Senegal is one of Africa’s most stable democracies, with a history of acting as a regional mediator and peacekeeper. It’s never had a military overthrow of the government, setting it apart from most countries in the West African Economic and Monetary Union, a group of eight French-speaking nations that use a common currency pegged to the euro. Senegal’s gross domestic product of $14 billion makes it the second-largest economy in the union after Ivory Coast.
Much of Senegal’s export revenue comes from fish and peanuts; about 60% of workers depend on agriculture. Senegal’s president, trained as a geology engineer, has pledged to boost mining of phosphate, iron ore, gold and zircon. But right now, mining is a sliver of the economy. Senegal’s economic growth was an estimated 4.6% in 2013 and is forecast to rise this year.
Business travel industry insight
Opportunities in mining, fishing and agriculture drive most corporate travel to Senegal. The government has committed to upgrading infrastructure to accommodate business. The Blaise Diagne International Airport, near capital city Dakar, is scheduled to open this year. A major toll motorway also is in the works. Public telecenters and Internet cafes have improved digital connectivity. The government has intervened to stabilize the country’s largest airline and now owns 51% of Senegal Airlines. It’s seeking air industry investors; South African Airways is a prospective partner, according to recent news reports.
Business travelers should be aware of possible safety concerns related to conflicts in the neighboring nation of Mali, as well as lower-level conflicts in Senegal’s Casamance region. Corporate travelers generally stay in and around Dakar, where the most common safety threat comes from minor street crime. A larger problem for business travelers is credit card fraud, which is particularly prevalent in Dakar. The U.S. State Department advises travelers to avoid using credit cards.
- Senegal is focused on luring more mining investment. The president has pledged to improve infrastructure and update the nation’s mining code.
- The country is undergoing other business-friendly reforms: investment in water and power projects; audits of state workers; streamlining of government agencies; and creation of an economic crimes court.
- The International Monetary Fund predicts Senegal’s inflation rate will be the second-lowest in Africa this year.
- The country suffers from an unreliable power supply, which has led to public protests and severe operational problems for businesses.
- The Senegalese economy relies heavily on donor assistance and foreign investment, making it very vulnerable to global fluctuations.
- Nearly half of Senegal’s citizens live in poverty, including 15% in extreme poverty.