Traditionally, and much like The Gambia, Senegal’s main export was always the peanut or groundnut, however this has recently shifted and the country now exports more fish than ever before – primarily tuna to France. The service industry is also a major employer with some figures claiming as much as 57% of GDP coming from this sector. This level of employment in the services sector is only set to grow as more and more tourists come to the country and with the incredibly high standard of service in Senegal, and the consequent high number of returning customers, it is certainly a positive factor in the continued growth of the Senegalese economy.
During the 1970s Senegal, like many other African countries, was encouraged to borrow vast sums of money from Western governments, the World Bank and the IMF – with the proviso that they would use this money to advance their economy and increase GDP. Unfortunately the scheme was blighted by local level corruption and also the fact that the programs that were set-up were invariably in favour of cash crops or mineral exports – a situation which tended to favour those that had lent the money in the first place instead of the local economy. Essentially this led to a situation in which Senegal was in an impossible amount of debt, and barely able to pay off even the huge sums of interest accrued on the loans.
In the 90s this situation came to a head and the Senegalese government made the decision to devalue the CFA (Senegalese Franc) – a decision which in the short term had a disastrous effect on the country’s poor but should in the long run have a positive affect in terms of stabilising the economy, a plan which is now starting to bear fruit. Allied to this was Senegal’s qualification for debt relief in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries scheme initiated by the IMF, another factor in the overall improvement of the country’s economy.
We’re often asked the best way to conduct oneself when in Senegal, so as to ensure that tourist money finds it’s way to the places that need it most and in this we’re strong believers that awareness is the first step: both in terms of a knowledge of the situation and when spending money in the local area.