils.
SOCIAL LIFE
Senegalese frequently visit friends and family, usually before the midday or evening meal. Work, health, family matters, and mutual friends are discussed briefly before a visitor addresses the purpose of the visit. There is considerable interest in politics and the exchange of ideas.Friends will often bring gifts such as fruit or some biscuits for the children. The host will usually offer a drink. Guests may decline politely by saying that they have just had one, but in general it is impolite to refuse refreshments. It is considered impolite to ask personal questions, and bad luck to ask specific questions about children, such as when a baby is due, how many children someone has, or what their ages are.
RECREATION
Soccer is the most popular sport. Other favourites include traditional wrestling, basketball, athletics, and jogging. Many people in urban areas enjoy watching films and reading books. Concerts, discos, and videos are popular in areas with an electricity supply. People in rural areas also enjoy dancing, as well as family and village celebrations.
HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS
Independence Day in Dakar: Senegal’s colourful national flag is displayed during an Independence Day festival in Dakar. This West African nation gained independence from France in 1960, and the people celebrate annually with festivities marked by music and dance. Senegalese song and dance remain rooted in ethnic traditions, despite the onslaught of European influences.

Traditional Music: In Senegal, there are a number of different ethnic groups, each of which maintains its own musical traditions. Generally, the most prominent elements of Senegalese music are the griot tradition of praise- and history-singers which features the kora as pictured, and the complex drumming used to accompany dance. The Wolof are the largest of the ethnic groups of Senegal. Their drum groups feature the tama, an hourglass-shaped talking drum. It has two heads, commonly made of lizard skin, which are strung together by laces. By squeezing the laces, the tama player can change the pitch of the drum and produce speechlike phrases.
Senegal celebrates Islamic, Christian, and national holidays. These include New Year's Day (1 January), Mawloud (celebrating the birth of the prophet Muhammad), Easter, Independence Day (4 April), Labour Day (1 May), Ascension, and Whit Monday. All Saints' Day (1 November) and Christmas (25 December) are also celebrated. Islamic holidays follow the lunar calendar and fall on different dates each year. On Tabaski, the head of each household sacrifices a lamb in honour of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Korite marks the end of Ramadan. The Korite feast can last for two days. Tamkharit, the Islamic New Year, is also the day on which, according to Muslim belief, Allah determines people's destinies.
COMMERCE
Vegetable Seller in Dakar: French colonialism left Senegal with uneven development and a vulnerable economy based on the export of groundnut. This dependence on a single crop has resulted in low incomes, high unemployment, and economic stagnation. Senegal’s government is working to diversify the country’s economy by encouraging greater production of cotton, rice, sugar, and vegetables.
Government office hours are 8 AM to noon and 3 PM to 6 PM, Monday to Friday, and from 8:30 AM to noon on Saturdays. Businesses open from 9 AM to 1 PM and from 4 PM to 7 PM, Monday to Saturday. Offices close at midday because of the heat. Muslims do not schedule business meetings during prayer times—which take place five times each day—and if a meeting runs into prayer time, it might be stopped to allow people to pray.
Society
Dakar’s Growing Pains: Senegal’s capital, Dakar, is situated on the westernmost point of the African continent. A sophisticated city, Dakar attracts thousands of tourists to its beaches each year. One-eighth of all Senegalese live in Dakar, and the city’s population is increasing because of the constant influx of rural job-seekers. Dakar must cope with the side effects of growth such as overcrowding, unemployment, crime, and escalating poverty.
GOVERNMENT
The president, who is directly elected for a seven-year term, is executive head of state. The post of prime minister, which was abolished in 1983, was restored in 1991. The 120 members of the unicameral Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly) are elected to serve five-year terms. The voting age is 18.
ECONOMY
Senegal’s Extensive Fisheries: Fishing is the second largest contributor to Senegal’s gross domestic product (GDP), employing more than 10,000 people. Well-stocked Atlantic coastal waters contain tuna, grouper, mackerel, oysters, lobsters, and shrimp. About 80 per cent of Senegal’s catch goes for domestic consumption, and the remainder is canned and exported.
