15 October 2021, Bella Suansing, Borgen
Senegal reported a 6.6 percent annual GDP growth rate, making it the second fastest growing economy in West Africa (behind the Ivory Coast) and the fourth fastest in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, spoils from leaps in economic sectors, particularly in the agricultural and service groups, have yet to trickle down to the Senegalese citizenry; in fact, the poverty rate stands at 46.7 percent.
High unemployment rates, low literacy rates and a low human development index are only some of the cited causes of poverty in Senegal. Most of those who are employed are working for the agricultural sector, which itself is highly vulnerable to geographical and economic fluctuations. More than 75 percent of the country’s work force is employed by the agricultural sector, and when the region is ravaged by recurring droughts and floods, these people are placed in a helpless position.
2) Environmental Factors
Not only do these environmental factors threaten subsistence farmers, but they also trigger harvest deficits, which can result in massive food shortages across the country. This situation has repeatedly occurred over the past three years, and the country’s high reliance on crops and fisheries, both of which are vulnerable to climate, puts a significant segment of its workforce at risk. It is no surprise that farmers comprise a huge segment of the country’s poorest inhabitants.
3) Civic Unrest
Other factors can be attributed as causes of poverty in Senegal. Civic unrest in the Casamance region, which has been affected by conflict for decades and continues to be a region synonymous with violence and banditry, has put many of its residents without work and without adequate living standards. There is also the vast discrepancy in allotted resources between the urban and rural areas of the country.
4) Access to Resources
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), urban residents have a far better access to resources than those who live in the rural areas. Healthcare and welfare services are much more accessible to urban residents, and while there are clinics built in rural areas, they suffer from a dire shortage of medical personnel. Moreover, poverty rates of the two areas have a significant difference: 25 percent of those living in the capital city of Dakar classify as poor, a much lower number than the two-thirds of rural residents who classify as living in poverty.
5) Finances and National Focus
Many cite this lack of financial inclusion of rural areas as one of the main causes of poverty in Senegal. Because most of the rural workforce is left to till farms, the potential to employ their help in developing other sectors of the economy is neglected. If things do not change, Senegal will remain one of the least developed countries in not only the continent, but also the world.
Moving on from solely focusing on agriculture as a backbone of the economy is a must for this country. Given what has been observed about climate change, the extreme conditions of drought and floods will only become more intense. Farming and fisheries can no longer be the only options, especially for a country that has already lagged behind its neighbors and whose people suffer from high food insecurity rates.
Ways to Combat High Poverty Rates
In an effort to combat high poverty rates, the Senegalese government has initiated a program called the National Family Social Security Transfer Program for Family Security Credit, which aims to build up the resilience of the most vulnerable citizens to chronic poverty and economic shocks. It has also poured in a segment of its budget on the service industry, resulting to a 5.6 percent growth in the sector.
There are also international organizations working in the country, such as the Hunger Project, which has built numerous centers for community mobilization and action in the effort to address hunger and poverty among the citizenry. The Hunger Project has been working with local Senegalese government units to establish a framework to promote sustainable self-reliance over an eight-year-period.
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