The Sahel – made up of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger – is at a crossroads. The region is facing unprecedented levels of violent conflict, with more than 4,000 terrorism-related deaths already reported by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) in 2020. Despite national and international interventions, the security situation has continued to worsen; UNHCR reports that conflict in the Sahel has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and disrupted access to safe and stable livelihoods for millions.
The Sahel’s future is complicated further by the extreme impact of conflict on local economies. Entrepreneurs and informal sector actors, the lifeblood of the Sahelian economy, are among those most impacted by conflict and displacement. Against a backdrop of growing conflict and economic uncertainty, the Sahel is also home to one of the world’s youngest populations, largest natural resource reserves, and a strong and dynamic business sector.
Up until now, most attempts to address conflict and economic disruption in the Sahel have focused primarily on military action. While many interventions have been steps in the right direction, it is only with the inclusion of local business that sustainable approaches to security and development can take root. Local economic actors live with the day-to-day realities of the current crises and are inextricably linked to their solutions.
CIPE’s work in the Sahel aims to bring the voice of local business to the forefront of economic policymaking to help combat insecurity and build regional economic resilience. CIPE has worked in the Sahel since 2016 through its partnership with Burkina Faso-based Institut FREE Afrik and began the pilot phase of its regional engagement in 2018. Through partnerships with think tanks in each of the five countries of the G5 Sahel, CIPE supported entirely locally-produced research on the economic impact of violent extremism. This research has laid the groundwork for dialogue between business leaders and governments at both the national and regional levels. CIPE’s work led to the grassroots-level formation of the Sahel Business Coalition for Inclusive Partnerships, an inclusive regional business coalition with members from all five countries. The mission of the Sahel Business Coalition and all of CIPE’s work in the Sahel is to champion economic and security dialogue with government and international actors to bring much needed local perspectives to peace and economic resilience efforts in the Sahel.
Still in its early stages, the initiative has already achieved significant success and garnered high-level interest from the institution of the G5 Sahel – a regional body chaired by the Presidents of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger. CIPE has been able to facilitate constructive and participatory dialogue on economic policy roadblocks and solutions between business coalition members and the G5 Sahel; based on this dialogue and extensive local research, the coalition is on its way to finalizing a locally-driven regional agenda for economic growth. The coalition has placed a large emphasis on the inclusion of women, youth, and SMEs in its work, and hopes to bring this diversity of mindset to all of its engagement with policymakers. In mid-2020, the second phase of CIPE’s regional engagement in the Sahel hit the ground running with local business leaders coming together through the Sahel Business Coalition for Inclusive Partnerships to support their communities and the region as a whole during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For news, updates, and more information about this initiative, please visit sahelinitiative.cipe.org.