Research on the Sahel

AFD works to develop and promote production of knowledge on the Sahel through three components: (i) research with an operational purpose on the contexts, issues, and stakeholders of the region; (ii) research programs on strategic topics for the Sahel, whose findings are published by Editions Agence française de développement; and (iii) support for researchers and experts on the Sahel.
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AFD's Research on the Sahel
Share of African scientific production among world scientific production
of the 7 countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change are in the Sahel: Niger, Chad, and Mali (source: ND-GAIN index)
The population of the Sahelian countries is expected to double by 2050
  • Crisis and conflict analysis

    Many research projects are carried out under the impetus of AFD to analyze the crises and conflicts in the Sahel. Some are designed to aid AFD in developing its major strategic choices. Others inform projects under appraisal or that will be carried out in the future, especially through the “Sahel Analysis, Monitoring and Learning Platform” (PASAS). 

    Among this research work, three themes stand out: 

    • The individual determinants of crises, including the socio-political processes that lead people to become combatants (whether jihadists or not) and the processes that help reach an end to the crisis through their reintegration into society, the laying down of weapons, and the reallocation of war resources. 
    • Governance issues, such as the role and functioning of the State and public services in the Sahel, or such as situations of “substitution” by sub-state groups, when local populations try to recreate “bottom-up” public services when State services are lacking.
    • Global security issues, with work on the tools and approaches that the international community uses to deal with conflicts, stabilization, mediation, or the “3D” approach.

  • Support for research teams

    To build the right responses to local development issues, it’s crucial to have strong and autonomous national research to rely on. That’s why research on the Sahel should mostly be conducted in the Sahel by Sahelians. 

    AFD supports research on the Sahel in several ways:

    • We support work in a variety of fields, from social sciences to life and earth sciences. 
    • We help in mapping and documenting the current state of research on the Sahel (including scientific institutions, researchers’ careers, and the emergence of think tanks), especially in social sciences, agronomic and environmental sciences, and health sciences.
    • We target and support research institutions capable of nurturing and influencing public discussion on the Sahel, by providing quality analyses and promising ideas.
    • With researchers from the Sahel, we support other influential civil stakeholders in discussing ideas and outlooks for the region, through our Sahel Program 2040 for example.

  • Demographic and social dynamics

    Sahelian societies are faced with sharp population growth, extreme poverty, and a high level of inequality. Knowledge of the demographic and social issues in the Sahel is thus crucial for an understanding of the dynamics at work.

    The population of the Sahel is very young. That’s why research on education, training, youth insertion, and decent employment is essential for an understanding of the changes at work there, and for supporting Sahelian women and men in their empowerment and social and civic inclusion. Gender inequalities are also very striking in the Sahel, as they hinder the empowerment of women and slow economic and social progress in the region. AFD works on these issues by analyzing discrimination and the factors of success for Sahelian women.

    Watch on YouTube: Towards the reduction of inequalities? The example of Burkina Faso

    AFD also includes analysis on economic and social inequalities as a cross-cutting aspect of its studies. We have launched research on multidimensional inequalities, which are analyzed through six perspectives: life and health, education, living conditions, financial autonomy and dignified work, political participation, and personal and legal security. The main goal of this research is to fuel public debate and to inform public policy.

  • Governance of resources and territories

    The Sahel is undergoing exceptional but natural population growth that is leading to densification of cities and the countryside. Villages are thus growing rapidly, in many places turning into new towns that are gradually reshaping both the economy (mainly in agrifood) and the way in which Sahelian regions are connected with one another.

    These various regions are also marked by increasing climate volatility: temperatures are already high and increasing, and rainfall is already low and becoming more and more uncertain. All this leads to greater economic vulnerability and to more conflict over natural resources. 

    AFD research focuses on:

    • Documenting the reshaping of local areas, especially in terms of agricultural production, the system and supply of food to cities, precarious neighborhoods, and regional outlooks. 
    • Understanding the wide range of forms of governance of natural resources and the legal pluralism associated with them, i.e., through the commons approach, the study of land tenure (research by the land-tenure committee of Foncier & Développement), pastoralism, and agricultural water (research by the COSTEA Committee).
    • Proposing methods and instruments that improve the sustainable management of these resources, through irrigation, land, or climate information systems.

  • Macro-economic changes

    The Sahel countries have to cope with multifaceted economic and social challenges, which are made worse when exogenous and endogenous factors interact. These include: 

    • Political crises and geopolitical risks
    • Humanitarian and security crises, accompanied by significant population and refugee displacements in a context of strong demographic pressure, endemic ethnic conflicts, agropastoral tensions, and cross-border banditry and terrorism 
    • Unstable public finances and external accounts, supported by the international community 
    • Extreme vulnerability to climate change 

    AFD’s country-risk economists keep this in mind when they perform the following:

    • Country assessments that aid in (i) understanding the development processes of the Sahel countries; (ii) identifying their growth trajectory; and (iii) detecting the economic, social, political, and financial vulnerabilities associated with those trajectories
    • Cross-cutting analyses on macro-economic issues such as the debt dynamics of developing countries, the links between fiscal system and inequality, and the efficiency of public spending. This research can be found in our MacroDev collection.

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