Senegal is located at the westernmost point of the African continent and is served by various maritime and air routes; for this reason, the nation is referred to as the "Gateway to Africa." Tropical rain-forest, oceanfront, and semiarid grassland converge in the country to form an environment that is rich in animal and plant life. The country has grown by up to 30% since the year used as a base for calculating the nation's economy was changed from 1999 to 2014. That growth represented a growth in GDP from $15.3 billion to $19.6 billion. The country's annual economic growth was 6% in 2015, 6.2% in 2016, and reached a high of 7.2% in 2017. The agricultural sector has witnessed the highest rates of growth due to robust support programs and growing external demand. The government has been highly successful in diversifying the economy to include tourism, phosphates, and fishing.
Agriculture is dominated by food crops including cereals and industrial crops such as groundnuts and cotton. The nation's economy has traditionally revolved around peanut production. The government has increased efforts to diversify to other cash crops such as sugarcane and cotton and other non-agricultural sectors. Agriculture is practiced by over 66% of the nation's population.
Industry and Manufacturing
Industry and manufacturing account for 21.5% of the country’s GNP. Manufacturing in Senegal is more developed compared to most West African countries. The handicraft and food processing industries are well established. Senegal is a major exporter of peanut oil in West Africa. The government’s push for privatization had led cooperatives to sell their produce to local oil producers. The country has a significant number of metalworking plants, bicycle, and truck assembly plants and chemical industries which were established to reduce the reliance on importation of goods that could be produced locally. The nation also has a cement manufacturing plant and a shoe factory in Rufisque as well and fish canneries. The capital city, Dakar, is home to various industries, which include flour mills, sugar refineries, textile plants, a brewery, a tobacco factory, vehicle assembly, naval shipyard, and chemical plants. Other industries which are concentrated around Dakar include traditional jewelry making, wood carvings, painted fabrics, and glass paintings.
Food and Beverages
The food and beverage sector is the best performing in the industrial sector. The main products of the industry include sugar, milk, beer, and soft drinks. Others include flour, bottled mineral water, fish products, and canned vegetables. There are some biscuit manufacturers as well as wheat and millet mills. The nation also has pasteurizing plants for Senegalese milk. The milk processing industry, however, has no UHT units.
The textile industry in Senegal is vertically integrated. There are companies that deal with all aspects of the production process right from the picking of cotton to the manufacture of home textiles and clothing. The industry is leveraged on the local production of cotton.
Construction and Materials Industry
The construction industry experience growth of up to 11.7% in the year 2007 due to increased public works in preparation of the Islamic Conference that was held in Dakar. Additional growth was experienced in the year 2010 due to the construction of the motorway between Diamniadio, Dakar, and the Blaise Diagne international airport. The industry has shown continued growth as the overall economy continues to grow.
The Chemical Industry
The nation’s chemical industry is critical to the economy and is remarkably diversified. Oil refining in the nation had a capacity of 1.4 million tons a year. Other significant industries include plastics, pharmaceuticals, sulphuric acid, cosmetics, perfumes, fertilizers, pesticides, and phosphoric acid plants. Most of the products manufactured are consumed locally while a small portion is exported mainly to Mali and other countries.
The energy industry is still underdeveloped, and the nation occasionally suffers from frequent power outages and power cuts. The primary source of energy for most households remains charcoal whose dependence has led to the excessive destruction of the nation's forests. Rural electrification stands at 20%. The government is increasing efforts to boost electrification in the country with an emphasis on rural areas.
The mineral sector accounts for 1.9% of the nation’s GDP. Senegal is the world’s top producer of attapulgite. Other minerals found in the country include gold, gravels, lead, limestone, lime, salt, phosphate rock, petroleum, and silver. Private investors conduct the majority of mineral operations in the country. The mining industry is mainly focused on the exploration of the nation's large phosphate deposits. In recent years the government has undertaken to restructure phosphate mining industry thereby consolidating mining with fertilizer and phosphoric acid production under the same body. The vertical integration which was financed with German, American, and French capital was aimed at increasing production. The mining sector has tremendous potential for growth, but the government will have to look for foreign investment to exploit mineral deposits in the country. Additional capital will also be required to build the infrastructure needed to encourage foreign investment.
The government has invested considerably in the exploration of new oil wells without much success to date. Exploration efforts have been concentrated around Dakar and Casamance (an offshore site) where heavy crude and traces of light oil were found. The majority of the country’s territory is still relatively unexplored. The government hopes that new oil findings will reduce import dependence on oil and boost exports
Prospects and Challenges
According to the IMF, Senegal is at an economic turning point. The government has ambitious and achievable goals. However, there are some challenges that need to be overcome for the country to realize its full potential. The nation has to improve its investment environment if it is to attract foreign investment. The government has instituted commendable efforts meant to improve the investment environment but still lags behind some African peers. The country has for example only attracted 2% of its GDP in foreign investment in the past few years while other lower-middle income African peers have attracted up to 7% of their GDP in foreign investment over the same period.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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