Senegal Population, People, Languages and Religions

By | January 21, 2022

Senegal Country Overview

Where is Senegal located? The Republic of Senegal is located in western Africa. As a result of the colonial period, the official language is still French today. However, most of the inhabitants are of Islamic faith. On the time zone map, Senegal is in the “Greenwich Mean Time” zone, the world time zone in which there is no difference in time to the coordinated world time. This also remains the case during the summer months, since daylight saving time is not common in Senegal.

Bordering Countries of Senegal

According to abbreviationfinder, Senegal is bordered by five countries, including Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, Mali and Mauritania. Guinea lies to the south of Senegal and is connected to it by a shared border of 330 km. It covers an area of 245,857 sq km with a population of 12.5 million people. Its capital city is Conakry and its official language is French. It is a former French colony and has been independent since 1958.

Guinea-Bissau also lies to the south of Senegal and covers an area of 36,125 sq km with a population around 1.9 million people. Its capital city is Bissau and its official language is Portuguese as well as some local languages such as Balanta-Ganja, Fula and Manjaco. It has been independent since 1974 but has suffered from political instability in recent years due to coups d’état in 1998 and 2012.

The Gambia lies to the north of Senegal along the banks of the River Gambia which forms part of the border between them. It covers an area of 11,295 sq km with a population around 2 million people. Its capital city is Banjul and its official language is English although other local languages are also spoken such as Mandinka and Wolof. It was once part of British West Africa before becoming an independent nation in 1965.

Mali lies to the east of Senegal along its shared border which stretches for 2237 km in length. It covers an area of 1,240,000 sq km with a population around 18 million people. Its capital city is Bamako and its official language is French although other local languages are spoken such as Bambara and Songhay among others. It was once part of French West Africa before gaining independence in 1960 but has experienced political unrest in recent years due to civil war in 2012 which forced thousands to flee their homes for neighbouring countries like Senegal or Burkina Faso among others.

Senegal National Flag

Population Distribution

As of 2023, the latest population of Senegal is 15,736,368, based on our calculation of the current data from UN (United Nations).

Total population 15,736,368
Population growth rate 2.31%
Birth rate 33.40 births per 1,000 people
Life expectancy
Overall life expectancy 60.57 years
Men life expectancy 58.58 years
Women life expectancy 62.61 years
Age structure
0-14 years 41.15%
15-64 years 55.83%
65 years and above 3.02%
Median age 18.50 years
Gender ratio (Male to Female) 0.94
Population density 79.99 residents per km²
Urbanization 49.60%
36% Wolof, 23% Peul and Tukulör, 15% Serer, 6% Diola, 4% Mandingo, 2% Lébous, Sarakolé, Malinké and others; Moors
Muslim 92%, indigenous religions 6%, Christians 2% [mainly Catholics (Roman Catholic])
Human Development Index (HDI) 0.514
HDI ranking 166th out of 194

People in Senegal

Many people live in Senegal. The word Senegal is said to be derived from the Wolof word sunugaal. That means “our canoe”. Portuguese sailors got it wrong, and so the river itself was soon called that. The country was named after the river. We call the residents of Senegal Senegalese in German.

47 out of 100 people in Senegal live in cities, 53 out of 100 in rural areas. That is still little, but people are always moving to the cities.

People in Senegal: Wolof, Fulbe, Serer and Diola

The Wolof people (43.3 percent) make up the largest proportion of the population in Senegal. They founded several empires, including the Jolof Empire, which existed from the 14th to the 19th century, or the Waalo empire directly on the Senegal River (see History of Senegal). Today they mainly live in the northern coastal region.

23.8 percent belong to the Fulbe and Tukulor. They are grouped together because they speak the same language. The Fulbe used to live as nomadic shepherds, today many of them are settled. They live mainly on the Senegal River.

14.7 percent are serers. They live in the center and in the west of the country. They are often farmers and ranchers. The Serer also held several empires, for example the kingdom of Sine or the kingdom of Saloum.

The minorities include Diola (3.7 percent), Mandinka (3 percent) and Soninke (1.1 percent). Diola live in the south, i.e. south of Gambia, in the Casamance region. They live as rice farmers. Most of them are Christians. They fight for the independence of their region.

The children of Senegal

Every woman in Senegal has an average of 4.6 children. This is very much. With us, each woman has an average of only 1.4 children. Children and young people in Senegal make up a large proportion of the population. A little more than half of the population is under 18 years of age.

Infant mortality is 2.1 percent, child mortality 3.2 percent (here: 0.2 and 0.3 percent). That means: more than two out of 100 newborn children die, more than three out of 100 do not celebrate their first birthday. The numbers have been going down over the past few decades, but they’re still too high.

Languages in Senegal

The official language in Senegal is French, a legacy from the colonial era. The Wolof language is the most important lingua franca. Her name is also Wolof. Although only 43 percent of the population are Wolof themselves, 80 percent of the population speak this language. Wolof is one of the national languages ​​in Senegal.

In addition, Fulfulde, Diola, Serer, Mandinka and Soninke are also national languages. They are mainly written with Latin letters (which you also write with). But there are also variants in Arabic script. For example, Wolof can be written in both scripts.

Religions in Senegal

90 to 94 percent of Senegalese are Muslims, i.e. they belong to Islam. Almost all of them belong to a brotherhood or an order, which is something special in Senegal. These orders are the Tijani (50 percent of the Muslims in Senegal belong to it), the Murids (30 percent) and the Qadiriyya (10 to 15 percent).

Christians are only about 6 to 10 percent. They are mainly found among the Serians and the Diola.
Regardless of their religious affiliation, many Senegalese also adhere to traditional forms of belief, for example animism or belief in ghosts.