People of Sahel

Towards a prosperous & peaceful Sahel

  • Map of the Sahel in Africa
  • The Sahel, the vast semi-arid region of Africa separating the Sahara Desert to the north and tropical savannas to the south, is as much a land of opportunities as it is of challenges.

  • Kaya, Burkina Faso, March 2020 – UNDP / Aurélia Rusek

  • The Sahel is endowed with abundant human, cultural and natural resources, offering tremendous potential for rapid growth. Yet there are deep-rooted ecological, political, human rights and security challenges affecting the prosperity and lasting peace of the region. The nature and complexity of these problems cannot be overstated and they reverberate through communities and whole nations. Those worst affected are the most important resources of the Sahel people – Women and Youth.

    Despite this, the people of the Sahel have proven to be resilient and taken a firm stand to address the complex human security and development challenges facing them. Therefore, the United Nations Secretariat, Agencies, Funds, Programmes and Country Teams, are working assiduously with the people of the Sahel to meet their objective to establish a peaceful and prosperous Sahel. The United Nations is doing this under the auspices of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), which is at the center of the international response in the Sahel in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2391 (2017).

Map of Sahel

Land of Opportunities

  • The Sahel is the most youthful region of the world and offers immense opportunities for the global market.

  • 300M


  • 64%

    are less than 25

  • 50.3%

    are women

  • (Source: World Bank / 2016)

  • The Sahel also has more potential for renewable energy, such as solar and wind than most other regions in the world.

  • 13.9 billion

    GWh / year

    The solar energy potential of the Sahel could translate into a production of about 13.9 billion Gigawatt-hours / year.

  • 22 million

    GWh / year

    Global electricity consumption was 22 million Gigawatt-hours / year in 2017.

  • (Source: UNISS)

Land of Challenges

  • Climate has a strong influence on the day-to-day economic development of the region, affecting access to water, food, health, ecosystems and livelihoods.

  • x 1.5


    Temperatures in the Sahel rise 1.5 times faster than the global average.
    (Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

  • + 85 million

    climate migrants

    By 2050, more than 85 million people from sub-Saharan Africa are expected to be forced to migrate
    (Source: World Bank)

  • Radicalization, violent extremism and terrorist attacks are blocking development, blighting the lives and futures of too many children and youth in the region.

  • 5,275,913


    Number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been forced to flee their homes but who remain within their own country.
    (Source: UNHCR / June 2020)

  • 1,282,451


    Number of refugees who have been forced to flee their country and cannot return due to persecution, conflict and violence.
    (Source: UNHCR / June 2020)

This online photo exhibition provides a visual guide to the achievements of the United Nations through its work in partnership with the people of the Sahel, often in precarious situations.

  • Young women making jewelry in Kaya, Burkina Faso, March 2020 – UNDP / Aurélia Rusek

  • The accomplishments described here represent a fraction of the work of the United Nations across the 10 countries under UNISS namely Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia. These photos and personal histories from the region enable us to share our interaction with the Sahel communities that we serve.

    They illustrate the United Nations work across a range of themes. These are: humanitarian actions and life-saving efforts, security, sustaining peace, strengthening social cohesion, preventing crisis, deepening governance and rule of law, provision of essential services – education and health, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), work with IDPs, livelihoods, job creation for women and youth, economic revitalization with special focus on agriculture and renewable energy.

    We take this opportunity to thank the Governments and the remarkable people of the Sahel as well as our donors, civil society, the private sector and partners in academia, who we work closely with to achieve these results. By sharing a part of their story here, women, youth and people from all walks of life in the Sahel have shone a light on the challenges they face every day and how the UN collectively is helping to improve their lot.

“Only a collective, integrated and inclusive approach, owned and led by the countries of the region, will support sustained progress towards the lasting peace and development that are so urgently needed in the Sahel.”

Amina J. Mohammed
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General.