Senegal Economy and Trade

By | September 16, 2021

Independent since 1960, Senegal is a republic. According to the 2001 Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic. He appoints the prime minister and is elected by direct suffrage with a 5-year mandate, like the National Assembly. The judicial system is based on French law. The administration of justice is entrusted to four Courts of Assizes and to the courts of first instance; in addition, in each department there is a justice of the peace. The death penalty was abolished in 2004. The President of the Republic is also head of the armed forces, which are divided into the three traditional weapons. Alongside these work some paramilitary organizations. Military service is carried out on a selective basis and lasts for 2 years. Primary education is compulsory and free, starts at 7 and lasts 6 years. Secondary schools last 7 years, and are divided within them into two microcycles: the first is preparatory to the second, which is mainly technical-scientific. Despite the development of school structures, perhaps the best in West Africa, the illiteracy rate, which reached 58.1%, is still very high. Higher education is given in the universities of Dakar (1957), and of Saint-Louis (1990).


The Senegalese economy, traditionally based on the monoculture of peanuts, presents typical imbalances due to the colonial past: there is a strong contrast between the highly urbanized and dynamic western coastal region and the sparsely populated internal one still dedicated to livestock and subsistence agriculture. Despite the substantial scarcity of natural resources, already at the time of independence Senegal was, on a continental scale, one of the countries with the most advanced economy. The presence of a city like Dakar, enlivened by the role of capital of French West Africa and by the presence of its westernized bourgeoisie, the close relations with France, which was interested in Senegal more than in its other colonies, determined a certain dynamism in the country, despite colonial exploitation. With the acquisition of independence (1960), the government undertook to give an increasingly “African” aspect to the Senegalese economy and, at the same time, to achieve greater profitability of the entire production system. It was the so-called “senegalization policy”, which in fact presented two rather contrasting aspects: on the one hand, the State intervened to control, through various bodies specifically established, above all primary activities (agriculture, fishing), trade and the mining sector (for example, the state oil company was founded in 1981); on the other hand, not having a sufficiently trained entrepreneurial class or adequate financial resources, the State essentially delegated the task of promoting the development of industry to foreign capitalists. For this purpose a vast industrial free zone was created around Dakar, which however did not have the hoped-for success, where operators could benefit from tax exemptions and not be subject to government controls. Also with foreign financial help, various and demanding infrastructural works were finally undertaken, above all roads, ports, dams, irrigation works, etc.; the most important program concerned the water management of the river Senegal. The economic landscape of the country, in all the eighties and nineties of the century. XX, was therefore enriched with new elements, due to industrial initiatives which, albeit slowly, diversified the production structures. Compared to the other Sahelian countries, the economic structure of Senegal, in the first decade of the 2000s, is more diversified and functional to the growth of the entire territorial system (GDP of US $ 13,350 in 2008), but the living conditions of the population still generally remain backward, as evidenced by the fact that over half of the population still lives below the poverty line. Corruption and excessive bureaucratization are popular.


Internal exchanges are fairly intense, enlivened above all by the presence of the large central-western urban concentration. As for foreign trade, Senegal has a chronically deficit trade balance. It maintains significant relations with several states (such as Nigeria, Gambia, Great Britain, Italy, the United States and Iraq), but one third of the exchanges takes place with France, which supports the Senegalese economy with financial aid. Senegal mainly exports peanut oil, fresh and canned fish, phosphates, etc., while the main imports are foodstuffs, petroleum products and machinery according to Heavy is the foreign debt. ยง For centuries the waterways were the most suitable ways to penetrate the interior of the country; the construction of the railways and of the first highways of great communication is due to the French. Very important is the railway line that from Dakar crosses all of Senegal reaching as far as Bamako, capital of Mali (it was built to give an outlet to the sea in Mali, formerly French Sudan, and at the same time to strengthen the port activity of Dakar); another line runs along the coast from Dakar to Saint-Louis. After independence, the development plans have devoted particular attention to the strengthening of the road network which in 2003 totaled approx. 13,500 km, almost half of which are accessible all year round. The already mentioned fluvial navigation retains all its importance; as well as the Senegal River (which also serves Mauritania), the Saloum and Casamance are navigable. Maritime trade is carried out almost entirely from Dakar, which is the second largest port in West Africa, after Abidjan; the Senegalese capital is also a large airport center thanks to the international airport of Yoff / Dakar, a very active stopover on the route between Europe and South America. Domestic air services also recorded a good increase; other airports are those of Saint-Louis, Kaolack, Tambacounda and Ziguinchor.

Senegal Economy