Located in the western most part of the African continent, Senegal is bordered by Mauritania in the North, Mali in the East, Guinea and Guinea Bissau in the South and by a 550km coastline of the Atlantic Ocean in the West . Internally the country almost completely surrounds The Gambia, namely on the north, east and south, excluding Gambia's short Atlantic coastline which does not border Senegal. Senegal enjoys a dry tropical climate and has a population of 16.7 million people, a quarter of whom live in the Dakar area (0.3% of the territory) .
Senegal’s landscape consists mainly of the rolling sandy plains of the western Sahel, which rise to foothills in the southeast. The northern border is formed by the Senegal River; other rivers include the Gambia and Casamance Rivers. Senegal contains four terrestrial ecoregions: Guinean forest-savanna mosaic, Sahelian Acacia savanna, West Sudanian savanna, and Guinean mangroves .
From 1960 to 2020, the population of Senegal increased from 3.21 million to 16.74 million people, an average annual population growth rate between 2 and 3%. With one of the highest birth rates in the world, Senegal’s population is projected to surpass 50 million by 2077 .
Senegal has an urbanization rate ahead of the average for Sub-Saharan Africa and almost half of the country’s population live in urban areas. Senegal’s urban population has almost doubled in the last few decades, rising from 23% in 1960 to 48% in 2020, and is projected to reach 60% by 2030. This growth comes with immense challenges, but also constitutes an opportunity for Senegalese policymakers to structurally transform the Senegalese economy .
The economy of Senegal is driven by mining, construction, tourism, fishing and agriculture. These are the main sources of employment in rural areas, despite abundant natural resources in iron, zircon, gas, gold, phosphates, and numerous oil discoveries recently.
Senegal is a lower-middle-income country (LMIC). In the past decade, the country’s economy has experienced rapid growth, and grew by more than 6% per year between 2014 and 2018. However, the pandemic has significantly changed the country’s economic outlook, setting back tourism, transport, and exports . Nevertheless, growth is expected to pick up rapidly and reach 5.2% in 2021 (IMF forecast).
Senegal adopted a new development model to accelerate its progress toward emerging market status . The Senegalese Government is currently implementing the Emerging Senegal Plan (PSE), a unique reference framework for the country’s economic and social policy over the mid- and long-term, represented by the vision “An emerging Senegal in 2035, with a cohesive society under the rule of law“ .
As per the Emerging Senegal Plan (PSE), technology and innovation in Senegal are positioned as key drivers of socio-economic development. Linked to the PSE, the “Digital Senegal 2025” strategy aims to breathe new life into the economic sector through providing stakeholders with new growth drivers and sources, raising the contribution of digital technologies to GDP by 10%, and creating 35,000 direct jobs by 2025 .
Senegal stands out in West Africa as an example of stability and democracy. Since achieving independence from France in 1960, Senegal has experienced three peaceful transitions of power, whilst never experiencing a military coup. However, Senegal is suffering from a rise in the incidence of natural disasters, and is vulnerable to four main natural hazards: drought; locust invasion; flooding, often with associated epidemics; and a sea level rise associated with coastal erosion. Natural disasters, such as droughts and flooding, have increased the vulnerability of Senegal’s whole economy and affected the country’s development .
The main environmental legal instrument in Senegal is the Environmental Act (Code de l’Environnement). The regulation of this Law was approved by Decree N° 2001-282 of 12 April 2001, called Regulatory Part of the Code of the Environment. The key instruments for environmental protection in the Code address: biodiversity; desertification; forest management; air pollution; urban planning; and hazardous waste disposal. Commitments undertaken under the framework of the United Nations are highlighted as the basis for actions on climate change (with reference to the UNFCCC) and the control of the emission of pollutants (recalling the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol). All activities within this broad range of areas must have an environment permit issued by the competent authorities, on the basis of an impact assessment study. The assessment criteria consider the impact of the activity on climate change, ecosystem, natural resources, archaeological and historical buildings, and the welfare of the population .
The Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, established in 2014 (previously Ministry of Environment and Natural protection), is the institution bestowed with protecting the environment of Senegal against pollution of any kind and ensuring that polluting activities do not impact the living conditions of the Senegalese people. The Ministry has several different functions, including among others, the protection of waterways; the preservation of fauna and flora; the protection of the coasts, estuaries, and marine life from erosion; the development of environmental education; and the management of a change monitoring mechanism.
Additionally, the National Committee on Climate Change (COMNACC) functions with the jurisdiction over all domains concerning the activities related to the UNFCCC and its legal instruments, such as: technological transfer; energy efficiency; promotion of renewable energy; and carbon emissions reduction .
The European Green Deal is a key priority of EU cooperation between partner countries. Historically, relations between Senegal and the EU are excellent and dynamic, based on political dialogue, trade and development cooperation. EU intervention is line with the Government's Emerging Senegal Plan (Plan Sénégal Emergent), as well as the priorities of the EU Green Deal, and is guided by 3 strategic priorities: (i) green and sustainable growth for job creation, (ii) human development, and (iii) good governance.
Senegal, through its Plan Sénégal Emergent (PSE), has emphasised the importance of the country’s transition to a green and circular economy, including in its environmental component (Green PSE) and the phase 2 Priority Action Plan 2019-2023. Relevant priority actions include: the promotion of renewable energy (solar and wind); ecosystem protection, in particular, reforestation with the creation of the Senegalese Agency for Reforestation and the Great Green Wall; and the “Zero Waste Programme”, which focuses on solid waste collection and treatment in urban areas. The Zero Waste Programme moves Senegal towards a circular economy, and aims to reduce costs, reuse inputs, take harmful substances out of the environment, and create awareness on relevant issues .
Like most of Sahelian West Africa, Senegal is highly vulnerable to recurring environmental shocks. Droughts and floods have intensified in recent years, and climate change is expected to further increase the extremes of weather patterns and natural hazards facing Senegal. 90% of Senegalese industrial production can be found in Senegal’s urban coastal zone, as well as roughly 67% of the population. The coastal area is low-lying and rapidly expanding, characterised by high population suburbs, high water tables, and poorly planned drainage systems – all of which place much of the coastal population, infrastructure and ecosystems at risk of flooding and erosion.
In addition, climate change has a serious impact on climate sensitive sectors, such as agriculture (70% of production is rain-fed), livestock and fisheries, which account for 20% of GDP and employ the majority of Senegal’s workforce. Climate change disproportionately affects the poor and women, mainly through decreased agricultural productivity, increased food prices, coastal flooding and erosion, and associated health hazards. Under some scenarios, the number of people in extremely poor female-headed households could increase by up to 62% by 2030 .
Another key environmental-development challenge that Senegal is facing is related to land degradation and desertification. These are among the main causes of low agricultural productivity in Senegal. Extreme weather conditions related to climate change make matters worse, affecting food security, livelihoods and job opportunities, triggering forced migration from rural areas. Senegal is one of the African countries most affected by the advancing desert, and up to 34% of the country’s farmland is affected by drought.
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