About Senegal

Aminata Sarr, Head of the Senegalese Federation of Women working in Fish Transformation (on the left), and a colleague. M'Bour, Senegal.

The heartbeat of West Africa

Striking landscapes, exciting wildlife and a busy cultural scene make Senegal an ideal destination. But for many people who live there, the prospects for a better life are still far away – despite some positive development.
Geography & climate

Africa's western-most outpost, Senegal is bordered by Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The Atlantic Ocean runs along the country’s western side.

The sandy plains of the western Sahel rise to foothills in the southeast of the country, while the northern border is formed by the Senegal River.

With well-defined dry and humid seasons, Senegal has a tropical climate and is situated at the intersection of 4 major West African climatic zones - Saharan, Sahelian, Sudanian and Guinean.
 / ©: WWF
Map of Senegal.

Senegal is a country of steppes, grassland and tree savanna in the north, and dry sub-guinean open forest formations in the east and south. Parts of the eastern forest zone are protected areas, providing a home for panthers, lions, Derby elands, elephants and a few chimpanzees.

Driven by prevailing winds, the Canary Current flows southwest along the coast of Senegal, bringing cool water towards the equator. As the wind moves the surface water, nutrient rich water from below the surface moves upward.

This upwelling creates a highly productive region, especially for deep-sea fish and lobsters.

Some of the species that navigate these waters include green marine turtles, olive ridley sea turtles and West African manatees, along with an abundance of fish.
 / ©: WWF
What are the problems?
 / ©: WWF
What is WWF doing about the problems?
Population & religion

The largest ethnic group in Senegal are the Wolof, representing about 43% of the population. Some Europeans, Mauritanians and Lebanese also reside in Senegal. While French is the official language, only a minority of Senegalese use it. Most people speak their own ethnic language and in places such as Dakar, Wolof is the most common language.

A majority of Senegalese practice Islam, followed by Christianity and animism, particularly in the southeast region of the country.
Economy & development

With few natural resources, Senegal relies on revenue from fish, phosphates, peanuts, tourism, and services. However, this fragile economy is highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall and changes in global commodity prices.

In 2004, Senegal’s life expectancy at birth was 56 years, and adult literacy rates were about 40% for ages 15 and older. Between 2001-2003, 23% of the population was considered to undernourished.
GEF. 2002. Integrated Ecosystem Management in Four Representative Landscapes of Senegal. Project proposal.

UNDP. Human Development Report 2006. Accessed on June 21, 2007.

Wikipedia. Senegal. Accessed on June 21, 2007.

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