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Building Back Better on U.S.-Africa Economic Partnership

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Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), the leading reputable U.S. business association with a strategic focus on connecting business interests between the United States and Africa, has held the 13th U.S.-Africa Business Summit. The U.S. government and private sector leaders together African political and corporate business leaders have been working consistently over these years to share insights on critical issues and policies influencing the U.S.-Africa economic partnership.

The three-day Summit held virtually included 5 plenaries and 12 panel sessions highlighting key economic recovery strategies and focused on a range of sectors and issues, including health and vaccine access, trade, digital transformation, infrastructure, financing, small and medium scale enterprises, tourism, women’s leadership and investment opportunities in various African countries.

Here are some highlights:

The high-level dialogue set the scene for reviewing the opportunities for United States and African public and private sector leaders, how to strengthen the economic partnership between the United States and Africa. Prosper Africa, investments in key sectors such as gas, exploration of possible new bilateral trade agreements, extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The Role of Women’s Leadership in Driving an Inclusive Recovery: The United States will drive a pandemic recovery and put women at the forefront. It has contributed 25 million vaccines for Africa. It implies to make sure incorporating women’s perspective in their efforts. “When women are empowered, they empower their families, they empower their communities and they empower their countries.”

Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) said that there are six critical things for women to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). These include: closing the gender gap as it relates to access to finance, empowering women in the export sector, regional value chains and procurement and ensuring that we include the voice of women in the AFCFTA implementation efforts.

New Pathways to a Strong U.S.-Africa Trade Relationship focused on a range of issues, from implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA), boosting Africa’s trade with the U.S. including through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), pursuing agreements that go beyond AGOA, such as the U.S.-Kenya FTA. It will be pursuing public private partnerships that support U.S. and African businesses, including women owned and led SMEs.

U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, noted as top priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration the defeat of COVID and helping facilitate a robust global economic recovery. She pointed to trade as a key part of that effort and the determination to implement policies that benefit not only those at the top but foster inclusive and sustainable development, support regional integration, and ensure that all citizens benefit from the global economy.

H.E. Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA Secretariat, highlighted the significant progress that has been made in advancing the AfCFTA — with 40 countries that have now ratified the agreement, Phase 1 covering trade in goods and services concluded, and 86% of the rules of origin completed. He noted that “AfCFTA has unlocked value chains for investors – especially U.S. investors – in key sectors such as pharmaceuticals, automobiles, agro-processing, and financial technology.”

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam noted that as the largest air cargo carrier in Africa with hubs in countries across the continent and the airline is successfully connecting Africa with the rest of the world – both for cargo and for passengers and tourism. He urged, though, that more be done to facilitate increased investment, trade and tourism in Africa and to support the AfCFTA vision and goals.

That the U.S. trade policy now transforms beyond the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was at the core of remarks by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Constance Hamilton. She noted that under the Biden-Harris Administration, they will be ramping up engagement with the AfCFTA Secretariat to support African regional integration, while looking to build stronger relationships with willing African nations through bilateral engagement. She noted the plans to hold a Trade Ministerial conference in 2021, and to engage with a range of stakeholders to explore ways to enhance the U.S.-Africa trade relationship.

Infrastructure Development: Catalyst for Economic Reboot. The Infrastructure session highlighted the growing financing gap in Africa and the importance of renewed public-private partnerships in the development of infrastructure projects.

Minister de Lille of South Africa and Serge Ekue of the West African Development Bank and other panelists suggested that a way to address those flaws is to “implement rigorous master planning that will first help identify bankable projects and then prepare them efficiently while raising local capacity.” Infrastructure is not just about the value of the money. It is about the value of the social impact on our communities. These indicated that countries pursue ways to bridge financing infrastructure in Africa.

Beyond Covid-19: Pathways to Resilient Health Systems in Africa. Building blocks for pathways to resilient health systems in Africa: Lessons from preparation and addressing the pandemic including a one-health multi-sectoral approach in addressing current and future pandemics. WHO and other partners have continued to play a critical role in building the capacity of African countries to cope with an overstretched health system during the pandemic.

