West Africa

Senegal Geography and Demography


The country is practically a plain with low elevations that do not exceed 100 m in height, except in the extreme southeast, at the foot of Futa Yallon, where they can reach more than 500 m. The hydrographic network consists of the Senegal River (which forms the northern border with Mauritania), the Saloum, the Gambia and the Casamance. Despite the fact that they are all seasonal, they are navigable on the lower courses.


It is characterized, as corresponds to a tropical climate, by the existence of two seasons, one dry, which takes place between November and June, and the other wet, between July and October. The average temperature in January is 23.3 ºC and in July 28.3 ºC. Average annual rainfall is higher in the south, reaching an average of 1,400 mm, and decreases the further north, where it does not reach 381 mm per year.

Flora and fauna

The northern part of the country is part of the Sahel, a transition zone between the Sahara in the north and the more humid regions in the south. The flora of this part of the country is mainly made up of savannas where grass grows, the odd group of trees and thorny shrubs. Further south, in the Gambia River region, the presence of trees is more common. At the southernmost end, the landscape is a set of swampy areas where mangroves grow, lush forests of oil palms, mahogany, teak and bamboo.

Regarding the fauna, although very varied, the small populations of large mammals, such as elephants, lions, cheetahs and antelopes, are found mainly in the eastern part of the country, which is less populated. The hippopotamus and the crocodile inhabit its rivers. Among the abundant species of snakes can be found the cobra and the boa constrictor.

Natural resources

The calcium and aluminum phosphate extracted from the mines near Thies are the main mineral resources available to Senegal. In addition, it has oil and natural gas reserves discovered off the coast in the late 1970s, but they have not yet been exploited. Also unexploited, due to the lack of infrastructure to access them, large deposits of iron ore remain.


In 2005, 44.1% of the total area of the country was forested. Although drought conditions have prevailed since the late 1960s, fauna and flora are more abundant than in most Sahel countries. As a country located in Africa according to CHEEROUTDOOR, Senegal is the world’s largest exporter of exotic birds and the country is rife with poaching of other animals.

Demographic pressures, the result of a very high annual population growth rate of 2.58% (2008), led to the clearing of forests in search of more land for crops and firewood and an increase in grazing on farmland. fragile soils. This deforestation and overgrazing, together with persistent drought, have caused desertification in large areas of the country. Only 76% (2004) of the rural population have access to safe drinking water and only 34% have access to adequate sanitation facilities.

The Senegalese government has launched reforestation programs to combat desertification and has protected more than 10.8% (2007) of the national surface as parks and reserves. The Niokolo-Koba National Park, in southeastern Senegal, covering 9,000 square kilometers of forests and savannahs, protects a wide variety of animal species. The park was declared a World Heritage Site in 1981. The government has ratified international environmental agreements regarding biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, dangerous dumping, law of the sea, conservation of marine life, prohibition of nuclear tests, protection of the ozone layer, naval pollution, wetlands and whaling.


The country’s population is made up of a wide variety of ethnic groups, of which the Wolof make up 44% of the total population; the Fulani and Tukulor, 24%; the serer, 15%; the diola, 5%; and the Malinké, 4%.

In 2008 the population of Senegal was 12,853,259 residents, which meant a demographic density of 67 residents / km². The area that supports the highest concentration is the western coast. In 2005, 49% of the total was made up of the rural population and life expectancy was 55.7 years for men and 58.5 for women.

Dakar, which in 2003 had approximately 2,166,861 residents, is, in addition to the country’s capital, the main port and commercial center. It is followed in importance by the urban centers of Thiés (228,017 residents), Kaolack (199,023 residents), Saint-Louis (132,425 residents) and Ziguinchor (180,555 residents), all of them located in the western fringe of the country.

The official language of the country is French, but the Wolof, Serer and Fulani dialects are understood almost everywhere. Regarding religion, around 92% of the population is of Muslim faith, 2% of Catholic belief and the remaining 6% profess indigenous beliefs.

The literacy rate among the adult population in 2005 was 42.1%. Although, in theory, education is compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 12, in practice, only 80% of primary school-age children and 19% of secondary school children attended class in 2002–2003. The number of students in primary schools was 1,159,721, in secondary schools and vocational training 262,738 and in higher education 15,000.

In addition, 3,300 other students were studying in foreign countries, mainly in France. The University of Dakar, founded in 1949, has an outstanding institute dedicated to the research and study of Black Africa. The most important museums of the country, of art, history and maritime have their headquarters in Dakar.

Senegal Geography