What is the ethnicity of the strictest parents?


Ethnicity and languages

Senegal is characterized by great ethnic and linguistic diversity. More than 20 ethnic groups with a corresponding number of languages ​​and subordinate dialects live on Senegalese national territory.

The traditional settlement areas had crystallized and consolidated in various migration movements in pre-colonial times. Today, due to the renewed large migration movements in the rural areas and especially in the cities, there is a greater mixing. The peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups and religions is generally a hallmark of Senegalese society, and today in almost every family you can find "married" members of different ethnic groups (with certain ethnic groups such as the Fulbe higher than others).

The figures on the various ethnic groups are contradictory, but this is also due to the fact that, due to this degree of mixing, it is often no longer possible to define clearly for those affected. It is the same with the determination of the number of speakers of Senegalese languages, the number of actual speakers is often much higher because counts often do not take into account the multilingualism of the individual speakers.

The numerically largest ethnic group are the Wolof, followed by the pulaar / fulspeaking Fulbe (referred to as Peulh in Senegal) and Toucouleur (who are seen as one or two different ethnic groups in Senegal, depending on how they are viewed).
Wolof originally only live in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania, the Fulbe are distributed in various groups all over West Africa. Other important ethnic groups are the Serer, the diolas residing in the Casamance, and various Mandingo groups. The numerically very small ethnic group of the Bassari (about 1% of the total population) has preserved a very original way of life in a once secluded hill country and is now often shown to tourists with their colorful clothes and dances.

Most Senegalese ethnic groups (an exception are the Diolas in the Casamance) were strictly stratified socially and divided into a complicated caste system. You were born into these castes, social mobility was impossible. With the Wolof, for example, there was initially a fundamental distinction between free and unfree (slaves). Within the free there were the nobles, the farmers, fishermen and other non-artisans and the artisans (blacksmiths, leather workers, woodworkers and weavers). At the bottom of this ladder and at the same time outside stood the griots, the singers and storytellers who handed down the genealogy and history of families or villages and were at the same time ostracized and feared. This actual subdivision no longer exists today, but a strong social stratification can still be felt in society today and the old caste categories influence social and industrial relations. Especially marriages outside of one's own caste are met with a lot of resistance.

There are also “white” minorities such as Mauritanians and Lebanese who have lived in Senegal for several generations. As a rule, these are active in the trade and often they move in isolated circles and there is no great intermingling with the other Senegalese.

A special feature of Senegal is the dominance of an indigenous African language. Although French is the official state language, the general vehicle language is Wolof, which is spoken by around 90% of the population. Radio and television now also broadcast a considerable part of their programs on Wolof, so that some ethnic groups complain about the creeping "Wolofisation" of Senegalese society.

There are around 20 recognized and codified "national languages" ("langues nationales") in Senegal, with increased literacy efforts for six of them (Wolof, Ful / Pulaar, Serer, Soninke, Diola, Mandingue). Despite various lip service at national and international level, the autochthonous languages ​​have never made it into mainstream schools. The "national languages" have been shuffled around between different ministries for years and can be found alternately in culture or, as is currently the case, in the school system.

Population development

The population density of 87 inhabitants / km² (estimate for 2021) has no meaning in the case of Senegal. Almost a quarter of the population lives in the greater Dakar area, which makes up just one percent of the country's area. The coastal areas and the areas behind represent the most densely populated areas, but the further you penetrate into the eastern hinterland, the thinner the settlement. While in the departments of Thies, Diourbel, Fatick and Kaolack about two thirds of the population live in only 19% of the area, in Tambacounda it is only 6% of the population in about 30% of the area.

Senegal shows a high degree of urbanization - above all the metropolis Dakar, which occupies a unique position in the country and is exposed to major traffic and environmental problems. The annual influx of people into the capital is estimated at around 100,000.

