The first trader from Lebanon arrived in Senegal in the 1860s. However, early migration was slow; by 1900, there were only about one hundred Lebanese living in the country, mostly from the vicinity of Tyre. They worked as street vendors in Dakar, Saint-Louis, and Rufisque. After World War I, they began to move into the peanut trade. With the establishment of the French Mandate of Lebanon, Lebanese immigration expanded sharply. During the Great Depression and again after World War II, French traders lobbied the government to restrict Lebanese immigration; however, the government generally ignored such lobbying.
During the colonial period, the Lebanese tended to support independence movements. Their social position outside of the colonial relationship, as neither colonist nor colonised, enabled them to maintain good relations with both Senegalese consumers as well as the large French businessmen. After Senegal gained independence in 1960, most French small traders left the country; however, indigenous Senegalese people began to compete increasingly with the Lebanese in the peanut sector, and soon after, the whole peanut marketing sector was nationalised.
In the early 2000s, the Lebanese began to be displaced from their position as a market-dominant minority by the influx of Chinese traders and the cheap goods they brought from China; as a result, the Lebanese began to shift to a pattern of buying goods from the Chinese and reselling them in remote areas of the country where no Chinese migrants lived.
Boumedouha, Saïd (1992), "Change and Continuity in the Relationship between the Lebanese in Senegal and their Hosts", in Hourani, Albert; Shehadi, Nadim, The Lebanese in the World: A Century of Emigration, I. B. Tauris, ISBN978-1-85043-303-3