The Sahel Chair, a Sahelian tool at the heart of the region's challenges

Entering 'Sahel' into an internet search engine will give you a set of articles that do not give much hope for optimism. Development and security issues dominate the articles. Although not a scientifically rigorous method, this simple search nevertheless illustrates how necessary it is for Sahelian actors and their partners to redouble their efforts if the region is to overcome its immense challenges.

The FERDI Sahel Chair is one of these actors. The Sahel Chair was designed as a tool for reflection, and promotion of Sahelian expertise to provide information for the decisions of public and private actors for the sustainable development of the region. The very essence of the Chair is to contribute to greater efficiency in development actions.
 In its fourth year of existence, the Chair’s efforts have begun to bear fruit. I would like to highlight the achievements since 2018 and the work on the analysis of financial flows for development carried out by the Chair's experts.

The Chair’s first work aimed to examine the data available to Sahelians decision-makers to help define their public policies - policies which cannot be decided without data. Data relating to external financial flows are of prime importance, especially as the Sahel’s economies are highly dependent on these flows. However, the examination of these data collected by the Sahel Chair with the support of the countries’ administrations revealed that too often they were incomplete or were unreliable. Several workshops with representatives of the governments of the G5 Sahel countries and Côte d'Ivoire have led the Sahel Chair to focus its work on strengthening the capacity of states to have reliable databases and a common platform for better monitoring.

This platform is now an important part of the Sahel Chair's programme of activities. The first step was to draw up an inventory of the systems for monitoring financial flows for development in each country, based on the national reports drawn up by the Chair's local contacts. The long task of setting up such a platform has now begun.

This initial work has highlighted problems in the implementation of development projects and programmes in the G5 Sahel countries and Côte d'Ivoire. It has also identified good practices that could lead to better results in the implementation of these projects and programmes. These good practices have just been published in the form of a methodological guide which should improve the implementation of projects and programmes and increase their impact for the benefit of the population.

The analysis of the impact of development projects is hampered by the difficulty of measuring the impact, particularly in the most fragile areas where it is often difficult to travel. This difficulty motivated the Sahel Chair to develop an evaluation method adapted to the specific context of these areas, based on the cross-referencing of geolocalised data with the field data which it is still possible to collect thanks to local correspondents. The Sahel Chair is about to publish a working paper presenting this method, which permits, at a reasonable cost, the evaluation of the impact of external aid in a fragile area. For the moment, this method has only been applied to World Bank projects, the only funding partner with free access to geolocalised project data. However, it is ready to be presented and discussed with all development partners before the extension of the study to all the projects in the Sahel region, depending on the data that donors can provide. The Sahel Chair hopes to be able to produce an independent, objective, evaluation of donor action covering the most difficult to access areas.

This data constraint was also a difficulty in measuring the possible crowding out of development spending by security spending, which was requested by the G5 Sahel Executive Secretariat. It was again thanks to its many local partners that the Sahel Chair was able to collect the necessary information and overcome this difficulty. The research clearly showed that security spending has a significant, negative impact on development spending. This complicates the budgetary planning of Sahelian countries and reinforces the need to improve the quality and availability of the data necessary to develop relevant public policies.

The Sahel Chair intends to pursue its efforts in this direction and thus contribute to making our favourite search engines lie once and for all.