The rural exodus has not stopped since the severe droughts of the 1970s. For 2019, the urban population is given at 47.7% (HDR), with an average urbanization rate of 3.73% annually for the years 2015-2020, making Senegal the frontrunner among the states of West Africa.

The population is concentrated in the western parts of the country, especially on the coast. Dakar has 4,849 inhabitants per km², while the population density in the eastern regions is just under 15 people per km².
Not only residents of the surrounding areas migrate to the Senegalese cities but also many migrants from neighboring countries.
The average population is very young at 18.5 years; in 2019, 8.8 million (of 21.6 million) were under 15 years old (HDR).

Social situation

Almost a quarter of the population lives below the absolute poverty line and has to get by on less than one USD a day. Around 70% of the population work in agriculture under rudimentary and difficult conditions, but survival in the villages is becoming increasingly difficult. More and more people are moving to the cities, but there are no reception capacities for them either.
Only a fraction find a regular job in the formal sector, most of them have to make do with odd jobs in the informal sector or let the extended family support them, where there is always someone to bring the money home. Countless young male Senegalese try to immigrate illegally to Europe and many of them die in the Mediterranean or strand on the coast of Italy.
The informal sector dominates the economy. Only workers in the formal sector benefit from labor legislation, social security or state pension insurance, which work relatively well by the standards of a developing country. The reform of universal compulsory health insurance for all workers and their families is an important project of the Sall era.


Every morning, crowds from the suburbs wait on the feeder highway to catch a shared taxi to Dakar - many of them leave the house before sunrise and don't come home until late in the evening.

Gender ratio

To this day, women are disadvantaged in the family, social, economic and political areas. A young girl remains (traditionally) under the guardianship of her father until she can be placed under the care of her husband, who now takes on the role of the head of the family (Wolof: "borom ker - master of the house). Traditionally, the (Muslim) woman is under the “care” of a male family member for the rest of her life; only with the fragmentation of traditional structures does something slowly begin to change. At the same time, however, women have a strong role within these traditional structures: traditionally, women and men are strongly separated and women organize themselves in associations, savings associations (tontines), organize ceremonies and dominate the small and vegetable trade. The wife normally uses her income freely for herself, while the husband is responsible for household expenses (but this, too, has changed in times of economic precariousness).

To this day, girls are often married very early: Almost a third of girls are married before their 18th birthday and 9% before their 15th birthday. Despite the legal prohibition, female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to be practiced by some ethnic groups. Campaigns are being actively used against both practices in rural areas.

Polygamy is permitted by law; in principle, every couple, i.e. both man and woman, have to vote for monogamy or polygamy when entering into a marriage, but in practice it is hardly possible for a woman to enforce her will against that of the man.

Family law dates back to 1973 and still discriminates against women in some areas, such as divorce and custody, but still gives them far more rights than traditional law. In 2003 there was an attempt by an Islamic association (CIRCOF) to introduce a Sharia-based family law that should apply to the Muslim population. Fortunately, this project was unsuccessful, as it would certainly have led to a certain division in society.
But also with regard to the applicable law, many women do not know their rights or do not dare to enforce them against the resistance of the family or the social association. Numerous organizations try to support women in exercising their rights.

In addition to tradition, it is above all the lack of schooling and illiteracy that prevent women from advancing. Many families are more likely to send the boys to school or the girls to drop out of school early, often due to marriage or early pregnancy. In Senegal, only 15% of all girls go to secondary school (source: UNICEF). Organizations such as FAWE or UNICEF are committed to the education of girls.
Even if women are still generally underrepresented in all spheres, they are not denied access to the highest spheres and one simply finds the worldwide phenomenon of the underrepresentation of women again. There are female diplomats, female ministers, women general managers and large entrepreneurs. In May 2010, however, the Senegalese National Assembly passed a groundbreaking law aimed at ensuring gender parity in the elected institutions. Its interpretation is the strictest on the African continent and if a party does not have as many women as men on its list, it cannot take part in the elections. As a result of this law, Senegal is 11th in a global comparison of the proportion of women in parliaments in 2020 and is by far the leader in West Africa.
Without this legal stipulation of political participation, however, Senegal would be in international comparisons to gender relations such as the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 (99th out of 153) or the Gender Inequality Index in the Human Development Report 2020 with data for 2019 (130th out of 160) perform even worse.


