Ethnic groups in Senegal

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Map of the ethnic groups of Senegal drawn by David Boilat (1853)

There are various ethnic groups in Senegal, The Wolof according to CIA statistics are the majority ethnic group in Senegal. Many subgroups of those can be further distinguished, based on religion, location and language. According to one 2005 estimate, there are at least twenty distinguishable groups of largely varying size.[1]

Major groups[edit]

Wolof of Cayor (1890 engraving)
On the way to a boukout in Baïla in Jola country
  • Avenue du Senegal in Tyre, Lebanon
    The Jola represent 5% of the country's population, and mostly live in Ziguinchor where they primarily make their living from rice cultivation and fishing. Traditionally animist, they have historically resisted the spread of both Islam and Christianity in the country.[8] While much of the Jola population now adheres to either Islam or Christianity, many mix these religions with animist beliefs. The Jola hold their ethnic distinctiveness as of great importance.[9]
  • Other groups also live in the Ziguinchor Region. While these groups lead lifestyles that are very similar to the Jola, they speak different languages and are much less populous. This is the case of the Bainuk, the Balanta, the Manjack, the Mankanya, the Karoninka, and the Bandial.
  • Several small ethnic groups in Senegal are related to the Mandinka, together constituting 4% of the population of the country. These include the Malinké, the Sossé, the Bambara, the Dyula, the Yalunka, and the Jakhanke.
  • The Soninke represent 2.4% of the population of Senegal. While most of the Soninke live in Mali, some live on the other side of the border, along the Falémé and Sénégal Rivers. This group has been experiencing a significant diaspora. The Soninke were Islamized earlier than most other groups in the country.
Bedick girls in Iwol
Senegalese boy on Gorée Island

A few Bassari and Bedick live in the hills in eastern Senegal around Kédougou. These are subgroups of the Tenda, same as the Coniagui and the Badiaranké.

  • Senegal has among its population many Africans from other countries. There are small Ivorian communities in Dakar, as well as many Nigerians, most of which being Hausa. Malians go almost unnoticed in Senegal because their culture is so similar to that of the Senegalese. There is a large Cape Verdean community in Dakar. Moors, constituting 0.5% of the population of Senegal, have long invested in business in the country, residing mainly in cities in the north. The subgroup of the Darmankour, who have lived in Senegal for centuries, are present throughout the country.

Europeans and descendants of Lebanese migrants are fairly numerous in urban centres in Senegal, about 50,000. Most of the Lebanese originate from the Southern Lebanese city of Tyre, which is known as "Little West Africa" and has a main promenade that is called "Avenue du Senegal".[10]

Minor groups[edit]

There are also many other smaller representations of other ethnic groups in Senegal, including the Khassonké, the Lawbe and the Papel.

There are also small Chinese and Vietnamese migrant communities.


The predominant ethnic groups in Senegal share a common cultural background so that, apart from their languages that also have many similarities, there are no effective cultural barriers between them.[dubious ] This is why marriage between ethnic groups in Senegal is so common.[original research?]

See also[edit]

Related articles[edit]


  • Mara A. Leichtman (2005). "The legacy of transnational lives: Beyond the first generation of Lebanese in Senegal". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 28 (4): 663–686. doi:10.1080/13569320500092794. S2CID 144395215.
  • Papa Oumar Fall, «The ethnolinguistic classification of Seereer in question», in Altmayer, Claus / Wolff, H. Ekkehard, Les défis du plurilinguisme en Afrique, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2013, pp. 47–60

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Atlas du Sénégal (in French). Paris: Éditions J. A. 2007. pp. 72–73.
  2. ^ "The World Factbook:Senegal". CIA. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  3. ^ Godwin Sonko, Patience (2003). Ethnic groups of the Senegambia Region: A brief history. Patience Sonko-Godwin.
  4. ^ Peuples du Sénégal (in French). Éditions Sépia. 1996. p. 182.
  5. ^ Donal Cruise O'Brien (1979). "Langues et nationalité au Sénégal. L'enjeu politique de la wolofisation". Année Africaine (in French): 319–335.
  6. ^ "The World Factbook:Senegal". CIA. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  7. ^ "The World Factbook:Senegal". CIA. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  8. ^ Christian Roche (2000). Histoire de la Casamance : Conquête et résistance 1850-1920 (in French). Karthala. p. 408. ISBN 978-2-86537-125-9.
  9. ^ Jean-Claude Marut (2002). Le problème casamançais est-il soluble dans l'Etat-nation? (in French). Paris: Karthala. pp. 425–458. ISBN 978-2-84586-236-4. {{cite book}}: |journal= ignored (help)
  10. ^ Leichtman, Mara (2015). Shi'i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. pp. 26, 31, 51, 54, 86. ISBN 978-0253015990.