It is important to invest in sustainable approaches that bring services close to the patients. These include strong primary healthcare (PHC) as the foundation for strengthening health systems, including the integration of services with a multi-disciplinary team. Looking forward, there are opportunities for impact investing in health in Africa by deploying financial resources that can have financial returns/commercial opportunities while improving health outcomes. 

Closing the Trade Finance Gap: A Pathway to Supporting More SMEs, Diaspora, and Women Owned Businesses
This session highlighted the trade finance gap with African, Diaspora, SMEs and Women owned businesses and how organizations can contribute to reduce (or eliminate) the gap. 

Participants discussed the impact of the pandemic on their organizations and initiatives contributing to economic activity recovery, as well as improving business operations. Panelists also highlighted the importance of diversifying both suppliers and clients, in addition to looking beyond the immediate market to new partnerships.

The diverse panel emphasized the growing trend of digitalization of SMEs and African business operations. Moving to digital and connected operations will help businesses not only simplify operations but also allow them to reach customers in places they were not able to operate before. This also will positively impact the relationship between Diaspora businesses and businesses on the continent. Panelists concluded that implementing strategies that will enable African SMEs to grow, build capacity, find new U.S. partners, and access cheap and easily available capital will be crucial to close the trade finance gap. 

Building a Sustainable Agribusiness Ecosystem

Panelists agreed that diversification was the way to improve the agribusiness sector. Collaboration between U.S. and African companies will help achieve sustainable development through increased access to investment financing and access to global markets for African companies.

Achieving diversification will require producing more value-added products, which will be achieved through investment in industrialization, R&D, and technology. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and favorable government policies will be key to funding these efforts. Investing in SMEs will be vital to improving agribusiness value chains since SMEs are deeply integrated at every level from retailers to crop transporters. Helping scale up these SME’s make the value-chains more productive and improve the sector’s output.

Digital Transformation – Pathway for Enabling African Business Environment

Digital Transformation – Pathway for Enabling African Business Environment plenary highlighted the role of the private sector and government to drive all-inclusive African digital transformation. 

In his remarks, South African Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition, Ebrahim Patel highlighted that digital technology is a critical tool and a critical enabler to build economic growth and economic opportunities. 

Digital technologies will help create new products and new markets for millions of Africans. Policymakers, corporations, and entrepreneurs have a unique partnership opportunity to develop digital infrastructure, skills, and ecosystems. Minister Patel invited the private sector to share ideas and suggestions to make the AfCFTA e-commerce protocol fit for purpose. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the digitalization of life and work. As a result, technology companies are developing lifesaving products and services. For example, Google and Apple developed exposure notification technology, which helps slow the spread of COVID-19. Google also developed a range of products for remote education. 

As African businesses and consumers have shifted towards e-commerce and digital payments, companies like Visa have accelerated the rollout of payment infrastructure. For digital trade and digital economy to work effectively, panelists recommended that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) be implemented to establish a continent-wide harmonization of business-friendly rules and regulations. 

The Future of Energy in Africa: Transition and Pathway to Cleaner Energy

The session drew high-level participants from the U.S. Government, African countries, and the private sector to discuss the need for public-private sector collaboration on energy transition in Africa and innovative thinking on the critical need to address energy poverty and access to electricity in Africa while advancing the urgent fight against global warming.

Joining U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, from the USG were senior U.S. government officials from the Departments of Energy and State, and the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Also participating in the dialogue were Ministers of Energy and senior African officials from Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Senegal, as well as CEOs and other top executives from a range of U.S. and African oil, gas, and power companies and major investors in the sector.  

The Hon. John Kerry stated that tackling climate change is a top priority for the United States and reiterated the U.S. government commitment to encouraging other countries to achieve their respective climate and clean energy goals. It was noted that more African countries need to sign on to the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change as it is important that all countries work together to address global climate change. 

