On December 9, 2021—during a special online event featuring voices from the Sahel region of Africa—top level officials, artists and activists in the region and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) presented its new programmatic Offer for the Sahel: A Regeneration.
“Today should be a moment to reflect on whether the world can move beyond only viewing the Sahel region through the lens of crisis. UNDP’s new programmatic offer for the Sahel region, A Regeneration, aims to address the underlying causes of instability and help unlock the region’s incredible socio-economic promise,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Administrator.
“Such a large-scale investment in governance, renewable energy and in young people in the Sahel will pay incredible “dividends”, improving the lives and wellbeing of millions of people while helping to protect our planet,” he added.
Covering ten countries—Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia—the program is a call for new partners to join local actors and the United Nations in a unique contribution to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) to regenerate this great land of opportunity.
COVID-19 pandemic setback development but also provides a unique opportunity to re-imagine the future. The Sahel is now at a tipping point that requires bold steps to scale up and accelerate investment in developing solutions that ensure the region builds forward better.
“Niger, like all the countries of the Sahel, recognizes the UNDP’s capital of experience in promoting development policies,” stated H.E. Mohamed Bazoum, President of the Republic of Niger. “The Stabilization Facility of the Lake Chad Basin has allowed the return of many displaced people in conflict-hit areas. I launch a vibrant appeal to all other bilateral and multilateral partners for sustained mobilization in order to meet the total funding requirement.”
UNDP’s Sahel Offer – A Regeneration is a $3.6 billion program, focusing on three main areas: Governance, Energy and Youth. That is the collective of what will transform and sustain prosperity in the Sahel. The Offer will leverage UNDP’s new capacities in partnership with UN sister agencies – and roll out transformative interventions to break cycles of need.
“There is indeed a future promise of the Sahel. A promise based on energy, talent, and resilience of the people of the Sahel; a land endowed with wealth of natural resources and a dynamic and ingenious youth, creating innovations and home-grown solutions to development challenges,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UN Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel.
“Our research shows that $1 invested through a specific programme may yield a return worth $2 in peace, security, development and reduction of humanitarian needs. However, if this $1 is instead invested through integration and collaboration, it can yield a return of $10 on joint humanitarian-peace-development efforts,” he continued.
The event was graced by high representatives from pan-African institutions, including the African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security H.E. Bankole Adeoye – who, on behalf of the AU Chairperson, welcomed the initiative pledging AU support for its roll out. In drawing similarities to the aspiration of the African Charter on Democracy and Governance, he advocated for the prioritization of women and youth in implementing ”A Regeneration”.
In terms of Governance, UNDP will expand its stabilization portfolio to allow communities affected by violent conflict to rebuild their lives by investing in infrastructure like schools, health centers, homes, hospitals, and markets. It also involves facilitating the rule of law and enabling civil servants and local authorities—including police, courts, and county clerks—to resume work.
A Regeneration will also invest in young people as the key to transformative development in the Sahel by increasing digitization and through UNDP’s Accelerator Labs and YouthConnekt Sahel initiative and partnerships with the Tony Elumelu Foundation, implementing the Sahel Youth Entrepreneurship Programme which aims to train, mentor, and financially support 100,000 young entrepreneurs over Decade of Action.
UNDP’s new Energy Compact pledges to work with partners to provide access to clean and affordable energy to 500 million additional people — including 150 million in the Sahel region. This is critical in a region where less than 50 per cent of the population have access to electricity. Such investments will provide needed catalytic action to spur industrialization and take advantage of new opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“Today is about the Sahel. It is about the Sahel we believe in. The Sahel we want to see. At the UN, we know that it is possible to witness a regeneration,” emphasized Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant-Secretary General and UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Regional Bureau for Africa Director.
“This is our commitment to cut the code of ties with poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and violent conflict. We invite new partners to co-invest in the pioneering efforts of Sahelians, the United Nations and our partners, as we work together towards a regeneration of the Sahel,” she concluded.
The Sahel region is endowed with abundant human, cultural and natural resources, offering immense potential for growth. It sits atop some of the largest aquifers in the world and holds enormous potential for renewable energy. With over two-thirds of the population under 25 years of age—and with young women and girls constituting over 50 per cent—the Sahel is one of the world’s most youthful regions.
Featured photo is courtesy of UNDP Chad.