The European Business Council for Africa

Following the 2013 French military intervention in Mali, significant attention has been paid to issues of security and development in the Sahel. The stability of Sahelian countries and the capacity of their governments to manage social change and resulting tensions have major security implications for migration flows, economic development, and health concerns both for local people and for the broader international community. The rise of violent religious extremism in the region and the varied efforts to curtail its spread have raised international alarm and prompted important resources to be invested by both domestic governments and foreign partners. This paper offers a broad overview of the current situation in the Sahel paying attention to the intersecting and overlapping issues of security and development. The paper then interrogates three central themes—poverty, migration, and conflict—adopting a historical perspective to examine long-term trends in the region. In doing so, it aims to contribute to contemporary policy discussions by offering evidence of how these dynamics have either changed or persisted across this centrally important region during the last several decades.


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Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Israel-Iran: Syrian state media on Thursday reported Israeli airstrikes in Quneitra province. Crisis Group expert Naysan Rafati says this incident may be the latest in a series of frequent and often unacknowledged Israeli operations against Iran and Iran-linked targets. Recent unconfirmed reports that the high-risk cat-and-mouse game could also be playing out in Iraq underscores growing tensions in what one Israeli official described as a “quasi-state of war” with Iran.

➤ Nigeria: A Boko Haram attack on a funeral and villages near Maiduguri in north east Nigeria on Saturday killed over 70 people. Crisis Group expert Nnamdi Obasi says despite the government’s insistence that it has defeated Boko Haram, this incident, amid a recent surge of attacks, underscores the insurgency’s resilience, the military's deficiencies and the need for a broader strategy that addresses the factors that contribute to the insurgency, including weak governance and a lack of basic services.

➤ Sudan: Protests erupted Monday in the city of El-Obeid in response to an incident in which security forces opened fire on demonstrators protesting fuel and bread shortages, killing six, including four children, and injuring 60. Crisis Group expert Murithi Mutiga says the repeated violent crackdowns on protesters appear to be attempts by elements of the ruling junta to derail the transition and underscore the need for concerted international pressure to push the ruling Transitional Military Council to back down, finalise outstanding details of a power-sharing deal agreed in July and accept a civilian-led transition.

Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Korean Peninsula: A joint Russian-Chinese air exercise on Tuesday entered the airspace over a group of islets in the East Sea controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan. Crisis Group expert Christopher Green says the decision by South Korea’s air force to fire hundreds of warning shots is unprecedented. Seoul feels threatened by the regional military postures adopted by Moscow and Beijing, but the incident also offered South Korea a chance to assert its sovereignty over the islets at a time of rising tensions with Japan.

➤ Nigeria: Clashes in Abuja between police and members of the Shi'ite group Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) demanding the release of their leader, who has been detained since 2015, killed over a dozen people on Monday. Crisis Group expert Nnamdi Obasi says IMN agitators are unlikely to relent so long as the government ignores court orders for their leader’s release. The violent repression by security forces is increasing the likelihood of the group’s radicalisation.

Turkey: Ankara suspended its 2016 readmission agreement with the EU in which Turkey agreed to accept the return of irregular migrants and asylum seekers who crossed from its territory to Greece after 20 March 2016. Crisis Group expert Nigar Göksel says that since there has been only a small number of returnees under the deal, the announcement is rather a symbolic move that reflects Turkey’s broader grievances toward the EU, including the lack of progress on visa liberalisation and EU sanctions related to oil drilling near Cyprus. 

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Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Democratic Republic of Congo: The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency on Wednesday after confirming Ebola in a person visiting the eastern city of Goma. Some 1,600 people have died during the current outbreak, centred in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces. Crisis Group expert Nelleke van de Walle says the WHO's action might bring more funding for controlling the outbreak, which has been difficult due to local conflict and distrust of health workers. 

➤ Pakistan: President Imran Khan arrives in Washington on Saturday, days after Pakistani police arrested Lashkar-e Tayyaba leader Hafiz Saeed on terrorism financing charges. The U.S. and India accuse Saeed of organising the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, which killed 160. Crisis Group expert Laurel Miller says Khan’s government will need to build a strong case so that the courts do not release Saeed. 