Cultivating Herbs near the Sénégal River: The Sénégal River in northern Senegal provides water for an export-herb farm near the small town of Richard Toll. Senegal’s largest river, it forms the country’s northern border and sustains an irrigation programme that has greatly increased production of rice and other crops. Gum arabic, another important product, is extracted from acacia trees in the region.
Senegal's economy is based on agriculture, in which the majority of the working population is engaged. The main cash crops are groundnuts, sugarcane, and cotton. Other crops include millet, sorghum, cassava, rice, and vegetables.After Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal has the most developed manufacturing sector in the former French West Africa. The most important industries include food processing (notably of groundnuts, fish, and sugar), the manufacture of chemicals and textiles, and metal processing. Natural resources include phosphates, salt, and natural gas.Senegal has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid. In March 1994 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved an aid package worth US$66 million for the following year. The currency is the Communauté Financière Africaine (CFA) franc, which is used in many former French colonies in Africa and which is tied to the French franc.
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION
Upon independence in 1960, Senegal inherited French West Africa's leading port, at Dakar, and its best road system. Major cities are linked by paved roads; inland villages are connected by unpaved paths and waterways. The railway system extends to Dakar to the north and to Mali in the east, and an airline serves the north and south coasts. Few Senegalese own cars. Most people travel by public transport—buses, taxis, or a mini-van system for longer distances—or by horse and cart, bicycle, motorcycle, or on foot. The government sponsors a daily newspaper, Le Soleil; other political parties sponsor weekly papers, and foreign papers are available. Urban residents have access to information through print, radio, or television, but most villagers do not. Radio stations broadcast in local languages.
EDUCATION
Senegal's education system is based on the French model, and classes are taught in French. Although it is officially considered the nation's unifying language, most children do not speak it, and, as a result, many drop out of school early. However, officials hesitate to drop French as the language of instruction because of tensions that might arise if a single ethnic language were chosen instead. They also fear that to replace French would isolate Senegal from the rest of the world.
HEALTH AND WELFARE
Although health conditions are improving, diseases and infections continue to affect many Senegalese, particularly those in rural areas, where health-care facilities and supplies are inadequate and often unaffordable. Most doctors are based in Dakar.
Animals
African Elephant
Loxodonta africana Giant African elephants, whose tusks alone can weigh more than 45 kilograms (more than 99 pounds), are remarkable not only for their size but for their unique means of communication. Adults can “talk” to each other over vast distances using ultra-low-frequency sounds beyond the range of human hearing. These tones, which the elephants can hear over distances of hundreds of kilometres, may be analogous to the ocean songs of whales. Elephants once ranged through most of Africa south of the Sahara, but they are now seriously threatened by habitat destruction and ivory poachers. Between 1973 and 1980, Kenya’s elephant population was reduced by 65 per cent, mainly because of rampant poaching. In 1989, in response to the growing threat of extinction, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the world body that regulates wildlife trade, banned the sale of ivory. The effect of the ban has not been determined, but biologists predict that African elephants will survive within protected areas throughout the continent.
Cape Hunting Dog (or African Wild Dog)
Lycaon pictus Enormous ears and conspicuous colours enable individual cape hunting dogs to locate each other quickly and to hunt as a pack, bringing down prey as big as twice their size. Like many other dogs, the cape hunting dog is very sociable; it roams the African grasslands and savannas in groups of as many as 60. Also known as the African wild dog, these animals were once quite common but are now seldom seen. The decline in their numbers results from predator-control efforts, habitat destruction, and a decrease in available prey.
Cheetah
Acinonyx jubatus The world’s fastest land animal, the cheetah has been clocked at speeds of more than 105 kilometres per hour (more than 65 miles per hour) while running in pursuit of prey. Active during the day, these graceful animals are solitary hunters on the savannas and woodlands of Africa south of the Sahara. Despite their fierce appearance, cheetahs often lose small gazelle kills to more aggressive predators such as hyenas or lions. As a consequence of habitat loss and poaching for their prized skins, cheetahs are endangered throughout their range.
