3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Senegal has made some progress towards developing independent regulatory institutions, including regulators for the energy, telecommunications, and financial sectors. While Senegal lacks established procedures for a public comment process for proposed laws and regulations, the government frequently holds public hearings and workshops to discuss proposed initiatives. Proposed regulations are not always made available to the public in a timely way, however. Although Senegalese law requires proposed legislation to be published in advance in the government’s official gazette, the government does not consistently update the gazette’s website.
Authority to make rules and regulate rests with the relevant government ministry unless there is a separate regulatory authority for a particular industry. However, in some instances, a ministry or the president will exert authority over regulatory matters—e.g., determining electricity tariffs. Local government bodies do not have a decisive role in regulatory decisions.
The Commission de Regulation du Secteur de l’Electricite (CRSE) was established in 1998 to regulates the electricity sector and set electricity tariffs. Although the CRSE is, by law, an independent agency, observers note that the government frequently exercises influence over its decisions. Under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact focused on the power sector, the government has committed to reforms in the sector, including enacting a new electricity code and strengthening the CRSE’s capacity and independence. As part of these efforts, the MCC Compact, will fund technical assistance and capacity building for CRSE and other key stakeholders who govern the power sector.
The Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications et des Postes is responsible for licensing and regulating telecommunications and postal services in Senegal. The Dakar-based regional Central Bank of West African States (known by its French acronym BCEAO) regulates the banking sector.
There is no legal requirement to conduct impact assessments of proposed regulations, and regulatory agencies rarely do so. There is no specialized government body tasked with reviewing and monitoring regulatory impacts. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems closely follow French models. Financial statements must be prepared in accordance with the SYSCOA system, based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in France.
Senegal’s budget and information on debt obligations are widely and easily accessible to the public, including online. The budget was substantially complete and considered generally reliable. Senegal’s supreme audit institution reviewed the government’s accounts and has published its audit reports for Senegal’s budgets through 2017 online. Senegal is the first Francophone country in sub-Saharan Africa to submit to a fiscal transparency evaluation (FTE) by the IMF. In its January 30, 2019 FTE, the IMF rated Senegal “average” overall for countries of similar income and institutional capacity. Senegal was rated “advanced” or “good” on fiscal forecasting, budgeting, and fiscal reporting. It was rated “basic” on monitoring risks triggered by subnational governments. Senegal’s fiscal transparency would be improved by the supreme audit authority making its reports on the budget available in a timely manner.
The process for allocating licenses and contracts for natural resource extraction was outlined in law and appeared to be followed in practice. In 2019, Senegal approved a new Petroleum Code, clarifying investment terms and local content requirements for foreign investment in the sector. Senegal is currently offering new offshore exploration blocks through an open tender conducted in accordance with international standards. In February 2020, Senegal finalized a new Gas Code to govern development of a mid-stream gas distribution network that will be the subject of a competitive tender. Basic information on natural resource extraction awards was publicly available, and the government participated actively in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
International Regulatory Considerations
As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Senegal generally adheres to regional requirements concerning the movement of people and goods. Similarly, fiscal policy directives of WAEMU are enforced in Senegal, as are regulations issued by the BCEAO. Senegal is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and generally notifies draft regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. However, since 2005 Senegal has banned imports of uncooked poultry and poultry products without notifying the WTO.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Senegal has well-developed commercial and investment laws. Although settlement of commercial disputes has historically been cumbersome and slow, in February 2018 Senegal launched a new commercial court system with jurisdiction over commercial matters and a mandate to resolve cases within three months. The business community has welcomed the move, and in the past two years, the court has heard 11,054 cases involving disputes with a combined total value of nearly $500 million. Companies may nevertheless encounter challenges in executing court decisions and enforcing their contractual rights.
While Senegal’s constitution mandates that the judiciary operate independently of the legislature and executive, the executive frequently exerts influence, particularly in high-profile criminal cases. This type of influence is rare in strictly commercial matters. Some foreign investors, however, report discriminatory treatment by local courts. Investors may consider including provisions for binding arbitration in their contracts to avoid prolonged and unpredictable entanglements in Senegalese courts.
