google-site-verification: googlecb803562c78427f3.html Everything you need to know about Senegal | Kingdom of Africa



Posted by Florian Cheval on



The region that is now Senegal was once part of the West African empire of Mali, Ghana and Tekrur. The country takes its name from the river that runs along its northern and eastern borders, forming the border with Mauritania and Mali. According to a poetic etymology of the Wolof people, the name derives from the local term Sunugal, which means "our canoe" (everyone is in the same boat). The Republic of Senegal became independent in 1960 after three centuries of French colonial rule. Dakar, the capital since independence in 1960, is on the Cape Verde peninsula, the westernmost point of Africa. Before independence, Dakar was the capital of French West Africa (AOF), which included nine French-speaking West African states.

Map of Senegal

Although it is predominantly Muslim, Senegal is a tolerant secular state, whose people have lived together peacefully for several generations and mix to some extent. Islam is a potential unifying factor. Wolof is the national language. The spread of education and increased economic opportunities have changed the traditional social structure based on kinship, but the majority of the population adheres to the traditional values ​​of Kersa (respect for others) and Tegin (good manners). Terranga (hospitality) is a common word used by almost all of the country's twelve ethnic groups.

This feeling of national identity is not shared by the Diola populations of the forest areas of Casamance, engaged since December 1982 in an armed insurrection to separate themselves from the Islamized northerners. The first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, a Roman Catholic who presided over the nation for more than twenty years, was a staunch defender of African unity.

Geographical location of Senegal

Senegal, located at the western tip of Africa, covers an area of ​​196,781 square kilometers (76,000 square miles). It is bordered to the north by Mauritania, to the east by Mali, to the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The long and narrow Republic of Gambia stretches for approximately two hundred kilometers and is surrounded by the southern region of Senegal. Agriculture is largely based on the cultivation of peanuts, millet and sorghum. Like most countries in the Sahel, Senegal has an important livestock sector which is periodically decimated by drought. Niokolo Koba National Park, located in the southeast, is one of the most important large mammal reserves in West Africa.


The population of approximately ten million includes indigenous peoples and a non-African population composed mainly of French and Lebanese. There are high population concentrations in urban centers (Dakar, Thie`s, Kaolack, Saint-Louis, Ziguinchor) due to rapid population growth and deteriorating environmental conditions which have made it difficult for people to live off the land.

Demographic evolution of Senegal

Linguistic affiliation

The population is divided into twelve ethnic groups, each with their own customs and dialects. The largest ethnic group is the Wolof, who make up more than a third of the population. Although French is the official language, it is spoken only by an educated minority, and Wolof has become a lingua franca: towns and markets, schools, and inter-ethnic marriages.

National Symbols

Animals, songs, flags and colors have served as national symbols since before independence. The national flag has bands of green, yellow and red. A green five-pointed star appears in the center of the yellow stripe. The color green symbolizes the forest and hope. Yellow represents the savannah, and red represents the blood shed in the fight for freedom. In preparation for Independence Day, a week is dedicated to celebrating the flag and the national anthem. The lyrics of the national anthem were written by Senghor. The coat of arms depicts a golden lion in profile on a green base, framed by the rays of a golden five-pointed star in the upper left corner. The state seal features the coat of arms on one side and a baobab tree on the other, with the national motto: "One people, one goal, one faith." The baobab is the traditional meeting place (the leaning) where discussions and political gatherings take place.

Leopold Senghor


Emergence of the Nation

Paleolithic and Neolithic wall paintings, tools and pottery have been discovered in the Senegal River valley. After the 10th century, the inhabitants of Senegal were in permanent contact with North Africa. Arab and Berber caravans came regularly to trade and arrived periodically as invaders seeking territory to conquer and convert to Islam. In the 14th century, the Wolof empire, which extended from the Senegal River to the Gambia River, included six states: Baol, Walo, Cayor, Sine, Djolof and Saloum. In 1444, the Portuguese transformed the island of Gorée into a sailors' graveyard and established a lucrative trade in slaves and gold along the coast of Senegal. Gradually, other European merchants followed, notably the French, who established their first colonies in 1638 in the Senegal River, on the island of Saint-Louis, which became the base of all activity and French expansion in West Africa.

