DAKAR, a seaport of Senegal, and capital of French West Africa, in 14° 40' N., 17° 24' W. The town, which is strongly fortified, holds a commanding strategic position on the route between western Europe and Brazil and South Africa, being situated in the Gulf of Goree on the eastern side of the peninsula of Cape Verde, the most westerly point of Africa. It is the only port of Senegal affording safe anchorage for the largest ships. Pop. (1904), within the municipal limits, 18,447; including suburbs, 23,452.
The town consists for the most part of broad and regular streets and possesses several fine public buildings, notably the palace of the governor-general. It is plentifully supplied with good water and is fairly healthy. It is the starting point of the railway to St Louis, and is within five days steam of Lisbon. The harbour, built in 9 04-1908, is formed by two jetties, one of 6840 ft., the other of 1968 ft., the entrance being 720 ft. wide. There are three commercial docks, with over 7000 ft. of quayage, ships drawing 26 ft. being able to moor alongside. Cargo is transferred directly to the railway trucks. There is also a naval dock and arsenal with a torpedo-boat basin 755 ft. by 410 ft. and a dry dock 656 ft. long and 92 ft. broad. The Messageries Maritimes Company use the port as a coaling station and provisioning depot for their South American trade. Dakar is a regular port of call for other French lines and for the Elder Dempster boats sailing between Liverpool and the West Coast of Africa. It shares with Rufisque and St Louis the external trade of Senegal and the adjacent regions. For trade statistics see Senegal.
Dakar was originally a dependency of Goree and was founded in 1862, a year after the declaration of a French protectorate over the mainland. The port was opened for commerce in 1867, and in 1885 its importance was greatly increased by the completion of the railway (163 m. long) to St Louis. Dakar thus came into direct communication with the countries of Upper Senegal and the middle Niger. In 1887 the town was made a commune on the French model, all citizens irrespective of colour being granted the franchise. In 1903 the offices of the governor-general and of the court of appeal of French West Africa were transferred from St Louis to Dakar, which is also the seat of a bishop. In February 1905 a submarine cable was laid between Brest and Dakar, affording direct telegraphic communication between France and her West African colonies by an all French route.
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