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Navigating Complexity: Security Challenges and EU Strategies in the Sahel and West Africa

Written by: Vera Calabrese

Edited by: Zoi Sofologi

Supervised by: Syuzanna Kirakosyan

Since achieving independence in the 1960s, several nations across the Sahel and West Africa have grappled with violent extremism stemming from a blend of ineffective governance, economic instability, and the increasing impacts of climate change. This convergence has triggered a surge in violence, conflict, and criminal activities over the past decade, transcending national boundaries and posing formidable challenges to countries both within and beyond the region. The Sahel region remains a crucial transit corridor for migrants journeying from sub-Saharan Africa to northern coastal countries and onward to Europe, presenting, along with mounting terrorism, a significant security concern for the EU (European Parliament, 2021). Further exacerbation of violence could increase displacement and migration rates from the region, compounding pressures on northern and coastal African nations as well as Europe (Center for Preventive Action, 2024). Against this backdrop, this article delves into the multifaceted dynamics shaping the Sahel and West Africa, and examines the root causes of violence, the rise of non-state actors, and the implications of recent geopolitical shifts. It explores the efforts of the EU and other organizations to address these challenges through strategies such as Security Sector Reform (SSR), development assistance, and regional cooperation. The article highlights the obstacles and complexities inherent in these endeavours, offering insights into the evolving landscape of security and governance in the Sahel and West Africa.