Under the title "Senegal, its economy and bilateral relations with Spain" on May 28, 2019 CEI International Affairs held a session of International Classroom with the Hon. Mr. D. Alberto Virella Gomes, Ambassador of Spain to Senegal.


The meeting allowed attendees to establish a direct and relaxed dialogue with Ambassador Virella, to whom he shared the political, economic and social reality of the country, focusing on the business opportunities offered and the increasingly close and fruitful link with Spain.




The Ambassador stressed the ties that bind us to Senegal, a country that due to its geographical location is of special importance for Spain. Senegal is a country that due to its geographical location is of special importance for Spain. Unlike other countries in its environment, it is not known to be the scene of armed conflicts or epidemics, but because it is a country that emits irregular migration, an issue that has marked the relationship between Spain, Senegal and the subregion, especially since 2006 with the "Crisis of the cayucos". This circumstance explains to a great extent the intensification of bilateral relations, as well as the notable diplomatic deployment of Spain in the subregion as a whole, marked by a multidimensional approach to the migratory phenomenon.


The Ambassador noted the remarkable political stability of the country, as well as its democratic regime, having been carried out since its independence only peaceful relays of government through democratic elections. The foundations of stability can be found in the remarkable existing ethnic and religious coexistence, together with a secular public administration inspired by the French model.




He also highlighted the development strategy undertaken since Macky Sall took office in 2012, called the "Emerging Senegal Plan", which began running in 2014. Since then, the country has growth rates of 6-7 % of GDP. This strategy aims to reach the level of emerging country before 2035, relying on the exploitation of hydrocarbons (gas and oil) from 2022. It is expected that exploitation will account for 5% GDP and growth rates from 2022-2023 of around 10%. The first five years of the plan have resulted in heavy public investments in infrastructures that seek to address shortcomings that place Senegal today in the category of least developed countries, having made significant investments in access to drinking water and sanitation, electrical connections and road infrastructures.


The legal framework and the implementation of guarantees for investments (including bilateral agreements in force on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and Double Taxation) represent an attractive and business opportunity for Spanish companies that aspire to awards. Nevertheless, the Ambassador pointed out that market access is not always easy, taking into account the local idiosyncrasy, the values ​​of patience and perseverance. In addition, companies must compete with those of other countries that are also positioned as commercial partners of Senegal.




The representatives of the business sector present in the debate showed an accentuated interest regarding legal security. Senegal is situated at a medium-high level, in Africa, in the legal security indicators and a commercial arbitration system has been put in place. However, it has deficiencies in the labor jurisdiction, generally unfavorable to the interests of the foreign entrepreneur. On the other hand, it is a market with interesting returns focused on the long term. In addition, Senegal must face shortcomings in specialized human resources, due to limited schooling and professional training that must be adapted to the demand of companies. In this sense, the planned and future investments in the tourism sector must be accompanied by the training of human resources in all services connected to it.




The Ambassador also stressed that improving the business climate is essential to attract local and foreign private investment, this being one of the main points of dialogue between the EU (and the donor community as a whole) and the Senegalese government. There is a great willingness in the EU, for example, through its Foreign Investment Plan to guarantee European private investments and contribute, through technical assistance, to improve economic governance, transparency and legal certainty.


At the level of security risks, Senegal has never suffered terrorist attacks or highlighted threats in this regard. However, in addition to having security forces that are increasingly better equipped and prepared, there is a population that actively collaborates with them, warning of possible threats. In the Casamance region, in the south of the country, a low intensity conflict persists, which does not prevent it from being a tourist attraction. As for common crime, it does not reach alarming levels.




Spain has included Senegal in the III Africa Plan (approved in 2019) as one of the priority countries and the first with which a "strengthened partnership" will be established. The Embassy of Spain in Dakar is already one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, with several branch offices. For example, it is the only one in that region with an employment and social security office, which facilitates the recruitment at source of Senegalese seasonal workers to go to work in Spain, which constitutes a legal alternative to irregular immigration.


The Ambassador ended up highlighting the importance and symbolism of Dakar hosting the Olympic Youth Games in 2022, being the first Olympic event in Africa, and the opportunity it represents for the development of hotel activity, services, training and human resources.



Report prepared by Francisco Bote Navia

Student of the Preparation to Join the Diplomatic Corps.


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