Other U. S. government officials acknowledged energy poverty in Africa and noted that improving energy access in Africa is paramount to the U.S. government as it continues to invest in electricity systems in Africa through initiatives like Power Africa. They also noted that even while the United States is pushing for a strong political commitment from African to prioritizing and meeting climate change goals, the U. S. government will continue to support and finance energy projects (including some in gas) in Africa, particularly where renewable energy options may not be viable.

African Ministers and government officials shared the strategies they have adopted in their respective countries to both adopt clean energy technologies in oil and gas, while also investing in renewable energy options. In Senegal, Egypt and Angola, renewable energy is at the forefront of energy transition strategies and initiatives, and it was noted that collaborations with international partners is essential to achieving long term energy and climate change goals in Africa.

CEOs and senior executives of companies with operations in Africa who participated in the session highlighted that they are actively working on energy access in Africa, see gas (particularly abated gas) as a medium term, low cost transition option to address climate change, while some are also investing in and financing renewable energy projects in Africa.    

There were calls for fair treatment of Africa, in terms of climate change, as well as for the U. S. government to prioritize development over climate change when it comes to Africa, and to continue financing gas projects in Africa for the next 5-7 years, which some thought could actually help meet climate goals faster as Africans (especially those in rural areas) shift from wood burning to use of gas to cook. Noting the complexity of these energy issues, many agreed that public-private partnerships are crucial to renewable energy transitions, and thought that further dialogues like this one leading up to the COP 26 talks scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November 2021 would be crucial in the U.S. and Africans reaching a common understanding about the way forward on the future of energy and climate in Africa.  

Looking Forward: Biden-Harris Administration is prioritizing economic relationship with Africa. Dana Banks, White House Senior Director for Africa, announced the White House Administration made a request for $80 million in additional funding to push for the Prosper Africa Build Together Campaign that will drive billions of dollars of investment in Africa, build new markets for American products and create thousands of jobs for African and American workers.

The U.S.-Africa Business Summit 2021 was sponsored by leading global businesses and organizations. U.S. government has Prosper Africa, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Young African Leaders Initiatives among other tools for connecting and working effectively with Africa. The summit outcomes were highly appreciated, as it offers grounds for scaling up U.S.-Africa relations. The 13th summit, was organized and coordinated by Corporate Council on Africa, was broadly viewed as an effort directed at building new pathways to strengthen further the economic partnership between United States and Africa. [….]

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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West Africa: Extreme poverty rises nearly 3 per cent due to COVID-19

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Food insecurity is affecting millions of people in Burkina Faso. © UNICEF/Vincent Treameau

Extreme poverty in West Africa rose by nearly three per cent in 2020, another fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a UN-backed report launched on Thursday that looks at the socio-impact of the crisis has revealed. 

The proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day jumped from 2.3 per cent last year to 2.9 per cent in 2021, while the debt burden of countries increased amid slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space and weak resource mobilization. 

More than 25 million across the region are struggling to meet their basic food needs. 

Gains annihilated 

The study was published by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in partnership with the West Africa Sub-Regional Office for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). 

Sekou Sangare, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water resources, said the pandemic has, in particular, annihilated benefits gained in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition. 

“Even if we are happy with the governments’ response through the mitigation actions they have taken, we have to worry about the residual effects of the health and economic crisis as they are likely to continue disturbing our food systems for a long time while compromising populations access to food, due to multiple factors,” he said

The report highlights the effects of measures aimed at preventing coronavirus spread, such as border closures, movement restrictions and disruption of supply chains. 

Forced to sell 

These measures had an impact on income-generating activities, and on food prices in markets, with small traders, street vendors and casual workers most affected. 

The deteriorating economic situation has adversely affected food security and nutrition in West Africa.  

More than 25 million people are unable to meet their basic food needs, a nearly 35 per cent increase compared to 2020. People have been forced to sell their assets and livelihoods in order to get enough to eat. 

