Sahel Research Group

Sahel Research Group

Center for African Studies & Department of Political Science


The Sahel Research Group at the University of Florida is a collaborative effort to understand the political, social, economic and cultural dynamics of the countries of the West African Sahel. Our focus is primarily on the six Francophone countries of the region—Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. We are also interested in developments in neighboring countries, to the north and south, whose dynamics frequently intersect with those of the Sahel. The Sahel Research Group brings together faculty and graduate students from various disciplines at the University of Florida, in collaboration with colleagues from the region.

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Recent Research Group Activities

Fiona McLaughlin has been awarded a Residential Fellowship from the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. She will be in residence from September 5-October 31, 2017 where she will be working on her book project, Language and urban life in Senegal: A critical sociolinguistics of the postcolony.

Fiona McLaughlin spent two weeks in Ghana, from July 16-29 running a Summer School on Endangered Language Documentation and Data Management with colleagues James Essegbey (UF) and Felix Ameka (Leiden University.) Twenty-five of the thirty students came from across West Africa, while the remainder came from US universities. Students got hands-on training in documentation and archiving techniques as well as on grant writing. They worked with six speakers of the highly endangered language, Animere, a Ghana-Togo Mountain language that has approximately thirty remaining speakers. Data will be archived in The University of Florida Language Archive (TUFLA). The summer school was held at the University of Education, Winneba and was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

group of smiling peopleThe UF Sahel Research Group is pleased to announce that we have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sahel and West Africa Club of the OECD in Paris. We look forward to collaborating with the SWAC Secretariat in its mission to support the effectiveness of regional policies. In the initial phase of our collaboration, the project will explore urbanization in border areas and women’s trade networks at the local and regional scale. Leonardo A. Villalón introduced the work of the University of Florida Sahel Research Group. Watch Video. Laurent Bossard talked about the new partnership with the Sahel Research Group (French). Watch Video


For more news on our activities visit Sahel Research Group News.

About us

Over the past couple of decades the Sahel has been characterized by significant efforts at reform and experimentation with democracy, with some successes. Yet the region still presents some of the most difficult governance challenges in the world, and these have been complicated in recent years by pressures emanating from events in North Africa and by developments in the Sahara. Our goal is to attempt to understand the complex dynamics of these quite understudied countries.

A major focus of the Sahel Research Group has been the effort to understand factors affecting the development of democratic institutions in the region, and particularly electoral systems. The Trans-Saharan Elections Project (TSEP), funded by a the grant from the United States Department of State, made possible a number of exchanges with elections specialists in all six countries of the region. It also allowed us to develop the TSEP website that you will find linked on this page, providing information on the electoral systems and processes of each country.

The development of democratic institutions has been complicated and at times undermined by the destabilizing pressures on the region. With a major three-year grant from the Minerva Initiative, a core effort of the Sahel Research Group is to study the intersection of processes of political reform with socio-religious change in affecting the prospects for stability in the countries of the region. More information on the Minerva research project as well as downloadable working papers can be accessed directly on the project page here.

Other research projects featured here, by both faculty and graduate students, complement these efforts by focusing on social, cultural, linguistic and economic issues in the region. News of recent publications, presentations, and other activities by the research group are available on our Research Group News page. We welcome your feedback and interest, and are happy to correspond with other scholars working on the region.

TSEP countries

Population: 14.3 Million
Capital: Dakar
Land Area: 196,722 sq km

Population: 3.6 Million
Capital: Nouakchott
Land Area: 1,030,700 sq km
Population: 17.5 Million
Capital: Bamako
Land Area: 1,240,192 sq km
Population: 19.5 Million
Capital: Ouagadougou
Land Area: 273,800 sq km
Population: 18.6 Million
Capital: Niamey
Land Area: 1,267,000 sq km
Population: 11.9 Million
Capital: Ndjamena
Land Area: 1,284,000 sq km