Chimpanzee
Pan troglodytes One of the closest animal relatives of human beings, the highly intelligent and gregarious chimpanzee lives in the tropical rain forests of equatorial Africa. Although these primates spend much of their time in trees—where they forage for fruit, nuts, and leaves—they are also active on the ground. Researchers have discovered that chimpanzees use a complex system of communication and maintain an elaborate, hierarchical social structure. Like other apes, chimpanzees are in peril because of the ongoing destruction of tropical rain forests.
Leopard
From southernmost Africa, the range of the leopard, Panthera pardus, sweeps in a great arc north through the rest of that continent and then across southern Asia as far as Java and the Russian Far East. It avoids only the driest reaches of the Sahara and the Eastern Desert. Throughout its vast and varied range, the adaptable leopard is remarkably tolerant of people, although people do not always return the favour. Its appetite for goats, sheep, and dogs angers farmers and pastoralists, and its spotted coat makes the leopard a target of hide-hunters. Black leopards also have a spotted coat, but the spots are difficult to discern against the coat’s dark, glossy background.
Nile Crocodile
Crocodylus niloticus The Nile crocodile, which can weigh as much as 1 metric ton and can measure 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) in length, has killed more people on the African continent than any other animal. These mammoth reptiles feed mainly on fish and inhabit rivers, lakes, marshes, and coastal areas in Africa south of the Sahara and Madagascar. Shortly after World War II (1939–1945), the population of Nile crocodiles dropped sharply because they were being hunted for their valuable skins and because boat traffic had intruded near their nesting sites along the Nile. As a result of habitat degradation and excessive hunting, their numbers continue to decline today.
African Tree Pangolin
Manis tricuspis With overlapping brown scales on its back, this nocturnal West and Central African pangolin looks more like a slender pine cone than a mammal. When threatened, it will roll into a tight ball, exposing only a shield of scales. The pangolin lives high in the trees of the rain forest. Toothless, it uses its long snout and 18-centimetre (7.1-inch) tongue to probe for ants and termites.
Giraffe
Giraffa camelopardalis At 6 metres (19.7 feet) tall, the giraffe feeds on tree shoots and leaves that other animals on the African savanna cannot reach. A male will eat up to 91 kilograms (up to 201 pounds) per day. The giraffe’s long legs allow it to reach speeds of 58 kilometres per hour (36 miles per hour), but because its legs must be folded or awkwardly splayed to each side when it wants to drink, the gentle animal becomes easy prey for lions, hyenas, and leopards. Ever vigilant for predators, the giraffe succumbs to a true sleep for only 20 minutes each day. Each giraffe’s spotting pattern is unique, just like a human fingerprint.
Lion
Africa is so closely identified with the lion, Panthera leo, that many people are surprised to learn that a small population of lions endures in the Gir National Park of northwestern India. Lions once ranged throughout the Middle East, and even into Europe, where Macedonians and Greeks hunted them only 2,000 years ago. Even societies with no history of lions of their own, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, have adopted the imposing cat as a symbol of national power. The very name of Singapore means “Lion City”, and the Chinese and Tibetans so revere the lion that they have bred several small dogs—the Pekingese, Lhasa apso, and shih-tzu—in its image.
Spotted Hyena
Crocuta crocuta The hyena’s long, muscular neck, furry round ears, and long front legs combine to look like a cross between a dog and a giraffe. However, the hyena belongs to the cat family, hunting at night and sleeping in the day in dug-out caves on the plains of eastern and southern Africa. Persistent and opportunistic, a pack of hyenas will spend hours wearing down their prey before closing in for the kill. The hyena is also adept at stealing other animals’ kill.
African Jacana
Actophilornis africanus This African water bird lives on the floating vegetation of ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams, nesting on flimsy piles of weeds or lily pads. The male jacana must often hold the eggs under its wings when it roosts because its weight alone submerges the nest. Despite its aquatic home, the jacana rarely swims.