The situation is most severe in those areas affected by conflict, such as the Lake Chad Basin region, the Sahel, and the Liptako-Gourma region, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. 

Strengthen social protection 

The partners hope the report will encourage public and private response to address the pandemic’s negative impacts on the people of West Africa. 

Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, underscored the need for immediate and concerted action. 

“This report clearly shows the urgent need for Governments and partners to deliberately increase investments to strengthen and increase social protection programs, social safety-nets such as school meals, and other livelihoods-enhancing programs with particular emphasis on women and youth,” he said. 

The Director of the ECA’s Sub-Regional Office, Ngone Diop, pointed to one of the strengths of the partnership, namely the ability to carry out an online survey which mobilized nearly 8,000 respondents. 

Moreover, she said “basing our analyses on primary, first-hand data from households directly impacted by the health crisis makes it possible to offer decision-makers at the regional and national levels with relevant and better-targeted policy options.” 

Responding to needs 

Since the outbreak of the pandemic nearly three years ago, ECOWAS and its partners have implemented several economic and financial measures to respond to the increasing needs in the region.  

ECOWAS Member States, with support from WFP and other technical partners, have also expanded social protection programmes, as well as food distributions, for the most vulnerable communities.  

For example, In Mali and Niger, they are supporting some 1.4 million people and helping to strengthen national social protection systems. 

“WFP is committed to engage more with ECOWAS in enhancing coordination and facilitating experience sharing among countries, with the aim to ensure social protection systems in the region support food security and nutrition and provide resilience to shocks,” said Mr. Nikoi. 

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Pragmatic Proposals to Optimize Russia’s Pledged Rehabilitation of Ethiopia

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A girl stands outside her home in the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/Tanya Bindra

Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin pledged that his homeland will help rehabilitate his hosts after getting a clearer understanding of the full extent of the damage that the terrorist-designated Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) inflicted on the northern part of the country throughout the course of its approximately half-year-long occupation of the Afar and Amhara Regions. China’s Xinhua recently cited official Ethiopian government statistics about this which claim that the Amhara Region suffered damages upwards of approximately $5.7 billion.

According to their data, the TPLF partially or fully damaged 1,466 health facilities and vandalized water, electricity, and transport infrastructure. 1.9 million children are out of school in that region after more than 4,000 schools were damaged by the group. Over 1.8 million people were displaced from the Afar and Amhara Regions while 8.3 million there are suffering from food insecurity. The scale of this humanitarian crisis is massive and the direct result of the US-led West’s Hybrid War on Ethiopia that was waged to punish the country for its balanced foreign policy between the US and China.

It’s here where Russia can rely on its recent experiences in helping to rehabilitate Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to optimize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopian. Those two countries are much more war-torn than Ethiopia is, the latter of which only saw fighting in its northern regions instead of the entirety of its territory like the prior two did. The most urgent task is to ensure security in the liberated areas, which can be advanced by summer 2021’s military cooperation agreement between Russia and Ethiopia.

This pact could potentially see Russia sharing more details of its earlier mentioned experiences in order to enhance the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) security and stabilization operations in the northern part of the country. Syria and the CAR survived very intense Hybrid Wars that utilized cutting-edge military tactics and strategies against them similar to those that were subsequently directed against Ethiopia by the TPLF. It would help the ENDF to learn more about the challenges connected to ensuring security in areas that have been liberated from such contemporary Hybrid War forces.

The next order of business is to help the many victims of that country’s humanitarian crisis. Russia’s experience with assisting Syria in this respect, which suffered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, can be of use to Ethiopia. This is especially the case when it comes to aiding its internally displaced people. Their immediate needs must be met and maintained, which might require urgent support from that country’s trusted partners such as Russia. Provisioning such in an effective and timely manner can also improve Russia’s international reputation too, especially among Africans.