In 1840, the French government declared Senegal a permanent French possession, abolished all forms of slavery, and granted full citizenship to those born in Senegal. This allowed the Senegalese people to elect and send a deputy to the National Assembly in Paris. In 1854, General Louis Faidherbe, a colonial administrator, was entrusted with the mission of pacifying the kingdoms in permanent struggle along the Senegal River. He created the Senegalese Tirailleurs, an army of local volunteers under French commanders, which achieved international fame during World War II. By 1902, the French government, which had embarked on a "Grand Design" to conquer as much territory as possible, had completed the conquest of most parts of West Africa not occupied by the British, Portuguese and the Germans, and Dakar was designated as the capital of all French territories in West Africa. The development of public schools allowed Africans to educate themselves, and scholarships gave them the opportunity to pursue higher education in France, creating an educated African elite.

After the Second World War, France's relations with some of its territories were marked by major colonial wars, a crisis which led to the acceleration of the decolonization process in West Africa. In 1959, Senegal and French Sudan decided to merge to form the Independent Federation of Mali, but it was a failure. Both countries then declared their individual independence. In April 1960, Senegal was proclaimed an independent nation. The country's ruling political party is the Senegalese Progressive Union (UPS), founded in 1949 and led by Léopold Sédar Senghor.

National Identity

Senegal is a land of traditions and its inhabitants, although heterogeneous, share a strong sense of national identity deeply rooted in Thiossane, a word used by the Wolofs as well as the Sérères (Fulani), which means "history, tradition and culture. Since the organization of the World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar in 1966, institutions have been created or reoriented towards African traditions, notably the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa; Youth and Culture Centers; the artisanal village of Soumbedioune in Dakar, which has become a center of Senegalese sculpture and goldsmithing; the Dynamic Museum; the Daniel Sorano Theater; and the Thiès tapestry factory.

Although French is the official language and the main language of instruction in schools, even the most educated people are far from being " black French " culturally. The Wolof dialect of Dakar has become the national language, especially in urban areas and among young people. The country's pre-colonial traditions and long colonial history have helped forge a strong sense of national identity among the majority of the population, particularly those north of the Gambia River, who share similar hierarchical social structures, as well as Islamic traditions and membership in Muslim brotherhoods. Discover this magnificent Senegalese boubou, a powerful symbol of identity.

African Senegalese boubou

Ethnic relations

The largest ethnic group is that of the Wolofs (43% of the population), followed by the Pulars (also called Peulhs or Peuls, almost 25%) and the Serers (more than 15%). Smaller groups include the Diola, Mandink and Soninke. Despite this cultural heterogeneity, inter-ethnic conflicts do not exist and, in general, no group seeks autonomy on ethnic grounds or political independence, except in the Casamance region. Since the early 1980s, Casamance has seen the development of a separatist movement and, since 1990, a conflict has pitted local guerrillas against the army. Casamance is clearly less Islamic and less Wolof than the rest of the country.

The presence of Europeans, mainly French (called Toubabs by the Senegalese) and Lebanese (each representing 1% of the population) did not cause serious friction or hostility. The country was tolerant of non-Senegalese Africans who came to live and work there until the 1989 outbreak of violence in Mauritania over grazing disputes reduced their immigration.

The Wolofs have preserved their ethnic identity thanks to their openness to other groups and peoples. For centuries, they lived side by side with the Serer, Tukulor, Fulani, Mandink and Diolas and engaged in trade and intermarriage with these neighbors. Although they fought their neighbors in the past, the relationship today is one of tolerance and mutual banter, which the Wolof and Fulani call Kal. The Wolofs accept anyone who easily identifies with the customs of others.


The Lebou fishermen who settled in Dakar in the 18th century were looking for a haven of peace. They founded their new site in 1795 and called it Ndakarou. Dakar occupies the southern end of the Cape Verde peninsula. On a plateau a hundred feet above the sea, administrative structures left over from the colonial era include the presidential palace, the city hall, the chamber of commerce with its yellow bricks and the courthouse, which was built in 1906. Large modern buildings, beautiful residences,

and the tree-lined avenues of the business and administration district have a thoroughly French appearance. Next to the business section is the old, crowded neighborhood called the Medina, a jumble of old buildings, shacks and narrow streets. To the west, beyond the Medina, are the impressive buildings of the University of Dakar and the fashionable suburb of Fann. Dakar has many mosques, the most impressive of which is the Grand Mosque, and many churches and cathedrals. On the island of Gorée, with its "House of Slaves", the fortified bunkers and enormous naval cannons built during the Second World War are overgrown with vegetation.
In rural areas, houses differ in their type and the materials used for their construction, but are adapted to the climate and lifestyle of the village. Important activities and social occasions are shared on the slope, where people gather to chat and talk about village affairs.


