Economy and energy
Thanks also to the help of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Senegal has carried out a series of reforms to liberalize the economic system, especially in the 1990s. The results are uncertain, but the country is nevertheless characterized by being one of the most developed and industrialized in West Africa. Despite the greater contribution to the GDPcomes from the service sector (60% of the total), the population still depends on the primary sector. Fishing and the cultivation of some products (including peanuts) constitute the employment basis for three quarters of Senegalese. Fishing is also a major export source. The industrial sector is mainly concentrated on the coast, especially around the city of Dakar, which is also one of the most important ports in the region and an important hub of transit. The difficulties of the industrial sector derive purely from the high transport costs, due to still inadequate infrastructures (despite Senegal having one of the best road systems in the area), and from the discontinuity in the supply of electricity. The tertiary sector, on the other hand, is driven by the telecommunications, tourism and commerce sectors. Telecommunications make up 7% of the total GDP and many French and Belgian companies, also taking advantage of the country’s French language, have relocated their call center activities to Senegal.
According to indexdotcom, the most important commercial relations are those with France. Exports are mainly directed to neighboring Mali, but also to the EU and Switzerland. Many foreign investments also arrive in Senegal, as demonstrated by the expansion project of the port of Dakar supported by the United Arab Emirates and, again for port infrastructures, the steel giant Arcelor Mittal, which has its headquarters in Luxembourg.
A structural problem in Senegal is informal employment, as well as the high unemployment rate. Inflation has historically been kept low, on the other hand, thanks to the adhesion to the CFA franc, in turn anchored to the euro.
Defense and security
Historically, Senegal is a stable country, which has not undergone violent regime changes and has not been affected by wars against neighboring countries. The Senegalese armed forces, unlike other African countries, have never exercised a particular interference in political life. In the past, the most relevant threats to security and stability have been represented by separatist forces in the Casamance region. Since the early 1990s, the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (Mfdc) has fueled a low-intensity conflict with the central government of Dakar for independence. The conflict also extended to Guinea Bissau, on whose territory guerrilla operational bases are allegedly hosted. Senegal exploited the outbreak of civil war in Guinea Bissau in 1998 to intervene and try to eradicate the Mfc. Senegalese President Macky Sall is trying to use the rotating presidency of Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) to encourage the return to political stability in Guinea Bissau, which is necessary to support the anti- MD campaign in the country.
On the international level, the two most important partners in terms of defense and security are France and the United States, which also supply most of the army’s equipment. In particular, in 2014 France chose Dakar as the site of one of its two advanced operational military bases in Africa (the second is Libreville, in Gabon). Senegal is among the African countries that contribute most to peacekeeping missionsof the United Nations and the African Union, with soldiers mainly employed in Sudan, Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau. In the course of 2015, Senegal also decided to contribute 2,000 troops to Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition operations in Yemen. The choice of Dakar seems to be dictated by the desire to satisfy the requests of the Gulf states, economic partners of growing importance for the country.
The Casamance issue
Casamance is the southernmost region of Senegal, between the Gambia and Guinea Bissau, and is mainly inhabited by the Diola ethnic group. In 1982 the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (M fdc), which claims greater autonomy, if not independence, from the central government of Dakar. The request is primarily due to the promise of Léopold Senghor, the first president of Senegal, who in 1960 guaranteed that he would leave the region free after 20 years of union with Senegal. The promise was rejected and in 1980 there were the first protests. In the nineties the secessionist movement launched a series of targeted attacks against Senegalese military targets, thanks also to the support of Guinea Bissau, against which the reprisals of Dakar were unleashed. To date, the conflict has caused more than a thousand victims. Although a peace agreement was signed in 2004, the conflict continues, albeit at a low intensity, with sporadic episodes of violence on both sides. The conflict is also fueled by the discrimination that the Diola suffer from by the Wolof, the dominant ethnic group in the country. In an attempt to find a solution, President Macky Sall decided to experiment with a new model of decentralization in the region and offered the rebels prospects for dialogue. In May 2014, the military leader of Mfdc declared a unilateral ceasefire, which continues to this day. However, it is not yet clear at the moment whether it is a simple truce or a real lasting peace.