As a moderate, democratic, and predominantly Muslim country, Senegal is an important hub for U.S. diplomatic and development interventions vital to maintaining stability in the volatile West African region. Since its establishment here in 1961, USAID has improved lives by helping create a healthy economy and jobs, improving access to education and health care, strengthening democratic institutions, and developing agriculture to increase production and incomes.
In the 1960s, USAID was instrumental in the privatization of rice and cereal markets, which crucially helped Senegal to unburden state structures and open agricultural markets to the long-term benefit of farmers and merchants. In addition to turning government losses from agriculture into profits of more than $300 million per year, the reforms spurred the country to produce some of the highest rice yields in the world at the time. Senegal went from periodic shortages of rice to producing a competitive product on the international market.
USAID also assisted additional major reforms in the banking sector, which radically improved banks’ stability and risk management for its clients, raising Senegal’s status as an international trade partner and improving the stability and profitability of the sector. By 2005, an International Monetary Fund report stated Senegal’s “financial soundness indicators which remain the cornerstone of the [banking] system are stronger than for West Africa as a whole.” By the turn of the millennium, profit-to capital ratios of nearly 15 percent were nearly double the regional average of 8.5 percent.
Also beginning in the 1960s, USAID spearheaded a 75 percent increase in nationwide access to secondary education through high-school construction, which made eligibility to enter university a new reality for thousands of students. USAID built three major high schools, all of which are still open. Previously, secondary education was available only in two coastal cities. The emergence of these schools exponentially increased the number of high school graduates, many of whom have become Senegal’s political leaders of today. USAID continues to assist school construction to this day.
By the mid 1980s, a USAID-supported small business project had grown into a thriving Senegalese micro-finance institution, Credit and Savings Alliance for Production. This now-permanent institution has broadly increased access to financial services in Senegal, having provided loans to more than 35,000 active customers and managed 52,000 clients with savings account assets estimated at almost $70 million.
In the Health sector, USAID assistance has been instrumental in the development of infrastructure for a primary healthcare system in rural Senegal, which has improved the child survival rate, while decreasing maternal mortality. In 1982, USAID supported the first community-based health care program in Senegal, where heretofore health services were only available in cities. USAID mobilized rural communities to build more than 3,000 “health huts,” staffed by volunteers trained by USAID, which also provided equipment and as supplies, and helped improve management. In addition, USAID has contributed to a drastic drop in incidence of malaria through its programs to make insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets for nearly every sleeping space in Senegal. By the end of the program in 2013, more than nine million nets will be distributed with USAID assistance. USAID-supported HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, and treatment programs have helped to keep the rate of HIV prevalence below one percent of the population.
Finally, Senegal’s agricultural sector was devastated by periodic drought and regional locust infections in 1987 and 2004. USAID, through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, set up a command center in Senegal, and provided 80 percent and 50 percent, respectively, of the overall international assistance to both those disasters. The campaigns become a model for similar types of crisis response in the region. In response to the drought of 2011, USAID set up a resilience office based in Dakar to help mitigate future drought disasters and further establish Senegal as a crucial West African regional hub.