Greater Flamingo
Phoenicopterus ruber Thousands of these magnificent birds, which stand 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) tall on spindly legs, live together in the shallow brackish lakes and lagoons of southern Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. In Africa, flocks can reach 1 million pairs. The flamingo feeds with its head upside down under water, filtering tiny plants and animals from the water. It constructs nests of heaped mud on the water, leaving the young vulnerable to changes in the water’s level.
Hippopotamus
Hippopotamus amphibius This 3,600-kilogram (7,937-pound) mammal, a relative of the pig, is well adapted to aquatic life and spends its days lounging in rivers and lakes. Native to Africa south of the Sahara, a hippopotamus weighs 27 kilograms (60 pounds) at birth and can run and swim within five minutes. Its eyes, ears, and nostrils are set high on top of its head so they remain above water when the hippopotamus submerges. Its characteristic yawn is actually an aggressive gesture, and a competing male will slash another with its tusk-like teeth.
Hoopoe
Upupa epops Reaching 30 centimetres (11.8 inches) long, with a fan-shaped crest and black-and-white striped tail and wings, the hoopoe is easy to spot. This elaborately decorated bird from southern Europe, Asia, and southern Africa spends its days probing the soil for insects and grubs. Although timid, the hoopoe can elude most birds of prey. The bird’s nest is easy to identify by its foul-smelling accumulation of faecal matter.
Red-headed Weaver
In the savannas of Africa, the male of the red-headed weaver, Anaplectes rubriceps, uses palm-frond strips 60 centimetres (24 inches) in length to build an elaborate nest. He is a compulsive builder, often constructing several more nests than he actually needs. The rounded nest features a long, funnel-shaped entrance and hangs from a branch, offering excellent protection from enemies. Upon completing a nest, the male hangs upside down from the nest’s entrance and advertises himself to nearby females.
White-backed Vulture
Gyps africanus This vulture is not an early riser. It must wait for the sun to warm the ground, creating updrafts on which it can soar for hours. Its bald head and neck are adapted to sticking its head into carcasses. The white-backed vulture inhabits the open plains and savannas of southern Africa. There is a similar species of the white-backed vulture, Gyps bengalensis, found across southern Asia.
African Buffalo
An exception to the generally critical condition of the world’s wild cattle is the status of the African buffalo, Syncerus caffer. This imposing creature, frequently cited as the most dangerous of all large African animals, continues to range from semi-arid savannas to rain forests and from lowland swamps and reed-beds to high mountain meadows. The buffalo has retreated in many places as a result of hunting, settlements, agriculture, and a virulent disease called rinderpest, but the population still includes well over a million animals. Many people are familiar with the large, dark, heavy-horned buffalo of open country. The dwarf, reddish race from the dense equatorial forests is less well known.
Small-spotted Genet
Genetta genetta This swift and graceful catlike mammal is a skilled nighttime hunter. It prefers arid, bushy areas in Spain, southwest France, and Africa, avoiding rain forest and Sahara areas. Upon reaching a new home range, the genet memorizes every twig and branch. It walks its territory slowly at first, gradually increasing its speed until it can run through the area in the dark. Half of the genet’s 1-metre (3.3 foot) length is its tail.
Wild Cat
Felis sylvestris While this nocturnal hunter from the mountains of Europe looks like a large domestic cat, it is one of the fiercest of all cats and is untamable. Growing up to 75 centimetres (29.5 inches) long and weighing up to 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds), the wildcat is stouter and longer than a domestic cat. It hunts rabbits, grouse, and poultry, and it zealously defends its home territory.
Dromedary Camel
Camelus dromedarius Domesticated some 2,000 to 4,000 years ago for their ability to haul people and cargo, the camel is amazingly well adapted to life in the harsh deserts of Southwest Asia. Its two rows of eyelashes, slit nostrils, and hairy ear openings help keep out sand. While it cannot store water, it can drink more than 160 litres (more than 42 gallons) at a draught, and it can drink sea water. Its urine is highly concentrated, and its dung so dry it can be burned immediately. Camels drop their body temperature at night, which prolongs the heating-up period the next day. No wild camels remain in Asia, though an introduced population has gone feral in Australia.
