Senegal’s stable political environment, favorable geographic position, strong and sustained growth, and generally open economy offer attractive opportunities for foreign investment. The Government of Senegal welcomes foreign investment and has prioritized efforts to improve the business climate, although significant challenges remain. Senegal’s macroeconomic environment is stable. The currency – the CFA franc used in eight West African countries – is pegged to the euro. Repatriation of capital and income is relatively straightforward, although the regional central bank has recently tightened restrictions on the use of “offshore accounts” in project finance transactions. Investors cite cumbersome and unpredictable tax administration, bureaucratic hurdles, opaque public procurement, a weak and inefficient judicial system, inadequate access to financing, and a rigid labor market as obstacles. High real estate and energy costs, as well as high factor costs driven by tariffs, undermine Senegal’s competitiveness. The government is working to address these barriers.
Since 2012, Senegal has pursued an ambitious development program, the Plan Senegal Emergent (Emerging Senegal Plan, or “PSE”), to improve infrastructure, achieve economic reforms, increase investment in strategic sectors, and strengthen the competitiveness of the private sector. Under the PSE, Senegal has enjoyed sustained economic growth rates, averaging 6.5 percent from 2014 through 2019. With good air transportation links, a modern and functional international airport, planned port expansion projects, and improving ground transportation, Senegal also aims to become a regional center for logistics, services, and industry. Special Economic Zones offer investors tax exemptions and other benefits that have led to increased foreign investment in the manufacturing sector over the past several years.
The GOS continues to improve Senegal’s investment climate. Since 2007, Senegal has dramatically reduced the average number of days it takes to start a business. The government continues to expand its “single window” system offering one-stop government services for businesses, opening a new service centers in various locations and projecting to have at least one service center in each of the country’s 45 regional departments by 2021. Property owners can apply for construction permits online. In 2019, the GOS made tax information and some payment options available online. Senegal’s state information agency ADIE has an ambitious SMART Senegal plan to increase access to WiFi and digitize more services onto a national hub. Senegal’s ranking in the World Bank’s Doing Business index improved from 141 in 2018 to 123 in 2019, spurred by improvements in the ease of paying taxes and access to credit information.
The government made progress in operationalizing the new Commercial Court, prioritizing the resolution of business disputes. Although companies continue to report problems with corruption and opacity, Senegal compares favorably with many countries in the region in corruption indicators. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact, signed in December 2018 and currently in pre-implementation prior to entry-into-force in 2021, aims to decrease energy costs by modernizing the power sector, increasing access to electricity in rural Senegal, strengthening the electrical transmission network in Dakar, and improving governance of the power sector.
Despite these improvements, business climate challenges remain. Because the informal sector dominates Senegal’s economy, legitimate companies bear a heavy tax burden, although Senegal is making progress in broadening the tax base. Some U.S. companies complain about delays and uncertainty in the project development process.
A U.S.-Senegal Bilateral Investment Treaty has been in effect since 1990. According to UNCTAD data, Senegal’s stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) increased from $3.4 billion in 2015 to $6.4 billion in 2019. France is historically Senegal’s largest source of foreign direct investment, but the government wants more diversity in its sources of investment. U.S. investment in Senegal has expanded since 2014, including investments in power generation, industry, and the offshore oil and gas sector. Although the IMF reports (see table below) U.S. FDI stock in Senegal was approximately $91 million in 2018 (up from $25 million reported in 2017), anecdotal information suggests the amount is significantly more. China has also become a significant foreign investment partner. Other important investment partners include the United Kingdom, Mauritius, Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey, and the Gulf States. In addition to the developing petroleum industry, other sectors that have attracted substantial investment are agribusiness, mining, tourism, manufacturing, and fisheries.
Investors may consult the website of Senegal’s investment promotion agency (APIX) at www.investinsenegal.com for information on opportunities, incentives and procedures for foreign investment, including a copy of Senegal’s investment code.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2019||66 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||123 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2019||96 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2018||$91.0 million||http://data.imf.org/
|World Bank GNI per capita||2018||$1,410||http://data.worldbank.org/
Note on Impact of COVID-19
The 2020 COVID-19 epidemic heavily impacted Senegal’s economy. According to June 2020 government estimates, GDP growth for 2020, initially projected to reach 6.8 percent, will fall to 1.1 percent or less. Major oil and gas projects may be delayed at least a year. Although economy-wide employment figures are unreliable, it is clear the slowdown, combined with the GOS’s initial stringent outbreak containment measures, led to significant job losses, primarily in Senegal’s dominant informal sector. A May 2020 survey of 800 Senegalese businesses found that 65 percent had suffered a significant negative impact from COVID-19 and 40 percent had ceased operations. Diaspora remittances, representing 10 percent of GDP, have fallen sharply due to the pandemic’s effects on the world economy.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the GOS enacted one of the region’s most ambitious fiscal stimulus and social assistance packages. Dubbed “Force COVID-19,” the initiative sought to inject $1.7 billion – about 6 percent of GDP – into the economy. The GOS acknowledged the program will result in an increase in Senegal’s fiscal deficit, which is expected to grow from just above 3 percent (nearing the country’s target under ECOWAS convergence criteria) to more than 6 percent. According to the African Development Bank, Senegal’s public debt will rise from 65 percent to 68 percent of GDP, pushing the limits of the 70 percent threshold established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Nevertheless, in June 2020, the IMF assessed Senegal’s risk of debt distress as “moderate,” and the government continued to access regional credit markets at competitive rates.
Although the government won praise for its aggressive fiscal response, some have expressed concern over its intervention in labor markets, including a decree prohibiting employers from laying off or reducing salaries of workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The government’s efforts to implement the stimulus plan have drawn mixed reviews. While the government successfully increased funding to shore up its health care system, the rollout of social assistance programs was plagued by allegations of inefficiency, insider dealing, and corruption. Long delays plagued the implementation of programs to assist businesses and preserve employment, with many firms reporting they had still not received promised grants and loans months after the program launch. As of July 2020, the outbreak was still progressing in Senegal, with cases, deaths, and positivity rates still rising. Long-term effects of COVID-19 on Senegal’s economy and investment environment will depend on how long the outbreak lasts and how deeply the regional and world economies are affected.