Senegal is one of the most stable countries in Africa and has considerably strengthened its democratic institutions since its independence from France in 1960. In March 2016, Senegal further reinforced its political system by a referendum that voted for reducing the length of the presidential term and establishing new regulations such as the intangibility of some articles of the constitution, the creation of a new consultative assembly and changes that allow independent candidate status as well as an official status for the opposition leader for all elections. Senegal has only had peaceful political transitions and currently has Macky Sall as president since 2012. The next presidential election is expected in 2019 while legislative elections are planned for 2017.
In the past few years Senegal’s macroeconomic performance was steadily on the rise, making Senegal the second fastest growing economy in West Africa, behind Côte d’Ivoire. Growth remained strong in 2016 with a rate of 6.4%. Progressively higher rates are expected for 2017 and beyond, driven by the vigour of the agricultural sector, the continuing recovery of the vegetable oil and sugar industries, as well as extractives, energy (in particular nascent activity around new oil and gas reserves), telecommunications and financial services. The slowly diversifying economy could also benefit from the continued implementation of the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PSE), which entered its fourth year in 2017 and aims to ease structural bottlenecks to growth and facilitate private initiative by basic structural reforms with the ultimate goal of turning Senegal into an emerging economy by 2035 with an average growth of 7% at that time.
Inequality in Senegal is moderate, and slightly lower than the Sub-Saharan African average. However, poverty remains high, affecting 46.7% and with very pronounced geographic disparities with almost 2 out of 3 residents poor in rural areas, especially in the south, versus one in four in Dakar. Urbanisation is nevertheless constantly increasing with the urban population at 43.7% (based on the census of 2015) with over 23% in only 0.3% of the territory of the population in the greater Dakar region due mainly to the inflow of people from the countryside, bringing with it a substantial demand for socio-economic infrastructure and raising the issue of sustainable urban management.