WELCOME TO DAKAR ! We hope that your assignment in Senegal will be happy and rewarding, both professionally and personally. Over the past few years, Dakar has grown into a cosmopolitan regional center, with easy connections to multiple cities around the world. New businesses are popping up everywhere and it’s difficult to keep track of all the changes! This is good news for you, the newcomer, as there is a whole world of new places to discover and interesting thigns to do.
Adjusting to a new job, a new home, a new school, different languages, and all the sights, sounds and cultural differences of a new country can seem overwhelming — especially if it’s your first overseas assignment. Most of us have been through similar experiences, and all of us are anxious to help make the transition as smooth as possible for newly arrived employees and their families.
The information in this handbook has been compiled with that purpose in mind, and to complement the Post Report on Senegal. It is not intended to take the place of briefings and materials that you will receive upon arrival. This is merely a practical guide to living in Dakar. Keep in mind that this book does not include every listing here in Dakar, so when you find that special restaurant, or that favorite tailor or shop, please do not hesitate to contact your Community Liaison Officer and let her/him in on your latest finds. Every effort has been made to verify addresses and phone numbers – however, we count on your feedback to make this publication the most useful and user-friendly as possible.
In addition, we hope that you will take advantage of the CLO office and the services it offers. Seeking out information and conveying it to residents and visitors is an important part of our mission and we are anxious to assist you to the extent possible.
The CLO office is located on the second floor of the Kleber building. Our office hours are:
Monday – Thursday:8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Tel: (221)823-42-96 Ext. 2601/2602
In addition, we hope that soon you too will share your “Dakar discoveries” with us, so that we may add them when the handbook is next updated. Send your comments/additions/corrections and/or suggestions to CLOD2@State.gov, telephone 823-4296, extension 2601/2602 or simply stop by the CLO Office on the second floor of the Kleber building.
Finally, we wish to thank Susan Hullinger for our cover photograph. Susan shot this photo while discovering St-Louis and we think it’s appropriate; after all, this is your “Window to Dakar”.
Again, welcome to Dakar and we look forward to meeting you!
Community Liaison Office
INTRODUCTION TO SENEGAL
A PROFILE OF DAKAR
On May 15, 1877 the Commandant of Gorée and Dependencies, Capitaine de Vaisseau L. Protet, reported to the Government of the Second Empire in Paris, "I have the honor to inform you that I have raised the French flag over the small fort which we have constructed in Dakar." This flag, flying over an unexceptional Senegalese fishing village, marked the birth of Dakar (and the decline of Gorée) as the most important European settlement in West Africa.
During and after World War II, Dakar was developed as a seaport and administrative center. From 1902 to 1959 Dakar was the capital of the Federation of French West Africa. Since Senegalese Independence on April 4, 1960, Dakar has remained a regional commercial and cultural center. Today it is a city of roughly two million, with a large expatriate community of predominantly French and Lebanese nationals.
Dakar owes its importance to both location and history. The Dakar-to-Bamako railroad, built at the end of the 19th century, opened Dakar’s harbor as an outlet for exports from the vast hinterland of Senegal and Mali. Because traffic on the Senegal and Gambia rivers was thereby reduced to local commerce, the city of Saint-Louis – once the French capital and located at the mouth of the Senegal River 170 miles north of Dakar - diminished in significance.
Dakar is situated eight miles south of the "Pointe des Almadies," the westernmost tip of the African continent and the closest point to the Americas (distance from Dakar to Natal, Brazil: 1,865 miles). It became the eastern terminus of the first transatlantic air route and Dakar's Leopold Senghor Airport now serves as a key junction for air routes between North America or Europe and Africa and between Europe and South America. Its harbor is the half-way station between Europe and the countries of southern Africa and South America.
The basalt cliff outcroppings around Dakar and on the island of Gorée defend the land from the sea and earned the region its name as "the African Gibraltar." Dakar proved its defensive worth during World War II when, in September 1940, Free French warships (with General de Gaulle aboard) and a considerable British fleet failed to force a landing or wrest the city from the control of the Vichy Government.
Dakar is considered by many to be the most European city between Casablanca and Abidjan. On a plateau about 100 feet above sea level, Dakar has tall, modern buildings, handsome homes, and tree - lined avenues. With its many strikingly modern structures, including the National Assembly Building, the Kebe Building and the Daniel Sorano Theater, its center compares favorably with other modern cities. In addition, architecture that reflects African and Moroccan influences as well as Dakar’s colonial history gives the city a particularly interesting flavor. The Cathédrale du Souvenir African and the Grande Mosque are among the most impressive buildings.
The crowded Medina commercial and residential area adjoins the business district. To the north are suburbs including Grand Dakar, Kolobane, Baobabs, Point E, and Liberté. Some are randomly developed and others are carefully planned areas of bright modern houses surrounded by trees and gardens.
Industrial areas are found on the peninsula's eastern side, along the railroad to Rufisque and the interior. On the western side, beyond Medina and facing the open sea, is the impressive campus of the University of Dakar.
Senegal has a narrow, fragile resource base with an economy that is vulnerable to droughts and changes in international commodity prices. Its major exports are peanut oil, fish, phosphates and tourism.
Since 1984, Senegal has been engaged in a profound economic restructuring program designed to lay the foundation for long-term growth and development. To achieve this goal, the government is substantially reducing its role in the economy and seeking to create an environment that fosters private enterprise and growth. The government is also seeking to encourage greater industrial efficiency by lowering tariffs and trade barriers and exposing local business to foreign competition. The program has succeeded in generating an economic growth rate above the level of population growth, in large part as a result of increased agricultural production and rural incomes. Serious problems remain to be addressed, however, in the form of rising unemployment, a stagnant industrial sector, a troubled banking system and internal and external indebtedness. In January 1994, Senegal and the other members of the West African Monetary Zone underwent a major 50% devaluation of the regional currency unit, the Communautée Financière Africaine (CFA).