Senegal’s new government slashes prices of essential commodities

Bassirou Diomaye Faye speaks after being sworn in as Senegal’s President at an exhibition centre in the new town of Diamniadio near the capital Dakar on April 2, 2024. (Photograph: John WESSELS / AFP)

Senegal’s new government on Thursday unveiled measures to reduce the price of rice, oil, bread, and other basic items to address cost-of-living concerns amid high unemployment and inflation.

President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who was swept to power in a March election, vowed during the campaign to address high living costs in the West African nation that heavily relies on imports.

The issue has featured widely in the media and on social media in recent weeks, with many saying it is a priority.

Under the measures, the price of a kilo (2.2 pounds) of the most widely consumed type of rice will be reduced by 40 CFA ($0.065, 0.061 euros), while a baguette will cost 15 CFA (0.023 euros) less, the government announced at a media conference.

The reductions, which also cover cement and fertiliser, will take effect in the next few days, government secretary general Ahmadou Al Aminou Lo told reporters.

Spending on food accounts for half a Senegalese household’s budget, Lo said, adding checks would be stepped up to ensure traders respect the new prices.

Budget Minister Cheikh Diba said the government would forego taxes and customs duties imposed on importers to subsidise the price cuts.

The measures will cost 53.3 billion CFA (more than 81 million euros, $87 million), Diba said.

But the government did not say how long the measures would apply.

At least a third of Senegal’s population lives in poverty, while unemployment stands at around 20 percent.

Senegal joined the club of oil-producing countries this week as Australian group Woodside Energy announced that production had started in the country’s first offshore project.

Faye vowed that profits from the country’s gas and oil resources would be “well managed”.