Food in daily life. The staple diet is rice cooked with spicy sauce and vegetables. The national dish is chep-bu-jen, the Wolof word for fish rice. Cooked in tomato sauce with boiled fish and some vegetables (carrots, cabbage and green peppers), chep-bu-jen originates from the city of Saint-Louis. Yassa, a Casamance dish, is chicken or fish marinated in lemon juice, pepper and onions, then baked. It comes with plain white rice. Other sauces include mafé, domada and kandja soup, (which is made from okra with fish and palm oil).

peanut trade senegal

Food customs during ceremonies

During ceremonies, celebratory meals include roasted or grilled meat with beans or fries. Couscous (steamed millet) with vegetables, mutton and sauce is a ceremonial dish. At the end of each meal, we drink strong, sweet tea. Except in areas where it is prohibited, alcohol is available.

Basic economy

The country's market economy is largely based on agriculture. The limited economic growth it has experienced since independence is periodically interrupted by droughts which can plunge the economy into a severe recession. The most important food crops are millet and sorghum; large quantities of rice are imported. Cotton, rice, sugar and market garden products are grown. The national currency is called the CFA franc.

Land tenure and ownership

Farms, mainly family-owned and small, are worked mainly by family labor. More than two-thirds of the nation's farms are less than ten acres; only 5% have more than twenty-five acres. After independence, the National Land Act of 1964 gave the state rights to all rural land and theoretically abolished rents paid to absentee landlords. Under this arrangement, the state became the steward of the land and awarded land rights to those who worked it. Before independence, traditional local systems of land ownership were based on African customary law, which allowed the local nobility or village chief to receive crop shares and land rents from former slaves and landless people.

agriculture senegal

Under the new law, part of a package of socialist reforms, owners with permanent buildings on their land were given six months to establish title deeds for their plots. All land is divided into four categories: urban areas, reserves (including forests and national parks), agricultural land and "pioneer areas". The law allowed the government to declare some of the less intensively occupied pioneer areas and hand them over to groups and organizations wishing to develop them. The country's most prominent Muslim leaders own large properties in the frontier areas. The government's decision in 1991 to transfer large tracts of protected forest to the leader of the Mourides brotherhood so that his followers could plant peanuts there dealt a serious blow to the credibility of the land policy.

In a few weeks, thousands of talibés followers of Mouride cleared the land, a process accompanied by the expulsion of six thousand pastoralists and one hundred thousand animals from the forest area. The press and the international donor community sharply criticized the government's decision, which followed a pattern dating back to colonial times, when the French ceded large tracts of land to the Mourides to encourage peanut production.

Other reforms include the creation of farmer cooperatives and rural councils to replace traditional kinship and patron-client networks. Cooperatives became the basic sources from which farmers could obtain seeds, tools, credit and marketing facilities for their crops.

Commercial activities

Agricultural and manufactured products are sold, including foodstuffs and household items. The informal sector provides cheap goods and services to the urban poor who cannot afford the goods produced by the formal industrial sector. There is a huge market for cheap second-hand clothing, which is often smuggled into the country and allows families to clothe their children at relatively low cost.

Main industries

Industrial production is largely determined by agricultural performance. Most of the major manufacturing industries are located in and around Dakar. Food processing is the largest activity, accounting for 43% of industrial production. Peanut extraction is the main agricultural industry. Other industrial production includes fishing, phosphate mining, chemicals and petroleum, metal and mechanical industries, construction materials and the paper industry. In terms of light industry, the craft sector is very active. It includes handmade textiles, gold, silver and iron work, pottery, woodwork, basketry, leatherwork and other traditional crafts.

fishing in senegal


Peanuts, phosphates, cotton, fish and fishing products are exported. Fishery products, mainly canned tuna, provide direct and indirect employment to more than 150,000 people. As part of its diversification policy, Senegal was one of the first African countries to develop tourism as a major national economic activity. However, tourism suffered a major blow due to the Casamance insurrection and the conflict with Mauritania. Cash crops include rice, cowpeas, corn, sugar and livestock. Cement, refined sugar, fertilizers and tobacco products are exported to neighboring countries. Food, capital goods and oil are imported from France, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Algeria, China and Japan.