In Senegalese society, family ties are very important, and it is the extended extended family. In a country in which there is virtually no state social provision for its citizens, the extended family also means social support, old-age provision and health insurance at the same time.
Respect for age is a fundamental value. The term age group is also very important (Wolof: “morom” - an equal, equal). Men and women of the same age group who grew up together have a special bond.
Ceremonies celebrated together are also important, which strengthen the cohesion of the extended family and the neighborhood / village: birth (baptism and naming), marriage, death and burial are celebrated on a large scale regardless of ethnicity and religion.


The education sector is fraught with many problems. At the World Education Forum in Dakar in April 2000, the international community decided on the Dakar Framework for Action, an international plan of action that aimed to achieve general basic education by 2015. To achieve this goal, the government decided on an ambitious ten-year plan, which was supported by the Fast Track Initiative (now Global Partnership for Education) of major donors such as the World Bank. Since 2005, spending on education has made up 40% of the state budget. The impact of these high investments is rated as largely inadequate.

The mainstream school system is based on the French system. It consists of a six-year elementary school and a seven-year middle and secondary school. For some years now there has also been an increase in efforts towards the pre-school system.
The language of instruction is French, a language that the majority of children do not speak, which naturally means great delays and losses in the learning process. The introduction of the national languages ​​into the classroom is, however, limited to a few tentative attempts at school, despite the generally better results and transfer rates of children.

The school system (as well as the university system) has been marked by strikes that have lasted for months. President Macky Sall made the rehabilitation of the school system one of his top priorities, but the last years of school were again marked by numerous strikes.

In addition to the French-speaking mainstream schools, Koran schools, in which Koran instruction and Arabic literacy take place, also play an important role. There are official efforts to modernize the Koran schools together with progressive thinking marabouts, but a corresponding bill was withdrawn in spring 2015 after protests by religious leaders. In the so-called "daaras modern", French and often a national language are taught in addition to Arabic, which should later enable the children to switch to a regular school or modern vocational training.
In addition to many correctly run Koran schools, there are countless "daaras" in which serious human rights violations are on the agenda. Many parents from rural areas or from neighboring countries hand over their male offspring to the care of a "marabout", where they live under catastrophic conditions, are often mistreated and are sent out to beg on the streets. For years there has been lip service to fight against these derailments, at the same time shaking the status quo always provokes angry protests from individual religious leaders. After a fire with numerous fatalities in a Koran school in March 2013, the President announced that the street begging would be resolutely fought and that non-conforming Koran schools would be closed. But to this day the streets of Dakar and other large cities are characterized by begging "Talibés" (schoolchildren).

Until 2007, higher education in Senegal was provided by two state universities, the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and the Université Gaston Berger in St. Louis. In 2007, three so-called regional universities were added in Ziguinchor, Thies and Bambey, which, however, are still struggling with great initial difficulties. There are also a few state universities of applied sciences and a large number of private universities that have sprung up in Dakar in recent years.

However, it should not be forgotten that just 6% of Senegalese start a post-secondary education. To this end, the universities of Dakar attract students from all over francophone Africa and the Maghreb states.


The health care of the population is very poor, especially outside the capital Dakar, the health care is completely inadequate. There is a strong urban-rural divide and around three quarters of doctors practice in the capital Dakar. There are hardly any hospital beds in rural areas.

