Senegal is blessed with an array of natural resources, in conjunction with a favorable geographical position on the westernmost point of the African continent. Thanks to long-standing political stability and strong presidential leadership, the country is set to sustain solid economic growth and move towards energy independence by 2035.
Natural resource management is a key element of African countries’ economic and social development, as an efficiently designed model can bear fruit across all sectors and improve the quality of life across populations.
Since the inception of the global oil industry, hydrocarbons have been the leading natural resource used by countries to generate revenue from exports and to provide a stable source of energy for their economies. As environmental concerns increase and sustainable development goals impact government strategies, the growth of alternative sources of energies – solar, wind and natural gas – has followed closely behind.
Senegal is endowed with vast natural resources and the government has vowed to create a diversified energy supply mix to reap the benefits of these resources in the long-term. The Senegalese government has understood a key factor in natural resource management, which is that natural resources need not to be a curse. The ‘resource curse’ – which occurs when a country has immense natural resources but manages them in a way that the country’s economy is not positively impacted and its social gap is deepened, – is a challenge well-recognized by the Senegalese government.
Since President Macky Sall’s election in 2012, Senegal has implemented a drastic change in line with its vision for the energy sector. Acknowledging the importance of energy independence and stability, Senegal’s leadership has made a commitment to designing a diversified energy strategy, counting on different sources to make up its energy mix.
Natural Resources Potential
Aside from its immense oil and gas discoveries offshore – Sangomar and Grand Tortue Ahmeyim – Senegal is blessed with renewable energy sources that include solar, wind, hydro and biomass.
Solar energy shows significant potential in Senegal, where average solar irradiation reaches 2,000 kilowatt hours per square meter per year (kWh/m2/year) across most of the country. The northern part is particularly prospective, as sunshine can surpass 2,175 kWh/m2/year in certain areas. Falling prices of renewable technologies and an increased commitment to renewable energy from the government has allowed eight major solar plants to be commissioned since 2014, with more projects currently in the pipeline. On a smaller scale, individual solar kits can be purchased by individuals or groups of individuals in localities far from the national power grid. The West African Power Pool – an ongoing initiative aimed at creating a regional electricity market through cross-border interconnections – will provide the opportunity for more investment in the solar power space by increasing competition among independent power producers.
Wind energy potential was seen as relatively low until President Macky Sall inaugurated the immense Taiba N’diaye wind farm in 2020. Built by wind energy company Lekela, the farm will provide an additional 15% of Senegal’s current production to the grid, making it West Africa’s largest wind farm.
The highest potential for wind energy is located on the 150km coastline between Dakar and Saint-Louis. In this area, wind can reach 5.7 to 6.1 meters per second. Although data is still fragmented and large-scale analysis needs to be conducted to assess the real potential, some estimations posit that wind could account for up to 70% of Senegal’s renewable energy capacity.
Hydroelectricity and biomass are two areas of potential energy production that remain underdeveloped. Senegal’s two primary rivers, the Senegal and the Gambia, could produce up to 1,4000 MW of electricity with appropriate infrastructure and distribution lines. To date, Organisation de Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal (OMVS) and Organisation de Mise en Valeur du fleuve Gambie (OMVG) are in charge of capitalizing on the two rivers’ hydro potential. The Manantali plant on the Senegal river currently produces 260 MW.
The importance of agriculture to Senegal’s economy translates to substantial potential to generate energy from biomass. According to estimations of the sector, 3.3 million dry tons of agricultural residues are produced every year, and could be converted into energy both on- and off-grid. Rough estimates state that biomass could generate 2,900 gigawatt hours.
Aside from energy, Senegal’s Plan Senegal Emergent counts on other natural resources to support its long-term goals, such as tourism, livestock and poultry. Due to its extended coastline and rich waters, the country is one of the global leaders in fisheries, and the sector has contributed up to a quarter of the country’s total exports. More than 200,000 people are employed by the sector, in addition to a high number of informal jobs.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energies in Senegal was named with a view to establishing the country’s 360-degree approach to its energy sector, and to building a balanced energy mix of oil, natural gas and renewable energies. The government has built a regulatory and investment framework to increase investor confidence and attract foreign capital while protecting the country’s natural assets.