Sahel Region, Africa

Development challenges in Africa’s Sahel region are numerous and only through durable and long-lasting partnerships can these obstacles be overcome. This was put forward at the recent Strategic Dialogue between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Acknowledging the existing meaningful partnership with JICA, Manager of the UNDP Regional Office for West and Central Africa-Dakar-Senegal Njoya Tikum said it was important to maintain areas of collaboration between the two organizations when it comes to addressing challenges in the region. Tikum noted in his presentation that JICA is committed to the concept of human security, enabling local communities to have a more decisive role in planning, executing and maintaining development projects to ensure a better future.

“We have six impact areas identified by the UNDP Africa Strategic Offer,” Tikum said. “These range from structural economic transformation to peace and security, affordable and sustainable energy, natural resource governance, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and youth and women employment and empowerment.”

Across the region, more than 42 million people are displaced and millions more are unable to find work. By 2050, an estimated 85 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to be forced to migrate due to poverty, inequality, climate change, conflict, and weak governance.

Tikum added that while the challenges are numerous, so, too, are the opportunities for development and that is why UNDP’s Renewed Strategic Offer is committed to converting problems into a promise and turning challenges into opportunities.

“We have also identified some fundamental enablers that we think need to be in place,” he added.

These enablers include:

  • Improved Governance
  • Digital transformation
  • Sustainable / innovative financing
  • Strategic communications and partnerships
  • South-South cooperation
  • Development intelligence

Tikum underscored that digital transformation, if given the attention it needs, could play an important role in achieving the six areas identified. “The challenge is how we use that new digital mindset to achieve the six big priority areas we’ve identified as development solutions for Africa.”

UNDP estimates that over 64 percent of the 150 million people living in the Sahel are under 25 and is certain these millions of young people can bring about change, provided they are given the right tools and resources.

He said financing these developments is greatly dependant on how UNDP communicates results with their partners and builds development intelligence to create solutions which will facilitate Africa to achieve the structural changes it seeks.

In addition to the stabilisation programme mentioned by UNDP for the region, Tikum said the Sahel Regeneration Offer (2020-2025) Flagship Initiative highlights key areas they would like to partner with JICA on to co-create programmes and solutions.

“One is really around governance; the second part is on youth and the third part is around energy. And all these three big areas speak to the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel, which the entire UN system has agreed to help develop.”

He noted there are also other players in the region, such as the Sahel Alliance, who are pushing forward on issues like education, agriculture, energy, decentralisation, governance, and internal security.

Ultimately, Tikum said the areas identified allow for short-term and longer-term partnership between UNDP and JICA for development in the Sahel.

The briefing session was organized as a follow-up to the 10th strategic dialogue between UNDP-JICA held in November 2020. JICA took note of UNDP’s Sahel Regeneration Offer anchored by the UN integrated strategy for the Sahel. This session contributed to further opportunities for collaboration on future projects between UNDP and JICA in Sahel region. In March 2021, a new cycle of Japanese Supplementary Budget 2020 will kick-off in five countries in Sahel.     

UNDP and JICA will continue consultations towards materializing the partnership in the Sahel, with a view toward TICAD VIII to be held in Tunisia in 2022.

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