➤ Syria: The dreaded regime offensive in the north-western zone of Idlib has hit a wall as Islamist rebels put up strong resistance. Fighting has killed over 2,000 people and displaced more than 330,000 civilians toward the Turkish border. Crisis Group expert Sam Heller says the insurgents and their backer Turkey have demonstrated to the regime and its allies that retaking Idlib would be terribly costly.

➤ Turkey: U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that the NATO ally is banned from buying American F-35 fighter jets, shortly after it began taking delivery of the Russian-made S-400 air defence system. Members of Congress are pressing the administration to apply sanctions, saying they are required by law. Crisis Group expert Nigar Göksel says the fallout will depend on how the U.S. handles the sanctions issue. Turkish leaders, who have framed the matter in national sovereignty terms, will likely calibrate their response accordingly.

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Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Algeria: The constitutional mandate for Abdelkader Bensalah’s 90-day interim presidency expired on Tuesday, three days after a national conference of eleven political parties and 30 trade unions agreed on elections should the regime guarantee their transparency and credibility. Crisis Group expert Michaël Ayari says the problem is that demonstrators, who have protested for twenty consecutive weeks, believe that elections cannot be transparent and credible until the regime has been completely dismantled.

➤ Iran: The UN’s nuclear watchdog verified that Iran exceeded its uranium enrichment cap of 3.67 per cent and Tehran threatened to further increase enrichment to 20 per cent. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says Iran has so far pursued limited and reversible steps to pressure Europe to offer an economic lifeline, but sooner or later it could pass a red line that triggers the deal’s remaining signatories to snap back multilateral sanctions and/or that provokes a military confrontation with the U.S.

Nigeria: Clashes between police and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) killed two protesters, injured nine security guards and resulted in 40 arrests. Crisis Group expert Nnamdi Obasi says the Shi’ite Muslim protesters, who have demanded the release of their detained leader since 2015, have clashed with security forces repeatedly. If Nigerian authorities continue to hold the IMN leader, in defiance of court orders for his release, the protests will continue and IMN could become much more radical.

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Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Iran: Iran on Monday exceeded the limit on its low-enriched uranium stockpile permitted by the 2015 nuclear deal and signaled its intention to begin enrichment above allowable levels. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says that while Iran’s decision to surpass the volume cap does not present an immediate proliferation risk, it is another step in the escalatory dynamic triggered by the U.S. administration’s decision to exit the nuclear deal.

➤ Korean Peninsula: U.S. President Trump became the first sitting president to set foot on North Korean soil on Sunday. Crisis Group expert Christopher Green says Trump's hour-long meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was largely symbolic. The two sides did agree on one thing, though: the revival of working-level talks for the first time since the collapse of their February summit in Hanoi. The key will be for both sides to walk away from the maximalist positions that doomed the Hanoi summit.

Libya: An airstrike on the Tajoura migrant detention centre on the outskirts of Tripoli killed more than 40 migrants on Tuesday, the single most deadly incident since the outbreak of hostilities in Tripoli in April. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says despite indignation in European capitals, the attack is unlikely to trigger anything more than verbal condemnation against Haftar’s forces, if indeed it is proven that they were behind the airstrike.

➤ Sudan: Opposition leaders and the ruling military council on Thursday agreed to a power-sharing agreement. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says this is not the finishing line. The ruling council is a bad faith actor but is also fast running out of wiggle room to cling to power on its own. Pressure must continue to ensure it sticks to the path forward that has been agreed.

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Africa's Digital Investment Marketplace


We are pleased to announce the launch of The Platform - the Africa Investment Forum’s digital marketplace for investors, project sponsors and transaction facilitators, that helps connect providers of capital and professional services with investment opportunities across the continent


The Platform offers you the following:

  • A live database of private or PPP projects in Africa according to regions and sectors of interest, as well as stages of readiness;
  • Matchmaking capabilities between investors, co-financiers and projects across sectors, instruments and regions;
  • Information about financial products and services available on the continent through our associated investors, Banks and technical assistance providers;
  • Interactive communities of interest by sector or region which you will be able to join and actively participate in;
  • Data analytics and tools to evaluate deal flow and investor trends;
  • Access to business trainings, courses and webinars and;
  • A collection of articles and industry related news.


More information here