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Senegal is in West Africa
Senegal is known as the
“Gateway to Africa.”
Senegal is located at the westernmost point of the continent and served by multiple air and maritime travel routes.
The West African nation of Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Since gaining independence from France in 1960.
Senegal is bounded to the north and northeast by the Sénégal River, which separates it from Mauritania; to the east by Mali; to the south by Guinea and Guinea-Bissau; and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape Verde (Cap Vert) Peninsula is the westernmost point of the African continent. The Gambia consists of a narrow strip of territory that extends from the coast eastward into Senegal along the Gambia River and isolates the southern Senegalese area of Casamance.
Senegal is a flat country that lies in the depression known as the Senegal-Mauritanian Basin. Elevations of more than about 330 feet (100 metres) are found only on the Cape Verde Peninsula and in the southeast of the country.
The Seal of the Passing Lion
This Seal is reserved exclusively for the President of the Republic and designed to mark by dry seal important documents of the State such as treaties.
The Seal of the Baobab
This is the Seal used for certifying documents of the public administration.
The Wolof comprise about two-fifths of the total population, and their language is the most widely used in the republic. Under the traditional Wolof social structure, similar to those of other groups in the region, people were divided into the categories of freeborn (including nobles, clerics, and peasants), caste (including artisans, griots, and blacksmiths), and slaves. The Serer, numbering slightly more than one-seventh of the population, are closely related to the Wolof. The Tukulor make up more than one-fourth of the population. The Tukulor are often hard to distinguish from the Wolof and the Fulani, for they have often intermarried with both. The Diola and the Malinke constitute a small portion of the population. Other small groups consist of such peoples as the Soninke, rulers of the ancient state of Ghana; the Mauri, who live primarily in the north of the country; the Lebu of Cape Verde, who are fishermen and often wealthy landowners; and the Basari, an ancient people who are found in the rocky highlands of Fouta Djallon.
Goree Island was the site of one of the earliest European settlements in Western Africa and long served as an outpost for slave and other trading.
Gorée Island was first visited (1444) by Portuguese sailors under Dinís Dias and occupied in subsequent years. The island’s indigenous Lebu people were later displaced, and fortifications were erected. The town was active in the Atlantic slave trade from 1536 until 1848, when slavery was abolished in Senegal. Historians debate whether Gorée was a major entrepôt for the trade or simply one of many centres from which Africans were taken to the Americas.
On the narrow streets, colonial buildings include the House of Slaves, now a historical museum. The Maison des Esclaves (“Slave House”), which was constructed in 1786, includes displays of slavery artifacts, and the Fort d’Estrées (built in the 1850s). There are also museums of women’s history and of the sea. In 1978 Gorée Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and several of its historic structures were restored in the 1980s and ’90s
In 1978 Gorée Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and several of its historic structures were restored in the 1980s and ’90s.
Senegal is home to several internationally renowned musicians and artists. Other aspects of Senegalese culture have traveled into the larger world as well, most notably Senghor’s espousal of Negritude—a literary movement that flourished in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s and that emphasized African values and heritage. Through events such as the World Festival of Negro Arts, first held in Senegal in 1966, and institutions such as the Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire; IFAN) and the Gorée Island World Heritage site, Senegal honours Senghor’s dictum “We must learn to absorb and influence others more than they absorb or influence us.”
Goree and the “Slave House” exist as powerful symbols of the slave trade and that alone makes it a place of curiosity and history.
About 39 languages are spoken in Senegal, including French (the official language) and Arabic. Linguists divide the African languages spoken there into two families: Atlantic and Mande. The Atlantic family, generally found in the western half of the country, contains the languages most widely spoken in Senegal—Wolof, Serer, Fula, and Diola. Mande languages are found in the eastern half and include Bambara, Malinke, and Soninke.
Senegal is divided into five geographic areas, which are inhabited by various ethnic groups. Ferlo, the north-central area of Senegal, is distinguished by its semidesert environment and by its poor soils. Vegetation appears only in the south, the north consisting of the Sahelian type of savanna parkland (an intermediate zone between the Sahara and the savanna proper); it affords light grazing for the flocks tended by nomadic Fulani pastoralists.
