Senegal (officially the Republic of Senegal), is a country south of the Senegal River in western Africa. Senegal is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The Gambia lies almost entirely within Senegal, surrounded on the north, east and south; from its western coast, Gambia's territory follows the Gambia River more than 300 kilometres (186 miles) inland.
Senegal has historically been a country with a relatively stable political climate, a free society, and democratic institutions. The people of Senegal are well known for their hospitality or "teranga" and welcome people from all nations to their country.
Senegal is a republic with a powerful presidency. The president is elected by universal adult suffrage. The current president, Macky Sall, was elected in March 2012. Senegal has dozens of political parties, but politics are dominated by the Democratic Socialist Party. Senegal has a unicameral National Assembly with 120 members elected separately from the president and an independent judiciary.
Today Senegal has a democratic political culture, being one of the more successful post-colonial democratic transitions in Africa. Local administrators are appointed by, and responsible to, the president. The marabouts, religious leaders of the various Senegalese Muslim brotherhoods, also exercise a strong political influence in the country.
Senegal ranks among some of the least developed countries in the world. Recurrent periods of drought and the impact of desertification over the past four decades have decreased agricultural production and industrialization. Roughly 70 percent of the population depends on agricultural production for subsistence and income, which contributes less than 25 percent to the GDP.
In 1994 Senegal undertook an economic reform program with the support of the international donor community. This reform began with a 50 percent devaluation of Senegal's currency, the CFA franc, which was linked at a fixed rate to the former French franc and now to the euro. Government price controls and subsidies were partially dismantled.
The main industries include agriculture, tourism, food processing, mining, cement, artificial fertilizer, chemicals, and textiles. Exports include fish, chemicals, cotton, fabrics, peanuts, and calcium phosphate.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, Senegal's population is approximately 12,643,799 (2011 est.). About 70% of Senegal's population is rural. In rural areas, density varies from about 77 per square kilometer (200/mile²) in the west-central region to 2 per square kilometer (5/mile²) in the arid eastern section.
Senegal is located in West Africa. The Senegalese landscape consists mainly of the rolling sandy plains of the western Sahel which rise to foothills in the southeast. Here is also found Senegal's highest point, an otherwise unnamed feature near Nepen Diakha at 584 m (1926 ft). The northern border is formed by the Senegal River, other rivers include the Gambia and Casamance Rivers. The capital Dakar lies on the Cap-Vert peninsula.
The local climate is tropical with well-defined dry and humid seasons that result from northeast winter winds and southwest summer winds. Dakar's annual rainfall of about 600 mm (24 in) occurs between June and October when maximum temperatures average 27°C (81°F); December to February minimum temperatures are about 17°C (63°F). Interior temperatures can be substantially higher than along the coast, and rainfall increases substantially farther south, exceeding 1.5 m (59.1 in) annually in some areas. The far interior of the country, in the region of Tambacounda, particularly on the border or Mali, temperatures can reach as high as 130°F (54°C).
Currently, Senegal divides itself into 14 administrative regions, 12 within which Peace Corps Senegal operates. Peace Corps has combined certain administrative regions due to volunteer site placement and regional offices. Therefore Peace Corps senegal operates within 8 active "regions." The Peace Corps Senegal regions are as follows: Dakar-Thies-Diourbel, Fatick-Kaolack-Kaffrine, Louga, Saint Louis-MatamTambacounda, Kedougou and Kolda
The Coastal Regions: Dakar-Thies-Diourbel regions are home to the capital city, Dakar and some of the larger cities in Senegal, such as Touba, Thies, and Mbour. These urban communities contain about 20% of Senegal’s population and are growing due to increasing urban migration. In addition, beautiful beaches line the Petite-Cote south of Dakar adding to the tourist trade primarily geared toward European tourists. Volunteers within this region speak predominately Wolof and French, the national languages of Senegal.
Northern Senegal: Northern Senegal is home to the St. Louis, Matam and Louga regions. St. Louis and Matam are in the long arid region that runs along the Senegal River and are home to some of the most remotely placed volunteers in the country. The majority of the population consists of the Pulaar ethnic group. The region hosts some of the hottest temperatures in West Africa and the lowest rainfall in Senegal. These conditions make the Senegal River the lifeblood of the region. The Louga region, located in the Sahel zone of north-central Senegal, has Peace Corps volunteers working in each of its three departments, Louga, Linguère and Kébémer. Ethnically, the region is primarily Wolof and Pulaar. The regional economy is based on subsistence agriculture, the sale of small-scale cash crops, the trade of livestock, and tree harvesting. The region’s climate is semi-arid with low annual rainfall.
Mid-Central Senegal: Mid-Central Senegal is home to the regions of Fatick, Kaolack, Kaffrine, and Tambacounda. These regions host a wide variety of ecosystems including the rich Gambia River delta, the continuation of the Petite-Cote bordering the Atlantic Ocean south of Dakar, and a part of the Peanut Basin (farmland). The economy varies from the west to the east. In the west, farming, tourism, and trade are the predominate source of income. As you move east toward Tambacounda, income is primarily generated through subsistence farming and the selling of cash crops like peanuts. Fatick and Kaolack, home to the Petite-Cote and the Gambia River Delta consist of primarily the Wolof and Sereer ethnic groups. Kaffrine, bordering Tambacounda to the east and Kaolack to the west is home to the Wolof and French. Tambacounda, one of the largest most sparsely populated regions in Senegal has a large mix of ethnic groups; Pulaars, Jaxanke, Mandinka, Bambara, Sereer and Wolof all make their home here.
Southern Senegal: In southern Senegal, volunteers work within two main regions, Kedougou and Kolda. Kedougou is nestled between Guinea and Mali at the northern end of the Fouta-Diallo mountains. The Kedougou region offers some of the most beautiful terrain in the country. It is a region rich in natural resources including gold, iron ore, and uranium. Most volunteers speak dialects of Pulaar and Mandinka. Kolda lies beneath the Gambia in a more tropical region in the south of Senegal. Culturally unique and geographically isolated from the rest of Senegal, it retains a unique flavor. Most volunteers in Kolda speak dialects of Pulaar and Mandinka.
Senegal has a wide variety of ethnic groups and, as in most West African countries, several languages are widely spoken. The Wolof are the largest single ethnic group in Senegal at 45 percent; the Fula and Toucouleur -also known as Halpulaar'en, literally "Pulaar-speakers"- (24 percent) are the second biggest group, followed by the Serer (14.7 percent), and others, such as Jola (4 percent), Mandinka (3 percent), Maures or (Naarkajors), Soninke, Bassari and many smaller communities (9 percent). Although the Wolof ethnic group is about 45% of the population a large majority of Senegalese speak Wolof as a first or second language. French is the official language and is used in the public education system in Senegal.
According to the CIA World Factbook Islam is the predominant religion the country. Islam is practiced by approximately 90 percent of the country's population; the Christian community, at 10 percent of the population, includes Roman Catholics and diverse Protestant denominations. There is also a 1 percent population who maintain animism in their beliefs, particularly in the southeastern region of the country.
Islamic communities in Senegal are generally organized around one of several Islamic Sufi orders or brotherhoods, headed by a khalif (xaliifa in Wolof, from Arabic khalīfa), who is usually a direct descendant of the group’s founder. The two largest and most prominent Sufi orders in Senegal are the Tijaniyya (Tidiane), whose largest sub-groups are based in the cities of Tivaouane and Kaolack; and the Murīdiyya (Murid), based in the city of Touba.
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