|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 to be 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 dialogue between experts and policy makers on the development potential of the Saharo-Sahelian areas and the role that co-operation between North and West Africa could play in stabilising and developing these areas. 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 and West Africa.
Drawing on the forward-looking analysis, an Atlas will be published within the OECD West African Studies series. 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.).
- Political crises, conflict 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.
- Agriculture and livestock farming. A description of the agricultural activities/sector in the Sahara and bordering areas (irrigation, oases and development prospects). A summary of the state of livestock farming and related constraints and prospects.
- Trade. The Sahara is often (rightly so) compared to a sea. The Mediterranean Sea is a key trading area. With this in mind, this paper should aim to answer the following questions: Why is the Sahara not (or no longer) a trading area as vibrant as the Mediterranean Sea? What share represents trade between North and West Africa in the foreign trade of these countries? A special focus should also be placed on barter trade, trade agreements between North and West African countries, trade obstacles such as the non-convertibility of currencies.
- Trans-Saharan 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).
- Land planning. The consideration of transport infrastructure points to the broader issue of land planning: Assessment of land planning strategies. Are there substantive differences between countries of the Saharo-Sahelian areas? Are there any particularly successful models that respond to the specific characteristics of the Saharo-Sahelian areas? Is regional co-operation necessary to the integration of these areas? What role has decentralisation and cross-border co-operation played in the countries concerned? What are the specific characteristics of decentralisation?
- 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?
- 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)?
- Tourism. Summary of the importance of tourism in the concerned countries, including the non-coastal areas. Assessment of the potential of Saharo-Sahelian tourism, estimated number of visitors, current trends, constraints and prospects. Link between development and spatial organisation.