Senegal, westernmost country in Africa, formerly part of French West Africa.
Land and climate
Bordering on the Atlantic Ocean, Senegal is flanked on the north by Mauritania, on the east by Mali, and on the south by Guinea. The small independent country of Gambia cuts deeply into southern Senegal from the Atlantic coast, forming a long, narrow enclave along the Gambia River. Senegal has an area of 75,955 sq mi (196,722 sq km). The country is mostly plain, with the semi-desert Ferlo area in the northeast and savanna grassland elsewhere. In the north, the Senegal River has a broad flood plain which is cultivated. The south is drained by the Gambia, Casamance, Sine, and Saloum rivers. The coastline is sandy in the north and muddy in the south. Climate varies, but is relatively cool along the coast most of the year. Inland temperatures are much higher, especially in the northeast.
The people are black African, the most numerous ethnic groups being the Wolof, Fulani, Serer, Toucouleur, and Diola peoples. More than 80% of the people are Muslim. Dakar, the capital, is a modern port city. The official language is French.
The majority of the people are employed in agriculture, the mainstay of Senegal's economy. Peanuts are the major crop, and peanut processing is the leading industry. Senegal's industrial sector is growing. Limestone and phosphates are important mineral exports, and oil and natural gas deposits have yet to be exploited.
Parts of Senegal were within the medieval empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. Under French control and part of French West Africa from 1895, Senegal became part of the Federation of Mali from 1959 to 1960, but declared independence in 1960. Under the presidency of Leopold-Sédar Senghor for two decades following independence, Senegal elected Abdou Diouf to succeed Senghor in 1981. Diouf was reelected in 1988. In the 1990s Diouf had to deal with a secession movement in Casamance.