The low life expectancy, the high maternal mortality rate for births (315 deaths out of 100,000 births, 2015) and the high infant mortality rate reflect these deficits, as well as the inadequate access of the population to clean drinking water (78.5%, 2015) and to a correct one Plumbing. State vaccination campaigns are showing the first results and in 2012 the vaccination rate among children for common infectious diseases averaged 80%.In 2004 and 2005, nationwide cholera epidemics increased. Malaria is widespread throughout the country all year round, although government campaigns to use impregnated mosquito nets and other preventive measures have resulted in a drastic decline in the prevalence of malaria. The main causes of child mortality are diarrheal diseases and malaria, diseases that could easily be limited with better prevention and better education of the population. In 2015, Senegal spent almost 4% of its gross domestic product on the health system.

Senegal is trying to get the most dangerous diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis under control with national control programs.
So-called diseases of civilization are on the rise. Today, cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death in Senegal.

The HIV prevalence rate is low for an African country and was 0.4% for adults between the ages of 15 and 49 in 2019, which is due, among other things, to the early and prudent introduction of a national AIDS control program in the mid-1980s. In addition, prostitution is allowed in Senegal and sex workers have regular health checks. Nevertheless, the infection rate is on the rise, especially among them, and now varies between 11 and 30% within this risk group. AIDS sufferers complain of social marginalization.

At the end of August 2014, the first case of the Ebola epidemic, which was rampant in West Africa, was confirmed in Senegal, but it was successfully isolated. The Senegalese Ministry of Health was able to prevent the disease from spreading through a national action plan.

In addition to western conventional medicine, traditional medicine is widespread and is used by large sections of the population. There are also efforts to standardize traditional medicine and improve its quality.

Culture and art

The cultural values ​​of Senegal and Central Europe differ considerably and intercultural misunderstandings inevitably arise, especially at the beginning of a stay. Newcomers almost inevitably violate the cultural customs of their host country more than once and it is useful to know the essential differences between the Senegalese and a Western culture and to consider important behavioral tips.
As a rule, the Senegalese do not let you notice if you behave inappropriately in their eyes, values ​​such as politeness and "Teranga" (traditional Senegalese hospitality) are valued too highly. It is always good when European newcomers find friends or acquaintances early on who are also familiar with Western ways of life and with whom the relationship of trust is high enough that they help you to get around major cultural hurdles.

The Senegalese art and culture scene is extremely lively and diverse. There is little government support, but a large number of international foundations and foreign donors, as well as some pan-African programs, finance cultural activities. New is the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, which is the first museum of its kind to show the creative power of black civilizations.
The best known abroad is the Senegalese music scene with the world star and current Minister for Culture and Tourism Youssou Ndour, the "King of Mbalax". This pop music is very popular in Senegal. Hip-hop is also en vogue among young people; along with New York and Paris, Dakar is the city with the greatest density of hip-hop crews. In addition, traditional music remains an integral part of life, griots animate family ceremonies or women engage percussionists for traditional dance evenings (sabars).

Traditional Dances are also a fixed part of various ceremonies and thus of everyday life, but Senegal also has a very lively scene with modern dance companies and hosts the dance festival "Kaay Fecc" (Wolof: Come dance) every two years.

The Francophone literature of Senegal also enjoys a high international reputation, starting with the pioneers such as Ousmane Sembène, Mariama Bâ, Aminata Sow Fall, Léopold Sédar Senghor to younger representatives such as Fatou Diome, who was also well received in Germany, and the Franco-Senegalese Marie, who grew up in France Ndiaye, who was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt French literature prize in 2009.
Of course, in a country with such a high illiteracy rate, literature remains an egalitarian issue; Ousmane Sembène thus explained his turning away from literature towards cinema.

The Senegalese movie theater Abroad is mainly associated with the names Ousmane Sembene and Djibril Diop Mambety, but younger representatives such as Moussa Touré or Moussa Sène Absa also achieved international acclaim. Unfortunately, due to the lack of consistent film funding, it is almost impossible for young talents to get to the top and there are hardly any cinema halls that could show domestic (or foreign) films.

