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


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.




Congratulations Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim and Dan Eizenga on successfully defending your PHD dissertations!

Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, a PHD candidate in Political Science and affiliate to the Sahel Research Group, successfully presented and defended his PHD dissertation: “Islam and Political Contestation in the Sahel: Peaceful Protests, Violent Riots, and Jihadist Insurgency in Mauritania, Niger, and Mali” on August 6th, 2018.





Dan Eizenga, a PHD candidate in Political Science and affiliate to the Sahel Research Group, successfully presented and defended his PHD dissertation: “Managing Political Liberalization After Multiparty Elections: Regime trajectories in Burkina Faso, Chad, and Senegal” on August 8th, 2018.

We wish you both continued success!



Symposium on Faith and Politics: Student Activism and Religious Movements in Sahelian Universities

On Thursday and Friday 26 and 27 April, 2018, the Sahel Research Group (SRG) hosted a symposium and workshop on “Faith and Politics: Student Activism and Religious Movements in Sahelian Universities,” at the Center for African Studies, University of Florida. This event brought together scholars from six countries of the Sahel with colleagues from the University of Florida. Presenters included Mamadou Bodian from Senegal, Abdoulaye Sounaye from Niger, Elémine ould Mohamed Baba Moustapha from Mauritania, Mamadou Dembélé from Mali, Magloire Somé from Burkina Faso, and Abakar Walar Modou from Chad. Collectively the presentations offered an in-depth and comparative analysis of religious student movements across the campuses of national universities in all six countries.

The Sahel region has experienced significant recent socio-political change. Religiously-based student movements, largely but not exclusively Muslim, are now central features of student life across the region. These have overshadowed what remained of the older leftist student movements of the first post-independence decades, as well as the more recent corporatist movements represented by student unions demanding material benefits. The symposium, supported by a grant from the Minerva Initiative, was structured to allow for comparative examination of the individual country cases so as to shed light on the factors influencing these changes as well as the reasons for the increasing religiosity on university campuses in Sahelian countries. The symposium will provide the basis of a forthcoming publication.


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

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