1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Africa: Germany takes over presidency of Sahel Alliance

July 10, 2023

Berlin says jobs, agriculture and security will be top priorities for its tenure at the helm of the development group. The Sahel is directly threatened by poverty and Islamic terrorism.

A woman dressed mainly in blue, prepares meals for students at an elementary school in Niger
The Sahel, one of the poorest regions in the world, is a hotbed of Islamist militants and foreign mercenaries Image: WFP/Evelyn Fey

Germany's Development Minister Svenja Schulze traveled to Mauritania on Monday to formally take over the rotating one-year presidency of the Sahel Alliance — a key development body for the region — from its predecessor Spain.

"I am taking over the presidency of the Sahel Alliance to show that Germany, together with its partners, is there for the region and is committed to the region. My priorities for the Sahel Alliance are jobs, agriculture and social security in the region. And preventing state-free spaces," said Schulze in Mauritania's capital Nouakchott.

The 18-member Sahel Alliance was founded by Germany, France and the European Union in 2017 to assist Burkina-Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — collectively known as the G5 Sahel Group — in their struggle against poverty and terrorism.  

Since its creation, the Sahel Alliance has spent more than $28 billion ($30.71 billion) in a region stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea south of the Sahara. Germany is the group's fourth-largest donor behind the World Bank, France and the EU — having spent €2.73 billion on 181 projects.

Schulze: Regional development new focus of Germany in Sahel

Worries that UN troop departure could create vacuum

"The Sahel is one of the poorest regions in the world, with one of the youngest populations," said Schulze. "At the same time, the Sahel has become the new epicenter of Islamist terrorism, and Russian influence is increasing."

Schulze's comments come at a time when there is great concern in the region over whether a power vacuum will be created when UN MINUSMA peacekeeping troops leave Mali by the end of the year at the insistence of that country's military leadership.

Mali left the French-speaking G5 Sahel Group — formed in 2014 in part to defend against the growing threat posed by Islamist groups — last year after its government was taken over in a military coup. It has since forced the departure of all French troops from its country and now wants the UN out as well.

At the same time, mercenaries from Russia's Wagner private military group have expanded their influence in the region, ingratiating themselves as the French departed.

Schulze said Germany would focus on education and employment projects as well as expanding social protection and community infrastructure such as water supply, hospitals, markets and schools.

The government minister said she was convinced people would take such assistance to heart, "By these actions, the population will notice who genuinely cares and who doesn't. Because terrorist groups don't lay water pipes."

European and UN forces have been in the area for a decade in an attempt to dislodge armed militants — mainly from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger — many of whom have sworn allegiance to al-Qaida or so-called "Islamic State." More than 2.8 million people in the region have been displaced, with over 2 million fleeing Burkina Faso alone.

What is Russia doing in the Sahel?

js/ab (dpa, epd)