Theatrical performancesMostly popular comedies or less often didactic or agitation theater take place primarily in the national languages. Many of these troops sell their productions on VCD cassettes on the streets (and, like the film and music industries, are confronted with a rampant pirate industry).
The Daniel Sorano National Theater, built under Senghor, is mostly empty, but in 2011 the construction of a gigantic new national theater was completed with Chinese funding, one of the prestige projects and "7 Wonders" to be built by ex-President Wade.

The visual arts is also strongly represented. Often the works and styles are too similar for a modern understanding of art, but there are also some really interesting artists whose studios are usually open to those interested. Artists such as Soly Cissé, Kan-Si, Mamadou Ndoye Ndouts or Piniang also often exhibit in Europe; Forefathers like Ousmane Sow or Iba Ndiaye no longer have to be introduced to a public interested in art.
One of the most important cultural events is the Biennale for Contemporary African Art, which brings artists and journalists from all over the world to Dakar.

There is little room in official cultural policy for the promotion of young independent artists, but efforts are made to realize gigantic projects such as the 7 wonders mentioned above, the new edition of the Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres, which finally took place in December 2010 after numerous postponements and whose financial management, like many other projects of the Wade era, is facing a review today) or the construction of a 50 m high statue of the “African rebirth” based on the designs of ex-President Wade.
Nonetheless, there is a lively and lively cultural scene.


Religion is omnipresent in Senegal and plays an important role in people's lives. 95% of the people are Muslim, 4% Christian and 1% of traditional beliefs (animists). However, elements from these traditional notions such as ancestor worship and magical practices and rites are deeply rooted to this day and are practiced across religions.
The Senegalese themselves like to spread the bon mot that there are 95% Muslims, 5% Christians, but 100% animists in Senegal.

A peculiarity of Islam in Senegal is that it is shaped by Sufi brotherhoods. Almost every believer belongs to a brotherhood. The most important are the Tijanes, the Mourids, the Kahdriya, the Layennes and the Niassins.
One of the world's largest pilgrimage festivals with several million visitors is the Grand Magal in Touba in honor of the founder of the Brotherhood of the Mourids, Cheikh Amadou Bamba. The brotherhoods form parallel structures of great economic and political power. This goes so far that every new head of government first pays his respects to the large religious families. In the past, the religious leaders usually gave an election recommendation before the elections and thus de facto decided the elections, now there are fewer and fewer of these direct "ndigëls", but more and more marabouts who are directly involved in politics or actively intervene in politics. The influential Morid marabouts Modou Kara Mbacké, founder of the Parti de la V.érité de D.éveloppement, but in common parlance only Parti de la Vérité de D.Called ieu, i.e. party of divine truth - fanatically revered by its mostly young followers, feared by many others for its anti-democratic statements and paramilitary protection troops.

The Power of the Murids (26:10 min.) - audio contribution on the importance of the Senegalese brotherhood

The marabouts play an eminently important role in Senegalese society, be it as important religious leaders who interpret and explain the Koran, be it the "little marabout" around the corner who makes amulets and performs incantations and magical rites.

What distinguishes Islam and Christianity in Senegal is their peaceful coexistence. Christians and Muslims live in peaceful neighborhoods, visit and give gifts to each other on the respective holidays (both Muslim and Christian celebrations are public holidays) and marriages across denominational boundaries are not uncommon, so that there are members of the other denomination in almost all families . Of course, with such an overwhelming majority as the Muslims, this does not work entirely without subliminal conflicts and the Christians often complain of a certain amount of discrimination and already have numerically smaller clusters. Unfortunately, ex-President Wade, for example in December 2009, fueled tensions through thoughtless remarks. Nevertheless, the interreligious coexistence in Senegal is exemplary.

The State Department's report on international religious freedom gives Senegal an impeccable testimony. The secularity of the state and the free right to practice religion are enshrined in the constitution.

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