The future of Sahara-Sahelian areas


The 2013-14 West African Futures (WAF) programme focuses on the Sahara-Sahelian areas. The reflection argues that stronger co-operation between North, West and Central Africa is a key factor to short- and long-term security and development of these areas. The three activities part of the reflection process include an in-depth analysis on the prospects of transhumant pastoralism, the organisation of a Forum and the production of an Atlas.

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Geographic scale

This zone includes the Sahara and its neighbouring shrub-steppe areas stretching from the mouth of the Senegal River in the West to Lake Chad in the East; and is bordered by the Mediterranean region in the North and the dry/humid tropical areas in the South. The Sahara area is thus at the centre of this reflection. Despite extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, the reflection does not include Egypt or Sudan (though relations with these countries may be considered if relevant). The focus area includes Algeria, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia, representing about half of the surface covered by SWAC and 80% of North Africa. 



Based on the analyses of a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Africa, Europe and North America, the SWAC Secretariat is currently producing an Atlas that will describe and analyse the key features of the Sahara-Sahelian areas. The Atlas includes a series of annotated maps and graphs, and analyses of various aspects of mobility (migration, nomadism, borders) and security (trafficking, networks) shared by North and West Africa. Published in the OECD West African Studies series, the Atlas will be launched during the Sahel and West Africa Week in December 2014, and in Paris in January 2015.

Focus Areas


The Sahara-Sahelian areas


  • Geography, history, people and mobility; evolutions of insecurity and conflict of the past two decades.
  • Facts and figures, including a case study on oil and gas. 



Mobility, networks and security


  • Trans-Saharan trade and nomadism: evolutions of economic relations and social networks between North African and Sahelian countries; historical analysis of nomadism and its capacity to adapt to economic transformations.
  • Borders and free movement: sociological and historical analyses of states’ and peoples’ relationships towards borders; mobility as the foundation of co-operation in the Sahara-Sahel; evolution and role of bilateral agreements and joint commissions.
  • Migrations: analysis of North and West African migration patterns and their role in building closer social and economic ties between the two sides of the Sahara. 
  • Crises, insecurity and trafficking: analytical overview of past crises and their regional dimensions; focus on the impact of the Arab Spring and the Libyan civil war on regional stability and political dynamics; description and spatial analysis of trafficking, highlighting the networks’ functioning and the moving scales of security issues.