Senegal has emerged as a major economic centre in West Africa with one of the highest GDP growth rates in Africa between 2014 and 2018 (above 6% annually). The country’s economy largely hinges on the services sector, with growth driven by exports and investment. Natural resources such as fish, livestock, groundnuts and minerals also play an important role in the economy [1].

Worryingly, the extent and severity of poverty has increased [2]. The number of Senegalese classified as ‘poor’ continues to rise, from 5.7 million in 2015, to 6.3 million in 2020, according to the Green Economy Tracker, and around a third of the country still experiences severe deprivation. Food insecurity is widespread, a lack of infrastructure slows development, and the economy remains highly vulnerable to variations in weather and climate. And now COVID-19 threatens the fragile progress Senegal has been able to make in recent years [3].

Senegal faces huge challenges to achieving a strong, sustainable, and inclusive economy, including extreme poverty, unemployment, underemployment, an economy largely dependent on natural resources, and a lack of capacity for growth and development. For Senegal to overcome these challenges, a green economy must be promoted [2].

Natural resources have a decisive influence on Senegal’s economic performance. They still form the basis of economic activities, on which at least 60% of the population directly depends, including many poor rural populations who derive food, fuel, building materials, animal fodder, medicinal plants and income from them. Natural resources contribute to food security, employment, revenue generation and the national economy. However, pressure on these resources is only growing, to the point that their intensive use is threatening economic security [2].

With much of its territory classified as semi-arid, the country is also especially vulnerable to climate change impacts. As a large share of the population relies heavily on natural capital for their livelihood, committing to a green and inclusive economy is key to developmental success [4].


Constant pressure on natural resources, including among others, fishery, forestry and soil resources, accentuates their scarcity and/or degradation, which in turn contributes to climate change. These changes exacerbate the process of impoverishment and make populations, especially rural populations, more vulnerable, reducing the country's long-term economic potential [2].

Rapid urbanisation and migration to urban areas on the coast have increased demand for land, water and infrastructure, and have led to coastal ecosystem degradation, air pollution and land/water contamination due to inappropriate waste disposal [1].

In addition, ineffective urban development planning has led to consistent environmental issues, such as flooding and land degradation, and has exacerbated the country’s inability to cope with rapid urban growth. Unregulated exploitation of sand quarries and unsafe settlements in the city periphery without adequate social infrastructures and services have also compounded the effects of social inequality and urban poverty [5].

Senegal’s heavy dependence on imported oil for its energy supply has significantly undermined growth and competitiveness. Biomass represents half of Senegalese energy consumption, while petroleum account for approximately 36%. The high cost of energy coupled with unreliable electricity supply has also been a key constraint to private sector growth. There is a critical need for Government of Senegal to diversify its energy mix and attract private sector investments to ensure a competitive supply of electricity in the industrial zones and agricultural areas that have strong economic potential [5].


Key policies and governance approach

Senegal has emphasised the importance of the transition to a green and circular economy, among others, through the Plan Sénégal Emergent (PSE) (2014), including its phase 2 Priority Action Plan 2019-2023 and its environmental component (Green PSE) [1]. The Emerging Senegal Plan Phase 2 recognises social and environmental protection as vital goals, including an ambitious $5 million plan to create 100,000 new green jobs [3].

Relevant priority actions include interventions in the energy mix to promote 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 a “Zero Waste Programme”, which focuses on solid waste collection and treatment in urban areas. The Zero Waste Programme explicitly moves towards a circular economy and aims to reduce costs, reuse inputs, take harmful substances out of the environment and create awareness of relevant issues [1].

The focus on waste management and the transition to a circular economy has been corroborated by the National Programme on Waste Management and a recent Law on Plastic Waste (Loi No. 2020-04). The national programme consists of five components: legal and financial reforms; the development of a waste economy; improvement of solid waste management systems; inclusive, participatory and responsible management of the sector; and effective governance of the sector. This programme promotes the recovery and recycling of waste and encourages inclusive and participatory management of waste collection. A decree on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) – under development since 2015 – has been recently promoted through a consultation and dialogue process intended to accelerate the process [1].

In addition, the National Strategy for the Promotion of Green Jobs in Senegal (SNPEV) 2015-2020 aims to formalise jobs in the circular economy. Further strategies that support the transitioning to a green and circular economy in Senegal include: the National Strategic Orientation Document on the green economy, the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency 2015-2020/2030, Green Secondary Cities Development Program and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) adopted in December 2020.

Partnership for Action on the Green Economy (PAGE) has supported Senegal since 2014 to integrate the inclusive green economy into national policies, develop reforms for green jobs, promote green industries and build capacities in green skills, including by hosting National Green Economy Days (2015, 2018, and 2020) and establishing a National Platform on the Green Economy to engage stakeholders around green jobs, green finance and climate change [1].



There are some significant weak spots in Senegal’s green transition, especially around natural capital, sustainable finance, and carbon pricing – unsurprisingly perhaps, given the country’s LDC status. But perhaps the most worrying development for Senegal’s future is the 2017 discovery of vast and previously untapped off-shore oil and gas reserves: 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and a billion barrels of oil [3].

Few governments in Senegal’s position could refuse the promise of huge external investment and export earnings. But the risk of acute environmental damage, corruption, speculation, and eventual stranded assets means that this windfall arrives at a critical time – and in direct conflict with Senegal’s emerging green economy [3].

The circular economy transition also requires an expansion to the local government level. Political leadership at the national level needs to translate into action within local municipalities and collectivités. In this context, actors at the local level would benefit from resources in terms of time, investment, staff and technical support. As circular economy topics often span across sectors and topics, clear roles and responsibilities between ministries would facilitate the transition. Furthermore, efforts are needed to change perceptions of private sector actors on the tradeoff between profit and environmental impact as part of the private sector remains unconvinced of the economic benefits of transitioning to green and circular activities. Within a context of many competing priorities and recovery of the economy, an opportunity exists to integrate circular economy considerations into building back efforts as a means to enhance resilience and sustainability [1].


Initiatives and Development Plans

Senegal has positioned itself as a leader in West Africa with the construction of a number of highly innovative renewable energy projects that are supplying energy into the power grid [6]. Nearly 540,000 people in Senegal will get access to clean and affordable power following the launch of two solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, financed by IFC, the European Investment Bank and Proparco, under the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program [7].

The two plants that launched operations in 2021 are located in Kael and Kahone in Western Senegal and have a total capacity of 60MWac. They will provide energy at tariffs of 3.98 and 3.80 Euro cents per kilowatt hour, respectively – one of the lowest prices for electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa – and will help avoid 89,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year. This will support Senegal’s transition to cleaner, more affordable energy, while creating business opportunities for local communities [7].

In addition, in Senegal, the Project for the Promotion of Integrated Waste Management and the Economy of Solid Waste (PROMOGED) is promoting the development of the circular economy by improving solid waste management for six million people [8]

  • Identify, support and exploit opportunities in the most promising sectors for job creation and environmental protection – energy (especially renewable energies), building and construction, transport, basic industries, agriculture and forestry.
  • Priority actions on the green economy should focus on agriculture, increased use of renewable energies, and SMEs.
  • Adopt environmentally friendly land and water management practices.
  • Develop irrigation on a large scale (particularly through surface water and potential runoff) and broaden access to markets and essential inputs. 
  • Strengthen national and regional agricultural institutions so that they can contribute to agricultural research and outreach services and maintain quality levels.
  • Replace investments in high carbon-emitting energies with investments in clean energy.
  • Green investments in the forestry sector to help reduce deforestation and increase reforestation [9].