Western education has existed in Senegal since the 19th century; its first goal was to train the Senegalese in French culture and to help with colonial administration. Since independence Senegal has made particular efforts to increase school enrollment in rural areas, although with limited success; the literacy rate remains one of the lowest in the world. Among the secondary schools, the Faidherbe Lycée at Saint-Louis and the Van Vollenhoven Lycée at Dakar are the oldest and most renowned. Technical education is expanding and is provided by institutions in Dakar, Saint-Louis, Diourbel, Kaolack, and Louga.
Higher education developed from the School of Medicine of Dakar (1918). It achieved full status as a university in the French system in 1957 and became known as the University of Dakar. The name was changed in 1987 to University Cheikh Anta Diop to honour a Senegalese scholar and politician. Following disturbances in 1968, Senegal concluded an agreement with France that emphasized a more African-based curriculum. The College of Sciences and Veterinary Medicine for French-speaking Africa is also located in Dakar, and a polytechnic college opened at Thiès in 1973. The University of Saint-Louis, founded in 1990, was renamed University Gaston-Berger in 1996 for a Senegalese philosopher who was born in Saint-Louis. Approximately one-fifth of the students attending these schools are foreign, mostly from the French-speaking countries of Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
5.6% 5-year compound annual growth
$2,727 per capita
Senegal is ranked 16th among 47 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is above the regional average but below the world average.
The Senegalese economy has traditionally revolved around a single cash crop, the peanut. The government, however, has worked to diversify both cash crops and subsistence agriculture by expanding into commodities such as cotton, garden produce, and sugarcane as well as by promoting non agricultural sectors. The government was successful in making fishing, phosphates, and tourism major sources of foreign exchange at the beginning of the 21st century, although the condition of the transportation and power infrastructure placed limits on the amount of expansion possible. Exploitation of mineral resources such as gold, petroleum, and natural gas also diversified the economy.
After the first World Festival of Negro Arts was organized at Dakar in 1966, a number of existing institutions were reoriented toward African traditions, and others were created, such as the Dynamique Museum, the Daniel Sorano Theatre, and the Tapestry Factory of Thiès. Since then, other institutions have been created, such as the Grand National Theater of Dakar and the Museum of Black Civilizations, the latter having a large collection of African cultural artifacts. The craft village of Soumbédioune in Dakar has become a popular marketplace and a centre for Senegalese artisans. The Fundamental Institute of Black Africa (Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire; IFAN) maintains the Théodore Monod African Art Museum in Dakar, which explores the anthropology of Africa and has a collection of African art. Gorée Island, with its remnants of the Atlantic slave trade, is a popular tourist attraction and was designated a World Heritage site in 1978.
AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY, AND FISHING
Agriculture occupies about two-thirds of the economically active population and provides the basis for industry as well. The most important crop has been the peanut, but, beginning in the 1980s, agriculture has been diversified. Extensive acreage is devoted to millet, sorghum, and plants from the Pennisetum genus of Old World grasses, grown for fodder. Rice is cultivated both in naturally wet areas and by irrigation, although its large-scale cultivation is restricted to the lower Casamance valley and the lower Sénégal River valley below Richard-Toll. In addition, corn (maize), cassava (manioc), beans, and sweet potatoes are grown in significant quantities. Periodic drought at the end of the 20th century limited agricultural production, but the Manantali dam in Mali has alleviated some of this problem by providing water for large areas of newly irrigated land. New drought-resistant strains of plants have also been developed.
The climate and the savanna type of vegetation encourage the raising of livestock—including cattle, goats, sheep, horses, donkeys, camels, and pigs—which is carried on in almost all geographic regions but is especially characteristic of the north. Stock raising is not a major source of income for the farmer, however; the meat is consumed locally, and only the hides and skins are exported.
