Social situation Poor conditions are causing rural exodus

The Senegalese government is facing major challenges in the fields of domestic and social policy. An estimated 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty, which particularly affects people in the mainly arid eastern and northern regions of the country. Although the food situation has improved over the last 20 years, almost 10 per cent of the population is still thought to be undernourished.

A young woman in Senegal

A young woman in Senegal

A young woman in Senegal

Education and health

There are also gaps in education and healthcare provision. The illiteracy rate is just above 50 per cent. Only around three quarters of school-age children attend primary school, and just over 60 per cent finish primary education.

In rural areas in particular, medical services are totally inadequate. Most doctors practise in the capital, Dakar, and very few hospital beds are available in rural areas. There is a high rate of maternal mortality related to childbirth, as well as a high mortality rate among children under five.

With regard to HIV/AIDS, the government's efforts to raise public awareness early on have paid off. The official infection rate in Senegal is 0.3 per cent, which is well below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (3.6 per cent).

Situation of women

Gender equality is enshrined in Senegal's constitution. However, the situation of women is still influenced by a traditional understanding of gender roles, particularly in rural areas of Senegal. Female genital mutilation is still common in some ethnic groups, affecting an estimated 24 per cent of women and girls aged between 15 and 49. Despite the existence of clear legal provisions, there are, in practice, insufficient prosecutions under criminal law.

A gender equality law applies to parliamentary elections. Currently, 71 of the 165 Members of Parliament are women, meaning that Senegal ranks among the world's leading countries in terms of representation of women in Parliament.

Two women on the coast near Dakar

Two women on the coast near Dakar

Two women on the coast near Dakar

Rural exodus and migration

Many people are moving away from the rural regions in search of a better life. Nearly half the Senegalese population of almost 17 million now lives in urban areas, with more than 20 per cent living in and around the capital, Dakar.

This is causing problems in the cities, especially as regards the drinking water supply, sanitation and waste management. Social conflicts are also worsening, as urban labour markets are unable to absorb the incoming population. The official unemployment rate is 3.7 per cent, but estimates suggest that some 40 per cent of the workforce is jobless or underemployed. The situation is particularly difficult for young people. Every year, a further 300,000 young people enter the labour market. There are not enough training opportunities and jobs for them. The situation is exacerbated by the high rate of population growth.

Every year, many Senegalese decide to emigrate in the hope of finding better prospects elsewhere. Most of them remain in the West Africa region, but Europe is also an attractive destination. The remittances from Senegalese migrants account for around 10 per cent of gross domestic product and are thus a significant economic factor.

As at: 09/08/2022