Within its 2013-14 Programme of Work, the SWAC Secretariat is conducting a prospective analysis on the Saharo-Sahelian areas. The future of the region is subject to serious worries. According to the most pessimistic scenarios, chaos may spread widely throughout the zone in the coming months and years, threatening regional stability with possible repercussions to the African continent and to global security as a whole.
However, “The Saharo-Sahelian areas have an enormous development potential, which could also benefit the whole West Africa region; the Saharo-Sahelian’s future depends largely on deeper economic and political co-operation with North Africa.” This hypothesis is the starting point of this reflection which will be explored and developed in detail. Initial findings will be presented at the SWAC Forum 2013. An Atlas consisting of a description of the area, maps and thematic chapters will be produced in the course of 2014. A deeper reflection will be led on the prospects for transhumant pastoralism, in particular in relation to development, food and nutritional security, and security issues (Symposium held from 27-29 May 2013 in N'Djaména).
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 Saharan 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.
SWAC Forum 2013
Within the Sahel and West Africa Week, to be held from 25 to 29 November 2013, the SWAC Forum will provide a platform for government officials, experts and policy makers. The Forum will promote dialogue on the development potential of the Saharo-Sahelian areas and on how co-operation between North, West and Central Africa could affect their long-term stabilisation and development. Authors of the atlas and experts will participate in panel discussions. By bringing together SWAC Members (notably the West African regional organisations) and other key stakeholders, we hope that the Forum will favour an informed and rich debate that encourages increased co-operation between North, Central and West Africa.
Drawing on the forward-looking analysis, an atlas will be published within the OECD West African Studies series in 2014. It will be structured in two parts:
- Part 1: Annotated maps and graphs providing a detailed description of key features of the Saharo-Sahelian areas.
- Part 2: Thematic chapters analysing key issues and challenges from a trans-regional perspective.
- History, and bi- and multilateral political relations. An analytical summary of the most important stages of North and West African history, focusing on convergent and/or divergent dynamics between the two regions. An historical overview and description of current alliances, and of bi- and multilateral political relations, including regional co-operation (AMU, CEN-SAD, CILSS, ECOWAS, UEMOA, etc.).
- Crises, conflicts and insecurity. An analytical overview of past crises and conflicts and their regional dimensions. A description and spatial analysis of trafficking.
- Economic co-operation between North and West Africa. One of the underlying hypothesis of this reflection is that the “economic and commercial desertification of the Sahara” is the result of the greatly underestimated value of the two regions’ complementarities. Moreover, economic co-operation between North and West Africa, even if it does not directly impact the Saharo-Sahelian areas, could create or strengthen political co-operation and the common desire to develop the region. The paper shall take stock on the current level of economic co-operation and explore whether it is possible to show that the two regions have quite significant shared economic interests in various sectors such as agriculture, energy, food, investment and industry.
- Transport infrastructure. Description of the current trans-Saharan road network. A detailed analysis of the current transport system and future projects will help determine whether improving trans-Saharan transport is indeed key to the region’s development and security, while providing useful indications on the current and potential competitiveness of supplying the northern Sahelian regions via North African ports (Also see: “Study on the potential for trade between member countries of the Trans-Saharan Road Liaison Committee.” December 2009).
- Borders, cross-border co-operation and free movement. History and current description of borders with regard to frontiers and boundaries. Are there contentious borders? Assessment of the impact of cross-border co-operation on security and economic development. How have bilateral agreements and the Joint Commissions for Co-operation evolved and contributed to ensure the free movement of people and goods, improve security and/or facilitate trade, for example, between Libya and Niger, Morocco and Niger, and Mauritania and Senegal?
- Gepgraphy and migrations. What are the specific aspects of North and West African migrations? What is known today about West African migration to North Africa and vice-versa? Is there still a need for a workforce in North Africa, particularly in the agricultural sector? What is the situation of West African students emigrating to North Africa? What is the current situation in Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, and what has been the impact of the Arab Spring and the Libyan civil war? Can migration policies contribute to build closer social and economic ties between the two sides of the Sahara?
- Petrol, gas and mining issues. An overview of the current state of mining, oil and gas explorations, potential and prospects. Who are the main investors? What is the medium and long-term outlook? Can Trans-Saharan co-operation play a role (through Trans-Saharan gas pipelines, for example)?