Spiny-tailed Lizard
The fat, barbed tails of this lizard are a delicacy among the Bedouin people of North Africa. An inhabitant of the Sahara, the spiny-tailed lizard, Uromastix acanthinurus, differs from many desert dwellers in being active during the day, although it rarely moves. Adults are vegetarian, while the young will consume insects as they mature.
Warthog
Although considered outstandingly ugly by humans, a boar warthog, Phacochoerus africanus, looks just fine to the sow who loves him, warts and all. At mating time, those fibrous protuberances, which are much more prominent in the male, protect him from being injured by the tusks of other males when they engage in ritualized duels. In much of Africa south of the Sahara, the warthog shares its habitat of grasslands and open woodlands with the aardvark, whose burrows it frequently usurps. An adult warthog may back into one of these burrows to face a would-be predator with its formidable sharp tusks. When not deterred by this defence, lions or African wild dogs may enjoy a hearty warthog meal.
Facts
Official name Republic of Senegal
CapitalDakar
Area196,720 square kilometres 75,954 square miles
Major cities (Population)Dakar 2 million (1995)
Thiès 201,350 (1992)
Kaolack 179,894 (1992)
St-Louis 125,717 (1992)
Population8.3 million (1995)
RegionWest Africa
Population growth rate2.5 per cent (1990-1995)
Population density42 persons per square kilometre 108 persons per square mile (1995)
Per cent urban42.3 per cent (1995)
Per cent rural57.7 per cent (1995)
Life expectancy, female50 years (1995)
Life expectancy, male48 years (1995)
Infant mortality rate87 deaths per 1,000 live births (1990)
Literacy ratesTotal 33 per cent (1995)
Female 23 per cent (1995)
Male 43 per cent (1995)
Ethnic divisionsWolof 36 per cent
Fulani 17 per cent
Serer 17 per cent
Toucouleur 9 per cent
Diola 9 per cent
Mandingo 9 per cent
Other 3 per cent
LanguagesMandino
Diola
Serer
Wolof
French(official)
Other indigenous languages
ReligionsMuslim 90 per cent
Indigenous beliefs 6 per cent
Christian(mostly Roman Catholic) 3 per cent
GovernmentRepublic under multiparty democratic rule
PartiesSocialist Party (PS), Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS), Democratic League-Labour Party Movement (LD-MPT), Independent Labour Party (PIT), Senegalese Democratic Union-Renewal (UDS-R), Let Us Unite Senegal (coalition of African Party for Democracy and Socialism and National Democratic Rally), other small uninfluential parties
Independence20 August 1960 (from France)
Constitution3 March 1963, last revised in 1991
Voting rightsUniversal at age 18
Member ofACCT, ACP, AfDB, CCC, CFA, CILSS, ECOWAS, FAO, G-15, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDB, IFAD, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, INMARSAT, INTELSAT, INTERPOL, IOC, IOM (observer), ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WADB, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO
GDPUS$3.88 billion (1994)
GDP per capitaUS$745 (1991)
Government expendituresUS$544 million (1984)
Government revenuesUS$497 million (1984)
Government deficit/surplusUS$-47 million (1984)
Monetary unit1 Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes
Major export partnersFrance, European Union (EU) countries, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, India
Major import partnersFrance, other EU countries, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Algeria, China, Japan
Exports Fish products, groundnuts, petroleum products, phosphates, salt, fertilizers, textiles, chemicals
ImportsMachinery, transport equipment, chemicals, food, durable consumer goods, petroleum, raw materials
IndustriesGroundnut oil extraction, sugar refining, production of beer and soft drinks, fish processing; manufacture of fertilizers, chemicals, textiles, cement; phosphate mining; petroleum refining; tourism
AgricultureContributes 19 per cent of GDP (1991); major products are groundnuts, millet, corn, cassava, sorghum, rice, sugarcane, fruit, cotton, tomatoes, green vegetables; animals and animal products include poultry, sheep, cattle, pigs, dairy items, meat, eggs, hides and skins; fish are also important; estimated two-thirds self-sufficient in food.
Natural resourcesPhosphates, iron ore