Senegal, the westernmost country in Africa, has a population of about 15 million people. Nearly half of the Senegalese population – 46.7 percent, to be exact – are living in poverty. The following 10 facts should help explain and give context to the Senegal poverty rate.

  1. The Senegal poverty rate is determined in terms of consumption. Estimates of consumption per household are divided by the number of adults in the household; this number excludes children, who are assumed to consume less than adults. From here, a minimum acceptable standard of consumption is calculated and individuals below this level of consumption are considered poor or living under the poverty line.
  2. Geographic disparities in poverty exist between rural areas and Dakar, the capital city and largest city in Senegal. In rural areas, 66 percent of residents are considered poor compared to 23 percent of residents in Dakar. Additionally, the general poverty line in Dakar is almost two times higher than it is in rural areas.
  3. As of 2011, about 38 percent of Senegal’s population was living on $1.90 or less a day.
  4. Senegal’s gross national income as of 2016 was $950.
  5. Senegal’s economy relies on industries such as mining, construction, agriculture, fishing and tourism, but also heavily relies on foreign aid and remittances. Nearly 75 percent of the population works in the agricultural sector, which is regularly threatened by inclement weather such as drought and other climate changes.
  6. Senegal has a poor economy and, as a result, many Senegalese people emigrate to other countries. An economic crisis in 1970 ignited migration, which accelerated even more by 1990. Many migrants left for Libya and Mauritania, searching for opportunities in their thriving oil industries. Others left for more developed countries such as France, Italy and Spain for other economic opportunities.
  7. Senegal’s GDP rose at an average rate of 4.5 percent from 1995 to 2005. After 2005, however, while the rest of Africa enjoyed economic growth, Senegal’s economy started to decline. From 2005 to 2011, Senegal’s economy rose at an average rate of 3.3 percent. Decline in economic growth, especially during 2005 to 2011, can be attributed to drought, floods, rising fuel prices and the global financial crisis.
  8. The World Bank reported that Senegal’s GDP growth is too low for significant poverty reduction.
  9. The fertility rate in Senegal is almost 4.5 children per woman. Young people comprise a large portion – 60 percent – of the Senegalese population. Additionally, Senegal has an illiteracy rate of 40 percent and a high unemployment rate of 12.7 percent, both of which provide dim outlooks for Senegalese youth. According to the Hunger Project, 22 percent of children ages five to 14 are working and not attending school.
  10. Unlike many countries facing extreme poverty, Senegal has one of the most stable governments in Africa and is considered a model for democracy in Africa. Since its independence from France in 1960, Senegal has elected four presidents and has witnessed three peaceful political transitions.

Despite the fact that the Senegal poverty rate is high, many projects have been implemented to reduce the poverty rate. President Macky Sall unveiled the Emerging Senegal Plan (ESP), which strives to prioritize economic reforms and growth. The International Monetary Fund has been providing assistance for the ESP from 2015 to 2017.

In an attempt to take a fresh look at poverty, Senegal’s national statistics office distributed the second Senegal Poverty Monitoring Survey. The World Bank, the Canadian government and the World Food Programme provided financial support. The survey, however, has room for error because it is heavily dependent on the time of year that residents fill it out, as consumption levels vary based on the harvest.

Microfinance has become a key role in reducing poverty in very poor countries, such as Senegal. This program has allowed poor individuals who are excluded from traditional banking to obtain micro loans. The Hunger Project introduced the Microfinance Program (MFP) in Senegal, which strives to incorporate female farmers and entrepreneurs in order to give them a larger voice in the community. Three of the MFPs in Senegal have been approved by the government to operate as Rural Banks. MFPs provide credit and savings programs and have allowed many farmers to move beyond exclusively subsistence farming.

Economic growth will be the key component in reducing poverty in Senegal. These projects involving the Senegalese government and other various organizations will spark this economic growth, which should in turn help to reduce the Senegal poverty rate.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr