Sahel Research Group
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.
Recent Research Group Activities
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.
The 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.
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.