Why It's Important to Follow the Laws in Senegal

Coming to work in a new country can be daunting, especially into one that doesn't have the same language or legal system as your home country. Whether you are coming to Senegal to open an NGO, to be an independent consultant, import and resell cars from abroad, open a retail shop, or to operate a large energy company, you have to know and follow local laws in order to avoid potentially serious problems.

"They don't REALLY enforce the laws, like back home...you have nothing to worry about - It's AFRICA!"

Anyone who smuggly tells you this, will not be there for you when you get slammed with an audit and 3 years in retroactive taxes and back-pay for having the wrong worker's contract.

Senegal is just about as rigid as you can get, in the law department, especially fiscal tax code. They take their cues from the French system, and the colonial one at that, since very little - if anything - has been done to update, or make less cumbersome, the legal system in Senegal. Since it is so complicated, the average Senegalese person typically conducts business in "parallel" with the law, since they don't have the knowledge or patience to make sure they are conform. After all, all that legal French mumbo jumbo takes a very educated person to understand -- just like legal English.

And they can typically get away with it -- until they upset someone, like a past employee, a competitors, or an angry client. Then these people can easily get a lawyer, who DOES know the law, and they can pretty easily prove on multiple accounts how someone was not respecting the law.

The Senegalese government will not hesitate to wait until you have comfortably earned lots of income in their country (especially if you are in oil and gas), and then surprise you with an audit conducted by government workers. You wouldn't be able to get out of it if you don't know someone - and especially if you have to answer to your share holders, Regional Director, Head Office back in London or New York - you will NOT be able to "work something out" with these auditors. And they will not hesitate to take advantage of you.

If you do not have the correct type of worker's contract, or if you have not paid the "Movement Travailleurs" at IPRES to declare a new employee, or you are not paying the social contributions you are supposed to on their behalf, the government will force you to pay for these missing payments retroactively. If you were unclear on the type of contract, and you were paying someone as a consultant for longer than 6 months, they are considered a "salaried" or permanent employee - and entitled to health and workers insurance, certain benefits and tax write-offs for their families, and social security contributions. If you haven't done this, and are trying to fire someone after 8 or 9 months of underperformance, they can take you to court and say that you were taking advantage of them and that they were actually entitled to a CDD or CDI (contrat duree determinée/indeterminée). Then you will have to pay retroactively for all the fees associated with the "right" type of contract.

What SHOULD you do?

Find a trusted local partner, like Niofar Executive Relocation, that could help you understand the local laws so that you are making the right decisions - and avoid problems down the road.

We will make sure you:

  • Get your company registered under the right "type" (Entreprise Individuelle, SARL, SUARL, Exoneré, etc.) - and the monthly, trimsteral, and annual tax implications of each;

  • Make APIX and Impots & Domaines aware, an official notary has certified the application, and you understand the Capital Investment amounts

  • Understand the legal implications of nominating your "Gerant" or Country Manager;

  • Draw up the correct employee contracts;

  • Get them approved at the Inspection de Travail;

  • Mouvement de Travailleurs declared at IPRES;

  • Understand your employee's gross salaries, including taxes and contributions;

  • Understand the requirements for operating in Senegal;

  • Understand how to manage your monthly declarations of activities;

  • Know when to declare your company as "active";

  • Get regular, trusted judicial advice;

  • Apply for a "carte de sejour" for residency;

  • ...and much more.

I highly recommend you have a trusted local partner in your court on retainer, such as Niofar, who can be your trusted, one local contact that can manage and communicate all the different facets of fiscal, administrative, and bureaucratic requirements in Senegal. You need to know what you don't know, before it catches up with you.

Remember - Senegal is a "Yes" Country

Culturally, Senegalese people are not programmed to say "No," or "I don't know how," or "I can't." They are not only educated by their families that this is dismissive and impolite, but they also would NOT want to risk losing you as a potential customer by saying No. They figure they will get your business, and "figure it out" down the road.

This is not reliable, needless to say. You need someone who has the expertise, the time, and the motivation to truly fight for you if necessary, and to proactively anticipate your needs and clearly communicate what you need to do. Not everyone can, but everyone will SAY they can.

Make sure you choose your local partners well, and wisely. It can either pay off down the road if you do, or potentially be a disaster if you don't.

~Danielle Ciribassi (Madame Seck)