Companies may seek judicial redress against regulatory decisions. Regulatory appeals are heard in administrative tribunals that specialize in adjudicating claims against the state.
Senegal is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Bern Copyright Convention, and in June 2019 hosted a regional workshop on protecting intellectual property in the pharmaceutical and pesticide industries that gathered prosecutors, customs, and law enforcement officers. Nevertheless, the country has insufficient capacity to reliably protect intellectual property rights.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
Senegal’s 2004 Investment Code provides basic guarantees for equal treatment of foreign investors and repatriation of profit and capital. It also specifies tax and customs exemptions according to the investment volume, company size and location, with investments outside of Dakar eligible for longer tax exemptions. A law to enhance transparency in public procurement and public tenders entered into force in 2008, establishing a public procurement regulatory body, the Autorité de Régulation des Marchés Publics (ARMP), which publishes annual reviews of public procurement. Procedures for challenging tender awards are available. The government enacted a law on public-private partnerships in 2014 to facilitate expedited approval of projects that include a minimum share of domestic investment. As of July 2020, the GOS was in the process of revising the public-private partnership law.
Regulations of the Central Bank of West African States (known by its French acronym BCEAO) proscribe the use of offshore accounts in project finance transactions within the WAEMU except where approved by the Ministry of Finance and Budget, with the express consent (“avis conforme”) of the BCEAO. According to the BCEAO, these restrictions allow visibility over international transactions, deter money laundering, and help the BCEAO maintain adequate foreign currency reserves. The BCEAO emphasizes the importance of these rules in enabling it to fulfill its mandate of maintaining the stability of the franc CFA’s peg to the euro.
Since 2018, the BCEAO and Senegalese Ministry of Finance Budget have tightened their approach to the approvals of offshore accounts. Although there is no strict “maximum” number of accounts that will be permitted, informal guidelines suggest that transactions using one to three such accounts have the greatest chance of being approved. According the BCEAO, the intent is to encourage the minimum number of such accounts necessary to legitimately conduct the transaction. Project managers and lenders should raise the subject of offshore accounts with the Ministry of Finance as early in the process as possible and should be prepared to submit a functional justification for each requested account. All offshore accounts must be “reauthorized” on an annual basis.
More information on Senegal’s legal and regulatory environment, including texts of the Investment Code, the Mining Code, a new Petroleum Code finalized in February 2019, can be found at the following:
- Investment Code:
- Mining Code:
- Petroleum Code:
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Senegal’s national competition commission, the Commission Nationale de la Concurrence, is responsible for reviewing transactions for competition-related concerns.
Expropriation and Compensation
Senegal’s Investment Code includes protection against expropriation or nationalization of private property with exceptions for “reasons of public utility” that would involve “just compensation” in advance. In general, Senegal has no history of expropriation or creeping expropriation against private companies. The government may sometimes use eminent domain justifications to procure land for public infrastructure projects with compensation provided to landowners. Senegal’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with the U.S. also specifies that international legal standards are applicable to any cases of expropriation of investment and the payment of compensation.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Senegal is a member of the International Convention for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a signatory of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention). Senegalese law recognizes the Cour d’Appel (Appeals Court) as the competent authority for the recognition and enforcement of awards rendered pursuant to ICSID. Senegal is also a signatory to the Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa Treaty (OHADA). This agreement supports enforcement of awards under the New York Convention. The Autorité de Régulation des Marchés Publics (ARMP) manages a dispute resolution mechanism for public tenders.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Senegal has growing experience in using international arbitration for resolution of investment disputes with foreign companies, including some cases involving tax disputes with U.S. firms. The government has also prevailed in some arbitration cases, including a 2013 arbitration decision in a high-profile case with a multinational company over an integrated mining/railway/port project, fostering greater confidence within the government to the arbitration process. Senegal’s bilateral investment treaty with the United States includes provisions to facilitate the referral of investment disputes to binding arbitration.
