Sahel-Europe Dialogue: the keys to regional security

European-African cooperation could enhance security in the region
French President Emmanuel Macron during a video conference meeting with Sahel G5 leaders on 15 February 2021.

AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN  -   French President Emmanuel Macron during a video conference meeting with Sahel G5 leaders on 15 February 2021

When we talk about the Sahel and relations between European partners, we notice that there are many strategies conceived to be developed both inside and outside the Sahel. International solidarity needs to be built in order to solve the problems in the region, but first there must be a common, non-confrontational vision. 

The difference between the conception of the Sahel crisis in Europe and the understanding of local actions, in this logic of construction, is an indicator that understanding can reinforce the spirit of solidarity. It can devise a strategy that can be realised. This was one of the main themes addressed at the conference of the Sahel-Europe Dialogue Forum organised by the Francisco de Vitoria University, which brought together experts on the subject such as Spanish Army General Francisco José Dacoba, Colonel Pedro Sánchez Herráez, General Francisco Espinosa, analyst Florentino Portero, Beatriz de León Cobo, Bakary Sambé, Boubacar Haidara, David Skuli, María Dolores Algora, Mohamed El Moctar Ag Mohamedoun and Ambassador Julio Herráez. 

Sahel

This region is in constant mutation and setting constant paradigms that we should establish around the African population. In order to innovate and to be able to reach a social understanding. There are many European partners who continue to pay for the deficit of poor communication, sometimes at the cost of human lives, with a negative result for their image. The population of the Sahel does not understand the meaning of the interventions and suffers all the consequences of military intervention.

Security management could be an opportunity for exchange and not just a threat. We should look at the local perception of the intervention. Different countries in the Sahel are in different situations; depending on their internal politics or their political situation, situations are different. However, terrorism is present, it is not possible to be sure of one single nuance. It is a multiform phenomenon and does not certify a uniform solution.

Sahel

What looks like a military solution is a temporary solution; unless there is good communication, there can be no good initiative. The fight against terrorism is coming to be seen and to emerge as a suspension of imperialism, a debate of the political class that is full of incoherence.

There is a new dilemma emerging between security issues and urgencies. It has shifted from the priorities of wars to filling European agendas. The effects are that African economies have been weakened. Africa suffers from all the shifts in international politics that marginalise the continent. When strategies start to be taken into account internationally, they will certainly have an impact on the Sahel's development. 

Sahel

The Sahel G5 could have a very positive impact if Europeans were taken into account in order to reach a more positive security situation. Inclusiveness should be a priority in order to provide a lead in terms of construction. The reason for hope is the shared certainty of being together, sharing vulnerability. A 'Marshal Plan with Africa, not for Africa'. Strategies must be coordinated to avoid a flow of conception that will be harmful to all.

Problems in the Sahel move up into the Maghreb countries and down into the Gulf of Guinea. In this area, all kinds of insecurities are displaced, climatic changes that alter the natural economic forms. It is essential to recover the space to allow people to resume normal life and, without security, nothing can happen.

Through Operation Eclipse, the United States is very much present in Mali and Burkina Faso, and thanks to them, the situation has improved a lot. They have interests, so many visits are made to the Sahel. France and other European countries have also contributed to the area with economic aid.

Sahel

Demography, another challenge facing the area

There are challenges in the Sahel with regard to demography. Population growth in the region is incompatible with the area's economic development and instability. Some demographers believe that overpopulation is regulated by epidemics, wars and famine. Where is the Sahel heading?

The situation in the Sahel is very worrying. The Sahel comprises very different territories, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, from the Sahara desert to the southern savannah. We could say that it is an area that partially covers 11 countries from Cape Verde to Somalia. Specifically, in the G5 there is a very significant demographic growth compared to the rest of the continent. 

Economic data in the Sahel area indicate these countries to be the poorest in the world. One of the most important problems is the issue of the demographic dividend; it is almost impossible to reach the target set and this is due to the lack of job creation as 60% of Africans do not have a job. 

Rural exodus, political violence and increased migration are other major problems facing the region. The spread of farms will disrupt the free movement of nomadic and sedentary groups. They will also be affected by confrontations in the Mali area over the free movement of arms.

Sahel

Challenges also arise with regard to immigration generated by the crisis in the region. The number of immigrants will increase by 2050, which does not mean that all of Africa will want to go to Europe, but aid for Africa's economic development could slow down the flows. 

Why do migrants want to leave Africa? They are certainly eager to discover the world, but all those who want to leave, and do not mind the risks, do so because of unemployment, as there is no better alternative where they live. There are many who are willing to risk their lives because they stand to lose them too if they stay. 

Another alternative to curb population growth is girls' education, which would be "the best contraceptive" the area could have. However, African cultures aim to have eight children, which makes the ideal family for them.

The inability of states to create local services, especially administrative and health services, keeps the area in constant deterioration. We cannot analyse this phenomenon if we do not reconstruct the states one by one. 

Despite all these negative conditions, Africa has many natural resources and is the youngest population in the world, so there would be a possibility to create local responses to try to put an end to terrorist organisations.