The University of Iowa University of Iowa






15,020,945 (July 2018 est.)




617.4 XOF = 1 USD (2012 est.)

Important Cities

Zinguinchor, Saint Louis, Rufisque






Major Peoples

Tuareg, Wolof


Muslim 95.9%, Christian 4.1% (2016 est.)


57.7% (2015 est.)

Principal Language

Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka

Official Language



Head Of State

Mohammed Abdallah Boun Dionne (since 4 July 2014)

Type of Government

Presidential Republic

Date of Independence

August 20, 1960

Major Exports

Fish, Peanuts, Petroleum Products, Phosphates, Cotton

Precolonial History

Sénégal was once part of the Ghana Empire, founded by the Soninke peoples during the early first millennium CE. Fulani peoples established the Tekrur kingdom in the Sénégal valley by the 9th century. The Mali Empire extended across Sénégal in the 14th century, and the Jolof Empire controlled parts of the area from the mid-14th until the late 19th centuries. Portuguese navigator Dinis Dias explored the Sénégal River and the Cape Verde peninsula in 1444, initiating trade with Europe. The Dutch, French, and British also engaged in the slave trade with Sénégal from the late 16th century onward, fighting for coastal influence until France incorporated Sénégal into French West Africa in 1895. In 1959, Sénégal briefly merged with French Sudan to form the Mali Federation, and proclaimed independence from France a year later.

Postcolonial History

Léopold Sédar Senghor of the Parti Socialiste du Sénégal (PS) served as the country’s first president from 1960 until his retirement in 1980. His successor, Abdou Diouf, attempted to increase Sénégal’s involvement in the international community. However, separatist violence in the Casamance region escalated throughout the 1990s, and between 10,000 and 40,000 people had been displaced by the conflict as of 2012. Diouf was re-elected in 1988 and 1993, during which time his opponent Abdoulaye Wade was imprisoned. Wade became head of state in 2000 after a year of self-exile. With overwhelming support, he effectively condensed a number of governmental term limits during his early years in office, but his support visibly began to wane by 2004. He was defeated in the 2012 election by Macky Sall, his former prime minister and president of the National Assembly.

Recommended Sources:

Pierre Englebert and Katharine Murison, “Senegal: Recent History,” Africa South of the Sahara (London and New York: Routledge, 2008).

Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (

Mamadou Diouf, “Senegal: History and Politics,” New Encyclopedia of Africa, Vol. 4.