The division of labor

In the past, division of labor was practiced in agriculture. Before the rainy season, young men did the hard work of clearing brush and preparing the land for sowing. Once it rained and the seeds began to germinate, the women and children would weed. The constitution prohibits child labor, but instead of going to school, many children work in family fields.


Classes and castes

Historically, society was organized into a caste hierarchy, a rigid structure in which descendants of royal lines and nobles dominated artisan castes and slaves.

After independence, a new set of status criteria emerged. New means of achieving wealth, power and status were introduced by the market economy and the development of the education system. The modern elite includes successful businessmen, managers and professionals in the private sector, as well as influential politicians and highly educated people. The deterioration of living conditions has affected the lives of the masses. Lepers, polio victims and beggars are common in the cities.

Symbols of social stratification.

During the colonial era, almost all of the profits generated by the largest companies went to foreigners and local nobility. Government-led nationalization programs after independence favored a small number of citizens who entered a new competition for status and power. The clans included successful businessmen, highly educated or politically well-connected people who were able to afford a European-style standard of living, including cars, modern appliances, luxurious villas or apartments, good schools, higher education for their children and trips abroad. Investments in real estate, commerce and agriculture were signs of success. In the rural hinterland of the Cape Verde region, city dwellers own up to 70% of the land. The Sunday Gardeners invested in farms, orchards, and cattle-fattening operations, using loans from state banks.


senegal wedding


In rural areas, parents often arrange marriages for their children. A young man may want a young woman, but it is his father who decides if she is suitable. An intermediary is often appointed to investigate the woman's family history. If the father finds the family satisfactory, he sends the middleman to deliver kola nuts to the woman's parents. Parents accept kola nuts if they approve of the young man. In matrilineal ethnic groups such as the Wolof, the mother's brother is sent on behalf of the groom to ask for the bride's hand. In addition to kola nuts, money is given. Gifts such as a television, sewing machine, jewelry and fashionable clothes are required from the groom. In Muslim families, most marriages are celebrated at the mosque by the iman, or religious leader. Then, a civil marriage takes place at the town hall or in the family court.

The bride moves into the groom's house with a grand ceremony attended by relatives and friends. In rural areas, young women sing saucy songs to provoke and entertain. Many days of festivities usually follow.

Senegal ethnic necklace

Domestic unit

The core of a domestic group or compound is a polygynous or nuclear family. After marriage, a man takes his wife to her father's compound, but this residence is not necessarily permanent. In any household group, other people often live with the family, sometimes permanently, sometimes temporarily. These are often family members such as the male head's single or divorced sister, a sister's child, or a woman's child by a divorced spouse.


The debts of the deceased are paid before the estate is distributed among the heirs. If all of the deceased's children are minors, his brother is the curator of the estate. He may marry the widow of the deceased, but this is not common. If there is an adult son of the deceased, he acts as trustee. When a married man with children dies, each son receives a full share of the estate, each daughter receives a share of the estate.

Half of a share, and the wives each receive an eighth of a share. A scholar is often called in to ensure that the distribution follows Islamic law, as few people make wills.

Kinship groups

The traditional social structure based on kinship and rigid stratification remains important but is modified by the spread of education, the market economy and the movement of people to urban and industrial centers. The presence of family members at life cycle ceremonies is necessary for obtaining and maintaining status.


Infant care

People place a high value on children. A child is considered neighborhood property, and child care responsibilities are therefore shared. Using an Mbotu, a brightly colored rectangular shawl, mothers carry babies tightly attached to their backs as they go about their daily lives. Neighbors and family members take turns helping busy mothers. Infant abandonment is rare, and the strength of family ties limits the need for institutional care for orphans.

Children's education

From the time a child is five or six years old, they are taught good values ​​and etiquette. A child should greet elders, help parents with household chores, avoid profanity, and listen to the wisdom of elders. During their early years, boys and girls play together. As they grow up, gender roles become more clearly defined, with girls staying with their mothers more to learn household chores. In almost all ethnic groups, boys are circumcised as part of the maturation process, but the practice of female genital mutilation has become a crime. Muslim children attend Quranic school until the age of six or seven, after which they begin formal education. Corporal punishment in schools has become unacceptable to parents, particularly in urban areas. Formal education is free. The school system has primary, secondary and higher levels. Education is accessible to both sexes. There are many private schools, run mainly by Catholic religious orders.

