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Institutional Reform, Social Change, & Stability in Sahelian Africa

Leonardo Villalón - University of Florida


This project seeks answers to questions about the factors affecting stability and instability in six African countries—Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad—stretching across the arid Sahelian region. It focuses comparatively on factors influencing the capacity of these states to manage pressures—such as radical jihadi movements, endemic underdevelopment, and significant demographic changes—and hence maintain stability and ensure the social order and effective governance that serves as a bulwark against radical movements.  

The Francophone countries of the African Sahel, collectively among the least developed countries on earth, are also among the least-studied. Concerns raised by regional events in recent years, however, and in particular the rise of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have brought a new interest in developments in these countries. In addition to the destabilizing influence of AQIM activity, persistent drought and other economic challenges, demographic pressures from an increasingly young and urban population, escalating social and religious mobilization, and heightened demands for political reform have all cumulated to place significant pressures on these countries forming the southern edge of the Sahara.