International firms have pursued a variety of investment disputes during the last decade, including at least two U.S. firms involved in tax and customs disputes. Other foreign companies in the mining and telecommunications sectors have pursued commercial disputes over licensing. These disputes have often been resolved through arbitration or an amicable settlement.
Senegal has no history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The government has initiated several programs to establish commercial courts and use alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to reduce the time required for resolving business disputes. Under the OHADA treaty, Senegal recognizes the corporate law and arbitration procedures common to the 16 member states in western and central Africa. Senegalese courts routinely recognize arbitration clauses in contracts and agreements. It is not unusual for courts to rule against state-owned enterprises in disputes involving private enterprises.
Senegal has commercial and bankruptcy laws that address liquidation of business liabilities. Foreign creditors receive equal treatment under Senegalese bankruptcy law in making claims against liquidated assets. Monetary judgments are normally in local currency. As a member of OHADA, Senegal permits three different types of bankruptcy liquidation through a negotiated settlement, company restructuring, or complete liquidation of assets. Senegal ranked 96th out of 190 countries on the “Resolving Insolvency” indicator in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business Index. According to the index, it takes an average of 36 months to complete liquidation proceedings in Senegal. Secured creditors recover an average of 30 cents per every dollar owed in such proceedings, compared to an average of 20.5 for sub-Saharan Africa and 70.2 for OECD high income countries.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The Senegalese Civil Code provides a framework, based on French law, for enforcing private property rights. The code provides for equality of treatment and non-discrimination against foreign-owned businesses. Senegal maintains a property title and a land registration system, but application is uneven outside of urban areas. Establishing ownership rights to real estate can be difficult. Once established, however, ownership is protected by law.
The government has undertaken several reforms to make it easier for investors to acquire and register property. It has streamlined procedures and reduced associated costs for property registration. The government has developed new land tenure models intended to facilitate land acquisition by resolving conflicts between traditional and government land ownership. If the new models are widely adopted, the government and donors expect they will facilitate land acquisition and investment in the agricultural sector while providing benefits to traditional landowners in local communities.
The government generally pays compensation when it takes private property through eminent domain actions. Senegal’s housing finance market is under-developed and few long-term mortgage-financing vehicles exist. There is no secondary market for mortgages or other bundled revenue streams. The judiciary is inconsistent when adjudicating property disputes. Senegal ranked 116 out of 190 countries in the 2020 Doing Business Index for Registering Property. According to the World Bank methodology, it requires an average of 41 days to register property against an average of 51.6 days in sub-Saharan Africa and 23.6 days in OECD high-income countries. Five separate procedures are required for property registration.
Intellectual Property Rights
Senegal maintains an adequate legal framework for protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), but the country has limited institutional capacity to implement this framework and enforce IPR protections. Senegal has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since its inception. Senegal is also a member of the African Organization of Intellectual Property (OAPI), a grouping of 15 francophone African countries with a common system for obtaining and maintaining protection for patents, trademarks, and industrial designs. Local statutes recognize reciprocal protection for authors or artists who are nationals of countries adhering to the 1991 Paris Convention on Intellectual Property Rights. Patents may be registered with the Agence sénégalaise pour la Propriété industrielle et l’Innovation technologique (ASPIT) and are protected for 20 years. An annual charge is levied during this period. Registered trademarks are protected for a period of 20 years. Trademarks may be renewed indefinitely by subsequent registrations. Senegal is a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The Senegalese Copyright Office, part of the Ministry of Culture, protects copyrights. Bootlegging of music CDs is common and concerns the local music industry. The Copyright Office has taken actions to combat media piracy, including seizure of counterfeit cassettes and CD/DVDs. In 2008, the government established a special police unit to better enforce the country’s anti-piracy and counterfeit laws. In general, however, the government has limited capacity to combat IPR violations or to seize counterfeit goods. Customs screening for counterfeit goods production is weak, and confiscated goods occasionally re-appear in the market. Nevertheless, the government has made efforts to raise awareness of the impact of counterfeit products on the Senegalese marketplace, especially regarding pharmaceuticals, and officers have participated in trainings offered by manufacturers to identify counterfeit products.
Senegal is not included in the United States Trade Representative(USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.