The Club

The Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) is an international platform for policy dialogue and analysis devoted to regional issues in West Africa. Its mission is to enhance the effectiveness of regional action in the common and interdependent area composed of the 17 countries of ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS. Created in 1976, it is the only international entity entirely dedicated to regional co-operation in Africa.

Some 100 stakeholders participate in the SWAC platform: governments of West African countries and OECD member countries, regional organisations, professional associations and civil society groups, bi- and multi-lateral development partners and research centres.

Under the guidance of its Members, the Secretariat of the SWAC provides factual, innovative and forward-looking analysis; facilitates dialogue, information-sharing and consensus-building; and formulates policy recommendations. Based at the OECD, the Secretariat helps ensure West Africa’s presence in global fora. 

At a glance


1973 Extreme drought in the Sahel; creation of the “Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel” (CILSS)
1976 Creation of the “Club du Sahel” at the initiative of CILSS and some OECD member countries aimed at mobilising the intern. community in support of the Sahel
1984  Another devastating drought; creation of the “Food Crisis Prevention Network” (RPCA) at the initiative of CILSS and the Club
1990 Adoption of the “Food Aid Charter” by Sahelian countries and DAC member countries
1994 Release of the West Africa Long-Term Perspective Study (WALTPS), “Preparing for the Future: a Vision of West Africa in the Year 2020”
1997 Adoption of the Banjul Memorandum by the Sahelian Heads of State and Government for more effective aid
2000 Creation of the Network of Farmers’ Organisations and Agricultural Producers of West Africa (ROPPA)
2001 Expansion of the Club’s geographic focus to all of West Africa (member countries of ECOWAS, UEMOA, CILSS) 
2005 Support for the elaboration of the ECOWAS Common Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP)
2006 Launch of the ECOWAS Cross-border Initiatives Programme (CIP), conceived on the basis of SWAC work
2007 Support for the ECOWAS Commission in drawing up its “Strategic Vision for 2020
2008 Support for the set-up of the ECOWAS Early-Warning and Response Network for Conflict Prevention (ECOWARN)
2008  Support for the elaboration of the ECOWAS “Common Approach on Migration
2008/09  Support for the ECOWAP “Regional Agricultural Investment Programme” (RAIP).
2009 Support in defining strategic guidelines for the development of the livestock sector within ECOWAS and UEMOA.
2011 Inception of the new Club; ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS joined the Club as full Members.
2011 Adoption of the “Charter for Food Crisis Prevention and Management”, which covers 17 West African countries
2011 G20 Africa Outreach Session on “Agricultural and Food Price Volatility: African Views and Perspectives
2012  Launch of the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR) - Sahel and West Africa
2014 Atlas on the Sahara-Sahel: Geography, Economics and Security
2017 Cross-border Co-operation and Policy Networks in West Africa




"SWAC is the oldest initiative of solidarity and partnership between the OECD and Africa." 

A‌nne De Lattre, founder and Director of the "Club du Sahel" in 1976

The “Club du Sahel” was founded by Sahelian countries and OECD member countries in Dakar in 1976 to raise international support and awareness of the drought crises in the Sahel. For the first 25 years, the Club’s key mission was to provide support to the Permanent Inter-State Committee of Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) and to mobilise support from the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries, which led to a significant increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Sahel region. It also facilitated the creation of the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA) and the Network of Farmers’ Organisations and Agricultural Producers of West Africa (ROPPA). Following a large-scale consultation process facilitated by CILSS and SWAC, the Food Aid Charter was adopted in 1990, which outlined many of the principles that were later included in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. West Africa is currently one of the most prepared regions for preventing and managing food crises.

In response to growing regional interdependence, the Club’s geographic focus was extended in 2001 to encompass all West African countries. The Club was consequently renamed the “Sahel and West Africa Club” (SWAC). While deepening its partnership with CILSS, it has also developed strong relationships with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).

SWAC has contributed to strategic thinking and facilitated the development of various common regional strategies and policies, in particular in the fields of agriculture, cross-border co-operation, conflict prevention, climate change, livestock and migration. By promoting regional action, SWAC work has helped highlight that contemporary global challenges are all part of a puzzle of interdependent regional challenges.

In 2010, Club Members launched a deep reform process, which led to the approval of a new Mandate with a new governance structure and a redefined relationship with the OECD. As a result, ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS joined the Club as Members in January 2011.


Key values

Three key values - which are at the same time the Club's working methods - have been shaping the SWAC’s action for decades:

  • Dialogue: As an informal platform for dialogue, the Club is able to spark discussions amongst a wide diversity of stakeholders.
  • Objectivity: SWAC’s analyses are independent and factual.
  • Boldness: Without institutional constraints, short-term political deadlines, etc. and thanks to its informal character, SWAC is able to challenge preconceived ideas, promote unconventional approaches and innovation as well as support the drivers of innovation.


The SWAC and the OECD


Our relationship with the OECD is defined in a Memorandum of Understanding. The SWAC Secretariat is fully integrated into the OECD, under the management structure of the OECD Global Relations Secretariat. As an active member of the OECD Development Cluster ( and other Africa-related initiatives (, the Secretariat facilitates exchanges between West Africa’s regional actors and OECD member countries.

Why the OECD? 

The Club du Sahel was founded in 1976 at the initiative of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), and several Sahelian, West African and OECD member countries to mobilise international support in response to the devastating droughts in the Sahel. It is the oldest initiative of solidarity and partnership between the OECD and Africa.

Today, the SWAC Secretariat’s position within the OECD is crucial in helping the region promote its interests at the global level and strengthen its voice in global policy debates. Capitalising on the OECD’s analytical sources, the SWAC Secretariat’s position also contributes to the independence needed to produce relevant studies to foster policy dialogue and promote better policies.

“Regional integration in West Africa does not need an additional institution in the region, but rather one that can advocate for it internationally and help make West Africa’s voice better heard in global debates.”

Yaya Sow, ECOWAS Ambassador to the EU and the ACP group  



Built on equal governance between West African regional organisations and their partners, the Club is today a unique platform for dialogue within the international development landscape.

The Strategy and Policy Group (SPG) brings together Club Members twice a year to define the Club’s work priorities and approve the programme of work and budget, as well as activity and financial reports. Members also ensure the Club’s smooth functioning through their financial contributions (minimum amount agreed upon by consensus) and designate the Club President. The position is currently held by François-Xavier de Donnea, Belgian Minister of State. T. Jean de Dieu Somda, former ECOWAS Commission Vice President, is the Special Representative of the President, responsible for promoting the Club on the international scene. Under the management structure of the OECD Global Relations Secretariat, the OECD-based SWAC Secretariat is in charge of implementing the work programme. It carries out analytical work, organises network and other meetings, and facilitates contact between stakeholders.