Senegal is situated on the African continent’s western coast. It is located between 12° and 17° north latitude and 11° and 18° west longitude.
Externally, Senegal is bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north by Mauritania, on the east by Mali, and on the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau; internally, it is bordered on the north, east, and south by The Gambia, with the exception of Gambia’s small Atlantic coastline.
Senegal’s geography is dominated by the western Sahel’s undulating sandy plains, which ascend to foothills in the southeast. Senegal’s highest peak is also located here, at 584 meters, on an otherwise nameless rock near Nepen Diakha (1,916 ft). The Senegal River forms the northern boundary; other rivers include the Gambia and Casamance. Dakar, the capital, is located on the Cap-Vert peninsula, which is continental Africa’s westernmost point.
The Cape Verde islands are located 560 kilometers (350 miles) off the coast of Senegal, but Cap-Vert (“Cape Green”) is a maritime landmark located at the foot of “Les Mammelles,” a 105-meter (344-foot) cliff at one end of the Cap-Vert peninsula, onto which Senegal’s capital Dakar is built, and 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) south of the “Pointe des Almadies,” Africa’s westernmost point.
Senegal has a tropical climate with comfortable temperatures all year and distinct dry and humid seasons brought on by northeast winter and southwest summer breezes. The hot, dry, harmattan wind dominates the dry season (December to April). Between June and October, when maximum temperatures average 30 °C (86.0 °F) and minimums 24.2 °C (75.6 °F), Dakar receives approximately 600 mm (24 in) of annual rainfall. From December to February, maximum temperatures average 25.7 °C (78.3 °F) and minimums 18 °C (64.4 °F).
Interior temperatures are higher than along the coast (for example, average daily temperatures in Kaolack and Tambacounda for May are 30 °C (86.0 °F) and 32.7 °C (90.9 °F), respectively, compared to Dakar’s 23.2 °C (73.8 °F) ), and rainfall is significantly higher farther south, exceeding 1,500 mm (59.1 in) in some areas.
Temperatures at Tambacounda, in the deep interior, may reach 54 °C (129.2 °F), especially near the Mali border, when the desert starts. The country’s northernmost region has a near-desert climate, while the middle region experiences a hot semi-arid climate and the southernmost region experiences a tropical wet and dry climate. Senegal is mostly a sun-drenched and arid nation.
Senegal has a population of approximately 13.5 million people, with rural regions accounting for 42 percent of the population. The population density in these regions ranges from approximately 77 people per square kilometer (200 people per square mile) in the west-central region to 2 people per square kilometer (5.2 people per square mile) in the dry eastern portion.
Senegal is home to a diverse range of ethnic groups, and many languages are widely spoken, as they are in other West African nations. The Wolof ethnic group accounts for 43% of Senegal’s population; the Fula and Toucouleur (also known as Halpulaar’en, literally “Pulaar-speakers”) (24%) are the second largest, followed by the Serer (14.7%), and then smaller ethnic groups such as Jola (4%), Mandinka (3%), Maures (Naarkajors), Soninke, Bassari, and many others (9 percent ). (For further information, see the Bedick ethnic group.)
Senegal is home to about 50,000 Europeans (primarily French) and Lebanese, as well as a lesser number of Mauritanians and Moroccans, principally in the cities and some retirees in the resort towns near Mbour. The majority of Lebanese are employed in the commercial sector. Small Vietnamese groups and a rising number of Chinese immigrant merchants, each numbering a few hundred individuals, are also concentrated in metropolitan areas. In addition, tens of thousands of Mauritanian refugees live in Senegal, mostly in the north.
Senegal had about 23,800 refugees and asylum seekers in 2007, according to the World Refugee Survey 2008, released by the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Mauritania accounts for the bulk of the population (20,200). N’dioum, Dodel, and other tiny villages along the Senegal River valley are home to refugees.
The Republic of Senegal is a secular state. The country’s main religion is Islam. Approximately 94 percent of the country’s population follows Islam; the Christian community, which accounts for 5% of the population, is mainly Roman Catholic, although there are also a variety of Protestant groups. Animist ideas are held by 1% of the population, mostly in the southern portion of the nation. The Serer religion is practiced by certain Serer people.
In Senegal, the majority of Muslims are Sunni with Sufi influences. In Senegal, Islamic communities are centered on one of many Islamic Sufi orders or brotherhoods, each led by a khalif (xaliifa in Wolof, from Arabic khalfa), who is typically a direct descendant of the group’s founder. The Tijaniyya, whose biggest sub-groups are located in the towns of Tivaouane and Kaolack, and the Murdiyya (Murid), centered in the city of Touba, are the two largest and most famous Sufi organizations in Senegal. Nondenominational Muslims account for 27% of Muslims.