Northern Ethiopia’s post-war rehabilitation must be comprehensive and sustainable. The country’s Medemer philosophy — which has been translated as “coming together” – will form the basis of these efforts. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed touched upon this in his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize speech and his book of the same name that was released earlier that year. Its English translation hasn’t yet been published but Medemer was explained at length by high-level Ethiopian officials during an early 2020 US Institute of Peace panel talk and in Ethiopian writer Linda Yohannes’ insightful book review.

An oversimplification of it in the economic context is that Medemer preaches the need for comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable growth through public-private and other partnerships that bring prosperity to all of its people, which in turn strengthens socio-political relations between them. It seeks to apply positive aspects of foreign models while avoiding the bad ones. The Medemer mentality aspires to balance cooperation with competition, constantly improving itself as needed, in order to synchronize and synergize Ethiopia’s natural economic advantages in people, location, and resources.

In practice, this could see Russian public and private companies partnering with Ethiopia’s primarily public ones to rehabilitate the northern regions’ damaged infrastructure. Since sustainable growth is one of Medemer’s key concepts, the country’s Russian partners could also train more laborers, social workers, teachers, and doctors throughout the course of these projects while offering scholarships to some internally displaced youth for example. In that way, Russia and Ethiopia could truly embody the Medemer spirit by literally bringing their people closer together as a result of these noble efforts.

All the while, Russia’s international media flagships of RT and Sputnik should be active on the ground documenting the entire experience. The immense influence that Moscow has in shaping global perceptions can be put to positive use in exposing the foreign-backed TPLF’s countless crimes against humanity in northern Ethiopia. This can powerfully counteract the US-led West’s information warfare campaign against its government, which misportrays the TPLF as innocent victims of the “genocidal” ENDF, exactly as similar Russian media efforts have done in debunking Western lies against Syria.

The world wouldn’t only benefit by learning more about the US-led West’s lies against Ethiopia, but also in seeing how effectively Russia is working to reverse the damage that their TPLF proxies inflicted in the northern part of that country. Russia is also a victim of their information warfare campaign, which misportrays the Kremlin as a dangerous and irresponsible international actor. The truth, however, is that Russia is a peaceful and responsible international actor that has a documented track record of cleaning up the West’s Hybrid War messes in Syria, the CAR, and prospectively soon even Ethiopia too.

Upon taking the lead in rehabilitating northern Ethiopia, Russia should diversify the stakeholders in that country’s prosperity in coordination with its hosts. It’s in Ethiopia’s interests as well to receive assistance from as many responsible and trusted partners as possible. Russia can help by requesting that relevant aid and multilateral rehabilitation efforts be placed on the agenda of the proposed heads of state meeting between the Russian, Indian, and Chinese (RIC) leaders that presidential aide Yury Ushakov said was discussed for early 2022 during President Putin’s latest video call with President Xi in December.

The RIC countries stood with in solidarity with Ethiopia at the United Nations in the face of the US-led West’s subversive attempts to weaponize international law against it. They’re strong economies in their own right, not to mention through their cooperation via BRICS and the SCO, the latter organization of which also has anti-terrorist and other security dimensions. These two multipolar platforms could potentially be used to extend economic, financial, humanitarian, and security cooperation to their Ethiopian partner to complement bilateral and trilateral efforts in this respect.

Russia’s increasingly strategic ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could also lead to Moscow working more closely with Abu Dhabi on related rehabilitation matters with their shared partners in Addis Ababa. Observers shouldn’t forget that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) played a crucial role in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018. He even awarded their leaders his country’s highest civil honor when they both visited the UAE that summer. Furthermore, Al Jazeera alleges that the UAE has maintained a humanitarian (and possibly even military) air bridge to Ethiopia.

Regardless of whether or not the military aspect of this reported bridge is true or not, there’s no denying that the UAE has emerged as a major stakeholder in Ethiopia’s success. It deposited $1 billion in Ethiopia’s central bank in summer 2018 as part of its $3 billion aid and investment pledge at the time. The UAE also plans to build an Eritrean-Ethiopian oil pipeline in order to help the latter export its newly tapped reserves in the southeast. Additionally, DP World signed a memorandum with Ethiopia in May 2021 to build a $1 billion trade and logistics corridor to separatist Somaliland’s Berbera port.