Senegal is well-forested, particularly in the south, and the country has conservation and reforestation programs in place. Sawn timber is produced for domestic consumption, and wood, particularly in the form of charcoal, is an important source of fuel in the country. Baobab trees provide fuel, and the fruit from the tree is also useful. Gum arabic, which is obtained from acacia trees, has been traded for centuries but is now of limited commercial value.
Although many fish are obtained from the rivers, the greater part of the catch is obtained from the sea. Fishing products now lead all exports in terms of value, the result of many years of building up the industry. The waters off Senegal—particularly those at some distance from the shore—have an abundance of economically significant fish. Senegal’s coastal waters are also known for their large variety of fish, unlike most other African countries on the Atlantic seaboard. However, overfishing by foreign fisheries threatens this very lucrative source of income.
GOVERNMENT AND SOCIETY
Senegal is a multiparty republic. The 2001 constitution provides for a strongly centralized presidential regime—the head of state and government is the president, assisted by the prime minister—elected by direct universal adult suffrage. The president, who can be elected to two seven-year terms, appoints the prime minister. Ministers are appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the president. Senegal has a unicameral legislature (the National Assembly), three-fourths of which is directly elected, with the remaining one-fourth indirectly elected. All legislators serve five-year terms. Judicial, executive, and legislative powers are separated.
Senegal is divided into 14 régions, which in turn are divided into départements and arrondissements. Each région is administered by a governor whose role is coordinative and who is assisted by two deputy governors, one dealing with administration and the other with development. Regional assemblies, the powers of which were increased in 1996, are composed of general councillors responsible for local taxation. In each département the prefect represents the republic, as do the ministers. There are also autonomous urban communes. Dakar is governed by an elected municipal council.
Judicial power in Senegal is exercised by the Constitutional Council, the Council of State, the Court of Cassation, the Court of Accounts, and the Courts and Tribunals. Senegal also has a High Court of Justice, whose members are elected by the National Assembly. The High Court tries government officials for crimes committed while in performance of their government duties..
SPORTS AND RECREATION
Senegal has one of the most active national sports scenes in West Africa. Dakar has hosted the All Africa Games and several Africa Cup football (soccer) championships. A national holiday was declared after Senegal beat France in first-round play at the 2002 football World Cup, in Senegal’s first appearance in the competition. The country has national men’s and women’s football and basketball teams that rank among the best in Africa. Traditional African wrestling is also extremely popular throughout the country, and Senegalese wrestlers are among the best-known national sports figures. They wrestle in a sandy arena and attempt to win by making their opponent’s knees, shoulder, or back touch the sand. Matches are festive and lively occasions, with music, dancing, and praise singing for the athletes; the actual wrestling bouts, however, are often over within a few seconds.
SENEGAL'S FLAG AND MOTTO
The flag of the Republic of Senegal is made of three vertical and equal stripes, green, golden, and red in color. It bears in the center of the golden stripe, a green five-pointed star.
For Muslims, green is the color of the Prophet’s flag. For Christians, it is the symbol of hope. For Animists, it represents fertility.
A sign of wealth, yellow evokes the fruits of labour for a people that has given priority to solving economic issues, which are crucial for raising the population’s level of culture. This is the second purpose of the Senegalese nation. The yellow, or gold, is also the color of Arts and Letters; the colour of the Spirit.
Red brings to mind the colour of blood, the colour of life, and thus, the sacrifice made by the whole Nation, but it also evokes the passionate commitment and strength that drive each one of our sons in the fight against under-development.
The star is a sign often used in the African symbolism. It has five points to show Senegal’s opening to the five continents. It represents the sky as well as spiritual values, which are important for a people that relies on more than rice and bread for life. It is green to show, more specifically, the hope of the Young Independence of the Republic of Senegal.
” One People – One Purpose – One Faith “
THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
The Palace of the Republic, residence of the President of the Republic, is a historic manor located in the Plateau district of Dakar, capital city of Senegal. Built in 1902, the Palace used to be the official residence of the Governor General of French West Africa.
Contributor: The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica
Article Title: Gorée Island
Website Name: Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia Britannica, inc.
Date Published: August 27, 2015
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