The Halpulaar (Pulaar-speakers), who are made up of Fula and Toucouleurs who live along the Sahel from Chad to Senegal, account for 23.8 percent of the population. They were the first to convert to Islam throughout history. Many Toucouleurs, or sedentary Halpulaar from the Senegal River Valley in the north, converted to Islam about a millennium ago and helped spread Islam across Senegal. The Wolofs were successful, but the Serers were defeated.
The majority of villages south of the Senegal River Valley, on the other hand, were not fully Islamized. The Serer people stood out as one of these groups, having fought Islamization for almost a thousand years (see Serer history). Although many Serers are Christians or Muslims, their conversion to Islam is very recent, since they converted of their own free choice rather than through compulsion, despite centuries of failed attempts at coercion (see the Battle of Fandane-Thiouthioune).
The Tidjâniyya’s efforts aided the development of official Quranic schools (known as daara in Wolof) during the colonial era. The word daara is frequently used to labor groups dedicated to working for a religious leader in Murid communities, which put a greater emphasis on work ethic than on literary Quranic study. The much earlier Qdiriyya order and the Senegalese Laayeen order, which is popular among the coastal Lebu, are two other Islamic organizations. Most Senegalese youngsters now spend many years studying in daaras, memorizing as much of the Qur’an as they can. Some of them continue their religious education in majlis (councils) or the increasing number of private Arabic schools and officially sponsored Franco-Arabic institutions. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a contemporary messianic group in Islam, is also present in the nation, accounting for around 1% of the Muslim population.
Small Roman Catholic communities may be found mostly among the coastal Serer, Jola, Mankanya, and Balant people, as well as among the Bassari and Coniagui in eastern Senegal. Immigrants mostly attend Protestant churches, although in the second part of the twentieth century, Protestant churches headed by Senegalese pastors of other ethnic groups emerged. Catholic and Protestant rituals are performed in Dakar by Lebanese, Cape Verdean, European, and American immigrants, as well as some Africans from other countries and Senegalese themselves. Despite the fact that Islam is the predominant religion in Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, the country’s first president, was a Catholic Serer.
Serer religion includes belief in a supreme god known as Roog (Koox among the Cangin), Serer cosmogony, cosmology, and divination rituals such as the Serer Saltigues’ yearly Xoy (or Khoye) ceremony (high priests and priestesses). Muslim holidays in Senegal and Gambia, such as Tobaski, Gamo, Koriteh, Weri Kor, and others, are all derived from the Serer faith. They were ancient Serer celebrations that had their roots in Serer religion rather than Islam.
The Boukout is a religious ceremony performed by the Jola.
Judaism and Buddhism have a limited number of followers. Several ethnic groups practice Judaism, whereas a significant number of Vietnamese practice Buddhism. The Bahá’ Faith in Senegal was founded when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the religion’s founder’s son, identified Africa as a location where Bahá’s should go more widely. In 1953, the first Bahá’s came in the French West African region that would become Senegal. Senegal’s first Bahá’ Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in Dakar in 1966. The first National Spiritual Assembly of Senegal was elected by the Bahá’ community in 1975. The most current estimate, published in a 2005 study by the Association of Religion Data Archives, puts the number of Bahá’s in Senegal at 22,000.
Senegal implemented a significant economic reform initiative with the help of foreign donors after its GDP fell by 2.1 percent in 1993. The country’s currency was devalued by 50% as part of the reform (the CFA franc). Price restrictions and subsidies were also eliminated by the government. As a consequence, between 1995 and 2001, Senegal’s inflation fell, investment increased, and the country’s gross domestic product increased by around 5% each year.
Food processing, mining, cement, artificial fertilizer, chemicals, textiles, refining imported petroleum, and tourism are the major industries. Fish, chemicals, cotton, textiles, groundnuts, and calcium phosphate are among the products exported. India is the most important international market, accounting for 26.7 percent of exports (as of 1998). The United States, Italy, and the United Kingdom are among the other international markets.
Senegal has an exclusive fishing zone of 12 nautical miles (22 km; 14 mi) that has been frequently violated in recent years (as of 2014). Illegal fishing is expected to cost the country’s fishermen 300,000 tonnes of fish per year. The Senegalese government has attempted to regulate illicit fishing by trawlers registered in Russia, Mauritania, Belize, and Ukraine, among others. Senegalese police captured a Russian trawler, Oleg Naydenov, near the maritime boundary with Guinea-Bissau, in January 2014.
Senegal is aiming for deeper regional integration with a single external tariff as a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Senegal also belongs to the Organization for the Harmonization of African Business Law.
Senegal achieved complete Internet connection in 1996, resulting in a mini-boom in IT-based services. The private sector currently accounts for 82 percent of the country’s GDP. Senegal, on the other hand, has long-standing urban issues such as chronic high unemployment, social inequality, and juvenile criminality.
Senegal is a significant receiver of aid from the international community. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Japan, France, and China are among the donors. Since 1963, the Peace Corps has sent almost 3000 volunteers to Senegal.