Last year, Senegal marked its third peaceful transfer of power since the country gained independence in 1960. In March, former prime minister Macky Sall was elected president, unseating long-time incumbent Abdoulaye Wade. Wade’s controversial bid for a third term in office had touched off violent protests in Dakar. Africa’s third oldest democracy, Senegal is also the only West African nation to have never undergone a coup.
Yet even as Senegal’s democratic credentials remain intact, it continues to rank among the world’s poorest countries. According to the World Bank, 47 percent of Senegal’s population lives in poverty. In the U.N. Development Program’s 2011 Human Development Index, Senegal placed 155th out of 187 countries. Promising a “new era” for the West African country, Sall has pledged to tackle poverty as well as reform and strengthen political institutions in Senegal.
In its 2012-2016 country development cooperation strategy for Senegal, the U.S. Agency for International Development reaffirms Washington’s development partnership with Dakar. Through 2016, USAID programming in Senegal aims to achieve the following objectives:
Increasing inclusive economic growth
Improving the health of the Senegalese population
Achieving more effective citizen participation in the management of public affairs at the national and local levels
Citing low human development indicators in the region relative to the rest of the country, USAID will prioritize assistance to Senegal’s southern forest zone, including the conflict-affected Casamance area. The U.S. aid agency states that its programming in Senegal is aligned with Dakar’s 2011-2015 poverty reduction strategy called the Economic and Social Policy Document.