Considering the closeness of Emirati-Ethiopian relations, it would therefore be fitting for RIC to incorporate the UAE as an equal partner into any potential multilateral plan that those countries might come up with during their proposed heads of state summit sometime in early 2022. It enjoys excellent relations with all three of them so it’s a perfect fit for complementing their shared efforts. Plus, the UAE has the available capital needed to invest in high-quality, long-term, but sometimes very expensive infrastructure projects, which can ensure northern Ethiopia’s sustainable rehabilitation.

It’s pivotal for Russia to prioritize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia ahead of the second triennial Russia-Africa Summit that’s expected to take place in October or November after fall 2019’s first-ever summit saw Russia return to Africa following a nearly three-decade-long hiatus. Coincidentally, Ethiopia requested last April to hold the next event in Addis Ababa. That would be a sensible choice since its capital city hosts the African Union headquarters, has sufficient infrastructure, and can serve most of the continent through its Ethiopian Airlines, which regularly wins awards as Africa’s best airline.

The interest that Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegunu recently expressed in courting more Russian investment ahead of the next summit goes perfectly well with Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Terekhin’s vow to heighten cooperation between those countries’ ruling parties. This in turn raises the chances that the present piece’s proposals could hopefully serve as the blueprint for beginning relevant discussions as soon as possible on Russia’s pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia with a view towards achieving tangible successes ahead of the next Russia-Africa Summit.

That timing is so important since Russia mustn’t miss the opportunity to showcase its bespoke “Democratic Security” model in Ethiopia. This emerging concept refers to the comprehensive thwarting of Hybrid War threats through economic, informational, military, and other tactics and strategies such as the action plan that was proposed in the present piece. “Democratic Security” approaches vary by country as evidenced from the differing ones that Russia’s practicing in Syria and the CAR, but the concept could attract many more African partners if it’s successful in Ethiopia by next fall’s summit.

Russia must therefore do everything in its power to bring this best-case scenario about. Rehabilitating Ethiopia won’t just improve millions of lives, expose the war crimes committed by the US-led West’s TPLF proxies, and enable Russia to showcase its “Democratic Security” model to other African countries, but ensure that the continent’s historical fountainhead of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism survives its existential struggle. Upon that happening, Ethiopia can then serve to inspire a revival of these ideas all across Africa through its complementary Medemer concept and thus strengthen multipolarity.

From our partner RIAC

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Decade of Sahel conflict leaves 2.5 million people displaced

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Two displaced women sit at a camp in Awaradi, Niger. © UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year.

The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency.

Increase in one year

Just last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending).

According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021. 

This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country.

In Burkina Faso alone, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rose to more than 1.5 million by the end of the year. Six in ten of the Sahel’s displaced are now from this country.

In Niger, the number of IDPs in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua has increased by 53 per cent in the last 12 months. In Mali, more than 400,000 people are displaced internally, representing a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.

Climate, humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with crises on multiple fronts.

Insecurity is the main driver, made worse by extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the climate crisis are also felt more strongly in the region, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average.

Women and children are often the worst affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence.

According to the UNHCR spokesperson, “host communities have continued to show resilience and solidarity in welcoming displaced families, despite their own scant resources.”

He also said that Government authorities have demonstrated “unwavering commitment” to assisting the displaced, but they are now “buckling under increasing pressure.”

Bold response

UNHCR and humanitarian partners face mounting challenges to deliver assistance, and continue to be the target of road attacks, ambushes, and carjacking.

In this context, the agency is calling on the international community to take “bold action and spare no effort” in supporting these countries.

UNHCR is also leading the joint efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency shelter, manage displacement sites and deliver vital protection services, including combating gender-based violence and improving access to civil documentation.

In 2021, more than a third of the agency’s Central Sahel funding needs were unmet.

This year, to mount an effective response in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, the agency needs $307 million.

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