The Seeds for a Regenerated Sahel

Offering new thinking on how to build a better future, to inspire people to come together around the shared goal of building a better Sahel.

July 19, 2022
Photo: Adobe Stock

Early forecasts played out 2021 to be a year of recovery. While in some ways that held true, the year was unfortunately marred by several events. COVID-19 mutations kept the region on its toes, tested our tolerance levels and pushed countries on the fringes of poverty to the brink – exposing what little resilience was left, ultimately leaving millions vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic coupled with conflict and instability.

Also threatening regional stability have been the recent waves of unconstitutional government changes — transforming what once was “a relic of the past” into a trend of today, leaving an incalculable effect on the region’s political and socio-economic landscape. Within the past year alone, 4 of the 10 target countries of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Guinea – have all fared with uncertain political transitions.

These changes have placed immense pressure on democratic systems, probed the legitimacy of political institutions and brought about a tectonic upheaval that has reverberated throughout the region and regrettably landed heavily on vulnerable populations.

Last year alone, more than 28 million Sahelians – primarily women and children – needed life-saving assistance, with armed conflict, violent extremism and climate change placing regional instability in the ascendancy. According to OCHA, close to 6.3 million people are forcefully displaced (including refugees) across the Sahel region.

What then, is our response amidst this complex and volatile context?

Our work focuses on the big issues of our time, such as crisis prevention and response, climate change, extreme poverty, and economic development.

Over the past year, in collaboration with our partners, we introduced a suite of bold ideas to lift the ambition of global policy responses. We hoped that by offering new thinking on how to build a better future, we could inspire people to come together around the shared goal of building a better world.

These ideas are reflected in our global and regional strategic frameworks for the next four years, such as the UNDP Strategic Plan, the Renewed Strategic Offer for Africa, the Regional Programme for Africa, and “A Regeneration” – UNDP’s Sahel Offer.

These frameworks are the meeting point between our ambitions and the needs of our time and guide our thinking and actions in regenerating the region.

Allow me to share with you examples of this.

Renewable Energy

We believe that renewable energy does not exist in isolation. It is intrinsically wired into every aspect of society and our lives. How we engage with one another, how we learn, how we earn a living, how we cook and even how we receive medical treatment. Access to renewable energy is vital. As such, the absence of it creates development deficits that leave many vulnerable and play into the hands of perpetrators of armed conflict and political violence.

Through our efforts on this front, we hope to attract renewable energy investments for more than 175 million people with no access to electricity and over 271 million people who endanger their lives daily by using dangerous cooking fuels and technologies like kerosene-powered stoves and open-fire cooking settings powered by wood or coal.

We have set an ambitious target of connecting more than 150 million Sahelians to clean and affordable energy by 2025. Eco-friendly modes of transportation, clean cooking technologies, clean energy sources, clean energy powered public facilities, millions of new green jobs and improved electrification rates that benefit millions. The potential in the region through Renewable Energy is endless.


We are in a critical moment that recognizes the growing importance of young people as development partners, more so in the Sahel, where more than 65% of the region’s 350 million people are under 25.

We believe that young people in the Sahel Region are the key to unlocking the region’s development potential and numerous opportunities for themselves and millions of others living in the region. Our contribution to this is captured through our efforts to mobilize more than 10 million young Sahelians on various development initiatives, plant 10 billion trees and create over 10 thousand young Sahelian entrepreneurs with solutions that drive transformational change in the Sahel.

We have already begun this journey.

Through YouthConnekt Sahel, Sahel Innovate Challenge, Youth Ecobrigade, Visual Animation Entrepreneurs, Youth Agro-preneurs Initiative, and UNDP Accelerator Labs across the region, we support young people with seed funding, mobilize youth for tree planting exercises and provide training and empowerment opportunities for many. We believe our investments go beyond one to the many and invite partners to embark on this journey with us to see youth realize their aspirations.

Governance and Peacebuilding

It is no secret that the problems we see today in the Sahel are all traceable to governance: shrinking fiscal space, organized transnational crime, weak or absent governance systems, inter-communal conflicts, violent extremism, internal displacement and perceptions of exclusion and marginalization.

The magnitude of these challenges calls for significant investment. In recognition of this, we act in concert with other Humanitarian-Development-Peace actors to unfold initiatives tailored to the needs of affected communities that foster foundations for peacebuilding and development.

In the Lake Chad Basin and Liptako-Gourma regions, where violent extremism and armed conflict threaten to rip apart the social and political fabric of communities, we work together with local actors, governments, and partners to roll out stabilization packages that prepare communities for an eventual peaceful and voluntary return to sustaining economic environments.

We help make communities devasted by conflict whole again by rehabilitating schools, hospitals, houses, security fences, legal facilities, customs, and police offices. We provide ambulances, water pumps, and solar-powered lighting to improve access to essential services and help give agency back to local populations by providing training, income generation opportunities and rebuilding livelihood infrastructure like market stalls. By working with law enforcement personnel and peace and stabilization committees, we strengthen local security and dialogue, making it possible for economic activities to thrive and encouraging the return of Internally Displaced Persons.

These are the seeds for a regenerated Sahel.

They show we can build a Sahel that lifts everyone.

A Sahel fit for the future.

Join Us!

Read our Annual Report: UNDP WACA | Annual Report 2021