What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Senegal?

By Benjamin Elisha Sawe on February 25 2019 in Economics

Colorful fishing boats on the Bay of Ngor in Dakar, Senegal.
Colorful fishing boats on the Bay of Ngor in Dakar, Senegal.

Senegal is a country found in West Africa bordering several nations including Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Guinea, Mali, and the Gambia. The Gambia occupies a narrow strip of land along the banks of Gambia River which separates the southern region of Senegal also known as Casamance from the northern part of the country. Senegal occupies an area of 76,000 square miles with a population of about 15 million people. According to 2018 estimates, the country had a nominal GDP of $24.24 billion and GDP based on purchasing power parity of $59.9 billion. Senegal also had a nominal GDP per capita of $1,485 and GDP per capita based purchasing power parity of $3,675. The country is mainly rural with relatively few natural resources, and most of its foreign income is derived from the export of crops, fish, granite, and tourism. The country has one of the highly-developed tourism industries in the continent. Some of the natural resources in the country include arable, beautiful scenery, forests, fish, and minerals such as phosphates among others.

Senegal's Natural Resources

Arable Land

According to FAO, arable land in Senegal accounted for 17.5% of the total land area as of 2015, and the country relies heavily on agriculture. The location of the country in the Sahel region means that the country receives erratic rainfall and the country is also characterized by non-fertile soils and the irrigated land is approximately 5% of the country. Other regions within the country rely mainly on rain-fed farming which employs approximately 75% of the country's labor force. Most of the agricultural production is mainly subsistence, and they are prone to threats of pests like locusts, drought, birds, fruit fly, and whiteflies. Some of the principal crops cultivated in the country include corn, millet, sorghum, and rice. The country relies mainly on agriculture, but still imports most of its food items particularly rice which accounts for 75% of the cereal imports into the country. Some of the crops such as cotton, sugar cane, peanuts, and wheat are grown extensively throughout the country mainly for local consumption and export market as well. The region of Casamance, which is separated from the other part of the country by the Gambia, is one of the highly productive regions in the country, although the region does not have sufficient infrastructure or transport that could easily improve its capacity.

Livestock and Poultry

As of 2003, the population of livestock in Senegal was slightly above 3,000,000 herds of cattle and about 8,700,000 goats and sheep. Although the country has a robust population of livestock, Senegal still imports meat particularly the sheep during festivities during peak consumption seasons, particularly the religious events and holidays. In 2003, meat production was100,000 tons which was equivalent to per capita consumption of about 25.4 pounds which was below the government's intended level of about 31.2 pounds. Milk production in the country is far below the local demand and the country imports milk powder of about 20,000 tons every year particularly from Europe. The country imported dairy products worth about $100 million in 2006. The production of milk locally relies heavily on climatic conditions, and during rainy season milk production increases significantly and then slows down during the dry seasons, and during the severe drought, there is completely no production of milk in the country. In 2005, there was a ban on imports of chicken meat into Senegal as a result of avian influenza, and ever since the production has been increasing gradually, and currently it is estimated to employ about 1,000 people. As of 2003, there were approximately 3.2 million chickens in Senegal producing about 5,982 pounds of meat.


Fishing in Senegal is one of the most important economic activities because the country has a coastline which stretches for about 448 miles long and has an extra-continental shelf, which covers about 9,653 square miles. Some of the fish caught in Senegal include tuna, sardine, and harvesting of sole, mullet, shrimp, and cuttlefish among others. Besides the commercial fishing, there is traditional fish catch particularly for local sale, and some local factories purchase some for processing. Fishing, in general, has a long history in the country as a major source of foreign exchange. In 2005, marine food alone accounted for 22% of the country's entire exports earning the country in excess of $366 million derived from an average catch of about 40,000 tons yearly. The production was in contrast to the catch in 2004 which was about 430,000 tons generating about $374 million. Fishing sector in Senegal is typically a major employer and several people depend on fishing for nutrition and according to the estimates from the government, there were in excess of 200,000 people employed in the industry and several others in the associated informal sectors such as artisanal fishing, which use traps, lines, and nets. The EU has been the biggest export market for Senegal’s seafood.

Beautiful Scenery

Senegal has beautiful sceneries across the country which has been utilized to attract tourists around the world and tourism play a significant role in the country. The tourism sector in Senegal is among the best developed in the continent. From 1990, the country made an ambitious plan to attract tourists from around the world going beyond its former colonial power of France which was successful and currently there are many visitors from Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, and the neighboring countries like the Gambia. Other tourists also come from northern Europe and America who are attracted to the beautiful coastal resorts, especially in Banjul. In 2008, visitor arrivals in Senegal reached the 1 million mark which was a great milestone in the country's tourism sector, and the return rate of visitors was put at 30% as of 2008. Some of the best tourist attractions in the country include the pre-historic slave trade post at Goree Island, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Other attraction sites include the country's national parks and subsystems which include the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary and the Langue de Barbarie National Park.

Economy of Senegal

Senegal is among the few most stable nations in Africa, and it has gone through only three significant political transitions since independence, and each time it has been peaceful contrasting to most of the African nations. The country's economic growth has averaged about 6% up to 2015 and accelerated to 6.2% as of 2016, and grew even further to reach 7.2% as of 2017. The principal sectors responsible for the growth include agriculture.

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