Senegal - Country history and economic development



4TH CENTURY A.D. The first centralized state in what becomes the Senegal region, the Tekrur kingdom, develops in the Senegal River valley.

1040. Zenaga Berbers from the north establish an Islamic monastery, probably along the Senegal River. The monastery subsequently became the base of the Almoravids, who converted many of the region's people to Islam.

13TH CENTURY. The Tekrur kingdom falls under the dominance of the Mali Empire, which is centered to the east. During the same period, the Jolof kingdom arises on the northwestern savanna, conquering the Wolof inhabitants. Thereafter, various Muslim states and kingdoms rise and fall in the northern grasslands and central savannas of present-day Senegal, contributing to a tradition of centralized states and rigid social hierarchies.

1444. Portuguese navigators become the first Europeans known to visit the area of present-day Senegal and Gambia. Until the end of the 16th century, the Senegambian region is the most important source of slaves for the transatlantic slave trade.

1659. The French establish a slave-trading post on the island of Saint-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River, while the British establish a base around the Gambia River. These divisions later result in the independent nations of English-speaking Gambia and French-speaking Senegal.

1840s. Peanuts become the major trade commodity of interest for the French operating in Senegambia. In the coming decades France conquers the Wolof and Serer states in order to exert greater control over the peanut trade.

1886. With the decisive conquest of Cayor State, the French more or less control all of present-day Senegal, with the exception of the Casamance, which was not fully subjugated until the 1920s.

1890-1919. Beginning in the 1890s, a Senegalese urban elite that identifies with French culture and customs develops. In 1914, these elites are given the vote, and the urban areas in Senegal are allocated 1 seat in the French National Assembly. Blaise Diagne becomes the first African deputy. In 1919, he founds the Republican Socialist Party, the first western-style political party in the region.

1929. Lamine Gueye, Diagne's major political opponent, founds the Senegalese Socialist Party, with links to the French Socialist Party.

1930s. The decline in global demand for peanuts as a result of the global economic depression leads to increased hardship and poverty in Senegal.

1945. The French government extends the vote to rural Senegal, which gains a seat in the French assembly alongside that of the urban areas. Gueye wins the election for the urban seat while his protégé, Leopold Sedar Senghor, wins the rural seat. Senghor later breaks with the socialists and founds his own party, the Senegalese Democratic Bloc (BDS).

1956-59. France permits limited self-government within its African colonies. In 1957, the socialists merge with the BDS to form the Senegalese Progressive Union (UPS), which subsequently wins a strong majority in the 1959 national elections. Popular demands for complete independence from France increase, and the UPS negotiates with the French government for independence as part of a Mali Federation.

1960. On 4 April, the Mali Federation, which combines present-day Senegal and Mali, becomes independent, but the federation is short-lived. Rivalry between Senegal and Mali soon leads to its dissolution, and in August 1960, Senegal becomes an independent state with Leopold Senghor as president.

1962. A power struggle between President Senghor and Prime Minister Mamadou Dia leads to the latter's imprisonment and the banning of opposition parties.

1968. Lack of political debate leads to student protests and union strikes, which are routinely crushed by the army.

1970-75. The rapid rise in the cost of imported oil, combined with drought in the Sahel region, creates an economic crisis.

1973. The West African Economic Community (CEAO) of 7 francophone states is established to facilitate trade between member states.

1975. Senegal joins the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization of 16 West African states designed to facilitate trade and development between members.

1976. The government releases Dia from prison, and a new constitution permits 3 political parties.

1977. Senghor wins the first contested presidential elections since 1963.

1980. As Senghor's popularity declines due to economic stagnation, the president announces his resignation.

1981. Senghor's protégé, Abdou Diouf, takes office. Under the auspices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Diouf gradually replaces the Socialist Party's ideology of state-led "African Socialism" with a free-market oriented policy. Senegal and Gambia proclaim a regional alliance, the Senegambian Confederation.

1984. Discontent in the rural Casamance region of Senegal leads to the beginning of an internal rebellion by the Movement of Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC).

1989. The Senegambian Confederation is disbanded due to Gambian fears of absorption into Senegal.

1994. The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) is established to replace the CEAO. The CFA franc, the common currency of UEMOA, is devalued by nearly 100 percent.

2000. Abdoulaye Wade, from the Democratic Party, is elected president, making him the country's first non-socialist president since the country gained independence in 1960.

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