Sahel Research Group

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Trans-Saharan Elections Project


Events & Activities


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.

Subscribe here to our weekly newsletter with news updates from the Sahel (includes an archive of previous issues).

Sahel Research Group News

Leonardo A. Villalón and Sebastian Elischer of the Sahel Research Group convened a panel titled “Institutional Reform, Religious Change and Stability in the Sahel” at the 6th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Paris. 8-10 July 2015. With presentations:

Mamadou Bodian presented “Islam and the Public Sphere in Senegal: Analysis of Discourses and Practices on Good Governance.”
Dan Eizenga presented “Institutional Reform in Africa’s Hybrid Regimes: The Prospect for Democratic Change in Tchad.”
Idrissa Abdourahmane presented “Tipping the Balance: Secular and Sharia Law in Niger and Northern Nigeria.”

Sebastian Elischer has published a new article “Autocratic Legacies and State Management of Islamic Activism in Niger” in African Affairs. August 12, 2015.

Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim gave an invited presentation at the Faculté des Sciences Sociales of the Université de Segou, Mali, on the topic of “Insurrection Islamique et Processus Socio-politiques au Sahel: Analyse comparative entre le Mali, le Niger et la Mauritanie.” June 15th 2015. For Malian media coverage of the talk click here.

Leonardo Villalón gave an invited presentation on Niger and Chad, for a panel on “The Lake Chad Basin’s Security Landscape: Challenges and Responses.” Counterterrorism Partnership Fund Roundtable Series. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University. Washington DC. 26 June 2015.

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 Senegal SENEGAL Population: 12.9 Million Capital: Dakar Land Area:196,722 sq km Mauritania MAURITANIA Population: 3.3 Million Capital: Nouakchott Land Area: 1,030,700 sq km Mali MALI Population: 15.5 Million Capital: Bamako Land Area: 1,240,192 sq km Burkina Faso BURKINA FASO Population: 17.3 Million Capital: Ouagadougou Land Area: 273,800 sq km Niger NIGER Population: 16.3 Million Capital: Niamey Land Area: 1,267,000 sq km Chad CHAD Population: 10.9 Million Capital: Ndjamena Land Area: 1,284,000 sq km