Sahel Research Group

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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

New Publication by Sahel Research Group Colleagues (Discount Code for Purchase found below)

Our Sahel Research Group colleagues, Leonardo Villalón and Rahmane Idrissa, have recently published their co-edited book: Democratic Struggle, Institutional Reform, and State Resilience in the African Sahel with Rowman and Littlefield. With contributions from six distinguished scholars from each of the Sahelian countries, the book collectively explores the consequences of a quarter century of democratic struggle on institutions and state-building in the region.

The book can be purchased on our publisher’s website found here

**To order the book at a special 30% discount click, download this flyer or use code LEX30AUTH20 when ordering**


Call for Papers: African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) Annual Meeting, Paris, Dec 17-18, 2020

The objective of the 2020 ABORNE annual meeting organised by the OECD Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC/OECD) and the University of Florida Sahel Research Group (SRG) is to rethink the complicated relationships that bind trade and security in African borderlands. Apply before August 1st, 2020 here. The call for papers is available here.



New report maps political insecurity in North and West Africa

The new report “The Geography of Conflict in North and West Africa” is now available online. The report will be launched at the Munich Security Conference this morning by the Secretary-General of the OECD. It builds on our research project Foreign Interventions and Transnational Insurgencies in the Sahara-Sahel.






SRG receives new OECD grant to study insecurity and urbanization in West Africa

The University of Florida Sahel Research Group has received a $311,000 grant from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to study the impact of foreign interventions on transnational insurgencies in the Sahel-Sahara. Our team will also analyze contemporary urban transformations and contribute towards the Atlas on Cities in Africa published by the OECD. This project is led by Visiting Associate Professor Olivier J. Walther and Professor Leonardo A. Villalón and builds on a 2017 memorandum of understanding between the University of Florida and the OECD.


Fiona Mc Laughlin receives NEH grant to work on vernacular literacies

Fiona Mc Laughlin has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work on her project, Trans-Saharan Literacies: Writing across the Desert. By showing these vernacular literacies to be robust everyday practices in many African societies, and by tracing their transmission and spread through pathways of Islamization, Islamic education, and pastoralist traditions, I strengthen the case for positing a trans-Saharan sphere of influence.


Professor Leonardo Villalón was at NATO for an Open Perspectives Exchange Network Seminar

Leonardo Villalón made an invited presentation on “State fragility in the Sahel” at an Open Perspectives Exchange Network (OPEN)  seminar on Migration from the Sahel, sponsored by NATO and held in Naples, Italy, on 3 December 2018.




Fiona Mc Laughlin with colleagues inside a Saharaoui tent at WOCAL 9

Fiona Mc Laughlin gave a talk entitled “The sociolinguistics of everyday ajami writing in Senegal” at the 9th World Congress of African Linguistics (WOCAL 9) at the Mohammed V University of Rabat, Morocco, on August 25, 2018.




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

“Mauritania” MAURITANIA Population: 3.6 Million Capital: Nouakchott Land Area: 1,030,700 sq km

Mali MALI Population: 17.5 MillionCapital: Bamako
Land Area: 1,240,192 sq km

Burkina Faso BURKINA FASO Population: 19.5 Million Capital: Ouagadougou
Land Area: 273,800 sq km

Niger NIGER Population: 18.6 Million Capital: Niamey Land Area: 1,267,000 sq km

Chad Chad CHAD Population: 11.9 Million Capital: Ndjamena Land Area: 1,284,000 sq km