Sahel 

A region of opportunities

A 5,000 kilometre belt of land below the Sahara Desert, the Sahel stretches from Africa’s Atlantic coast to the Red Sea.

Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales

It includes four countries bordering Lake Chad - Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria – as well as Burkina Faso, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Senegal.

Development challenges in the region are numerous but so are the opportunities.

Photo: UNDP Chad/Aurélia Rusek

The main threat is climate change, which causes temperatures in the Sahel to rise 1.5 times faster than the global average.

Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

There used to be a major drought every 10 years, now it’s every other year.

– Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Secretary General's Special Advisor for the Sahel, April 2018 - March 2019.

Photo: UNDP Chad/Jean Damascene Hakuzimana

By 2050, more than 85 million sub-Saharan Africans are expected to be forced to migrate.

Photo: UNDP Chad/Aurélia Rusek

Source: World Bank

The Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria is another threat to families.

Photo: UNDP RSCA/Malin Fezehai

Across the region, 4.2 million people are displaced, and millions more are unable to find work.

Source: OCHA

“Our focus is on tackling the drivers and root causes that lead people to leave their home countries. These include poverty, inequality, climate change, conflict and poor governance.”

Photo: UNDP Chad/Aurélia Rusek

- Achim Steiner

To achieve this, UNDP plays an important role in the joint humanitarian and development response.

Photo: UNDP Nigeria/Bridget Jangfa

Cross border cooperation is one of the main facets of our stabilization work.

At the crossroads of Chad and Cameroon, or between Mauritania and Mali, residents from both sides engage in dialogue.

Photo: UNDP Chad/Aurélia Rusek

Women organize to discuss and raise awareness of violent extremism and they involve local leaders in their efforts.

Photo: UNDP/Lesley Wright

These complex challenges often overshadow the Sahel's enormous potential.

Photo: UNDP Nigeria

Source: United Nations Support Plan for the Sahel

Its population grows at about three percent per year and is expected to reach 340 million in 2050.

Photo: UNDP RSCA/Malin Fezehai

Over 64 percent of the 150 million people living in the Sahel are under 25. 

Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales

These millions of young people can bring about change, provided they are given the right tools and resources.

Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales

It is estimated that a one percent increase in the working age population increases real GDP growth per capita by 0.5 percent.

Source: Drummond et al 2014, IMF

“We need to invest in the potential of young people, their talent, energy and enthusiasm and create the opportunity for them to fully realize their dreams”

Photo: UNHCR Niger/Louise Donovan

Ahunna Eziakonwa, Director of UNDP’s Africa regional bureau.

That's why a Great Green Wall is being planted to restore 100 million hectares of land, trap 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million jobs...

Photo: UNDP/Imen Meliane

Source: Great Green Wall

...because trees help grow food, create green jobs and give young people a reason to stay.

Video: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The region's vast potential for renewable energy is also largely untapped. Only 31 percent of people have access to electricity.

Photo: UNDP/Imen Meliane

Source: World Bank; 2014

That means 70 percent can vastly improve their lives with a reliable source of energy.

Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales

Source: UNDP Africa report on renewable energy

Solar and wind power can also improve food security, helping families store and process food.

Photo: UNDP/Imen Meliane

Source: 2018 Africa Sustainable Development Report

Across the 10 countries, UNDP helps stabilize, transform, and sustain for a prosperous Sahel.

Photo: UN/Marco Dormimo

Share this story and follow the conversation on social media: #SahelNow

Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales

Partners: Canada, European Union, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden; Alliance Sahel, FAO, Peacebuilding Fund, UNOCHA, UN Women, UNICEF