What We Do in Senegal

Freedom from Hunger’s work in Senegal began in in 2007 with the extension of Saving for Change to two NGOs.  In 2011, we began partnerships with two microfinance institutions to add the Credit with Education product to their financial services.  Our business plan aims to reach over 67,000 rural women in Senegal with combined financial and educational services by FY14.

About Senegal

  • Population (millions): 14.1 (2013)
  • Life Expectancy: 63 (2012)
  • Infant Mortality Rate (per 1000 births): 44 (2013)
  • Percentage of rural population with access to an improved water source: 60% (2012)
  • Fertility Rate (births per woman): 5 (2012)
  • Literacy Rate: 52% (2011)
  • Primary School Enrollment: 73% (2012)
  • Per capita GDP:  $1,047 (2013)
  • Percentage of population living on less than $2 per day: 60% (2011)
  • Ethnic Groups: Wolof 43.3%, Pular 23.8%, Serer 14.7%, Jola 3.7%, Mandinka 3%, Soninke 1.1%, European and Lebanese 1%, other 9.4%
  • Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, Mandinka
  • Religions: Muslim 94%, Christian 5% (mostly Roman Catholic), indigenous beliefs 1%


Senegal is located on the West African coast, between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania. After their independence in 1960, Senegal enjoyed one of the most peaceful transitions in Africa from colonial rule. Its first two elected Presidents each served for twenty years, with peaceful transfers of power, followed by a fully democratic election in 2000. Its principal political party was for 40 years the Socialist Party (PS); the current President of Senegal leads the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS).

Senegal is one of the few African states that has never experienced a coup d’état. Its largest political challenge—a secession attempt from the southern part of the country (Casamance)—started in the 1980s and extended until recent years, whereby the Senegalese government signed a peace agreement with the MFDC (Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance). Retaining a high level of international visibility, with relative political and social stability since its independence in 1960, Senegal has fared overall better in social progress than its neighbors.

Senegal is rich in arts and culture and has been influenced by their colonization. The Senegalese artistic practices include weaving fabric; embroidering; pottery-making; making jewelry from various metals, wood, beads, seeds and clay; woodcarvings; and sculpting statues.

Senegal was characterized as one of the best economic performers in sub-Saharan Africa from 1995 to 2005, with real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growing on average by about 5% annually, reflecting the first period of sustained increase since its independence. Senegal’s economy is largely comprised of a few sectors, including groundnuts, chemical industry, tourism, fisheries, and services.

A surge in international oil prices and incidents in other sectors of its exports caused a slowdown in 2006, but the government responded with macroeconomic reforms that helped to return GDP growth to historical trends. The largest economic challenge facing Senegal is to enhance growth and reduce poverty. Although Senegal realized a decline in poverty over the period of one decade, dropping from 68% in 1994 to 51% in 2005, Senegal remains a poor country with a high level of poverty, most prevalent in the rural areas.