Senegal school education

Higher Education

Universities include the University of Dakar and the University of Saint-Louis. There are also several professional institutes. Due to student unrest and deteriorating conditions at universities, the elite often send their children to study abroad.


The day begins with greetings. Young men often shake hands, and young women curtsy and often bend slightly on one knee to greet their elders. Foul language is not tolerated in public, and people usually resort to communication or "dialogue" to defuse hostility and aggression. People use Kal, an institutionalized joking relationship that allows individuals within extended families, caste groups, and ethnic groups to exchange direct comments when they meet, even if they do not know each other. Comments often focus on eating habits, cleanliness and intelligence. A person's social evaluation is often linked to their respect for community values ​​such as Jom (dignity or self-respect) and Ham-sa-bop (self-knowledge).


Religious beliefs

Ninety percent of residents identify as Muslims and are affiliated with one of the three main brotherhoods: the Mourides, the Tijaniyya or the Qadiriyya. Each brotherhood is distinguished by slight differences in rituals and codes of conduct. Every year, middle-class and wealthy people make the pilgrimage to Mecca. Despite the small size of the Catholic community (around 5% of the population), Senegal produced one of the rare cardinals from black Africa.

Some aspects of traditional religion are merged with Islam or Christianity. Many urbanized people still view their ancestors as important spiritual leaders in daily life, although Allah or God is worshiped formally.

traditional Senegalese religion

Practitioners of religion

Many Senegalese believe that living people and spirits can control supernatural forces, and malevolent men are often feared more deeply than evil spirits. The Wolofs seek help from a Jabaran-kat ("healer"), who asks them to sacrifice a chicken to ward off the evil powers of a doma ("witch").

Death and afterlife

Death is considered a path by which one reunites with one's ancestors. When a person dies, the bereaved person's home is the scene of great mourning. Others sing and dance to celebrate the deceased and send their spirit to heaven. Ancestor worship is practiced by many ethnic groups. Among the rural Wolof, household water jars are rarely cleaned because the spirit of an ancestor might come to drink at that time and find no water.


As a tropical country and a poor nation, Senegal faces many health problems, including parasitic, intestinal, venereal and respiratory diseases. Poor sanitation is the main environmental factor that affects health levels. Malaria is endemic and is a cause of premature death. Intestinal parasites are common due to water pollution. Gonorrhea is present in urban centers. AIDS is a major concern for the population and health services. Other diseases include hepatitis, trachoma and tuberculosis. The quality of medical care has deteriorated due to the decline in the number of hospital beds and medical staff, the lack of medicines in public health facilities, and the deplorable condition of public hospitals.


The main public holidays of the state are New Year's Day (January 1), Independence Day (April 4), International Workers' Day (May 1). During these holidays, people prepare ceremonial dishes and dress in bright traditional outfits. Religious holidays include Christmas (December 25), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, Islamic New Year and Muhammad's birthday.


Support for the arts

Artists are self-financing and are forced to seek markets outside the country.


There is a strong tradition of oral literature that reflects the history, philosophy, morality and culture of the country. Since the 1930s, writers have produced novels, short stories, stories and essays dealing almost exclusively with African themes. The country has also produced successful filmmakers.

Graphic arts

Glass painting, a new popular art, represents religious and historical scenes and personalities. Goldsmiths, weavers and tailors produce jewelry, rugs and clothing.

Performing Arts

Senegalese dance

Traditional dance performances are a popular form of leisure, and children learn to dance from a young age. Popular sports include football and a form of wrestling called Lamb (the Wolof word for "fight").


Despite the strong reputation of the University of Dakar, which was built in the mid-1900s, the development of physical and social sciences remains limited, mainly due to a lack of funding. However, attempts have been made to develop methods of using solar energy.

← Older Post Newer Post →

French Support

A dedicated Support team to answer all your questions.

Free delivery

Your order will be shipped from France and delivered free to your home via Colissimo

Secure payment

We entrust the management of our online payments to 100% Secure Stripe.

Satisfied or refunded

We offer money back guarantee for 14 days after receipt of the items!