G5 Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – face a number of challenges, including the growing threat of terrorism and organized crime, climate change and demographic growth. These are leading causes of institutional fragility in the region. As shared challenges, they must be addressed from the political, military and development perspectives. To coordinate their actions, the Heads of State of the region created the G5 Sahel in 2014, an intergovernmental cooperation framework, in order to put forward a regional response to the various challenges. One of the structures launched by the G5 in the field of security is the G5 Sahel Joint Force, created in 2017 by the 5 States of the region.
The Sahel Alliance, launched in 2017 by France, Germany and the European Union, is now made up of 25 technical and financial partners and was created to improve the effectiveness of development assistance in the area and be a point of contact for the G5 on development issues. To achieve this, it coordinates the action of major development partners in the region in order to speed up the implementation of development actions which directly correspond to the needs expressed by the populations.
France is one of the countries that support both of these exemplary initiatives.
The G5 Sahel, which is headquartered in Nouakchott, is an intergovernmental cooperation framework created on 16 February 2014 at the initiative of the Mauritanian Presidency of the African Union.
It seeks to fight insecurity and support development with a view to opening up the region.
On 2 July 2017, G5 Sahel leaders officially launched the Cross-Border Joint Force in Bamako, pooling their resources to fight security threats in the Sahel region. The United Nations Security Council welcomed the creation of this Joint Force in Resolution 2359 of 21 June 2017, which was sponsored by France.
The Joint Force has been endorsed by the African Union Peace and Security Committee and fights terrorism, cross-border organized crime and human trafficking in the G5 Sahel zone. It carried out its first operation in November 2017 with the armies of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
At full operational capability, the Joint Force will have 5,000 soldiers (seven battalions spread across three zones: West, Centre and East). It is active in a 50 km strip on either side of the countries’ shared borders. Later on, a counter-terrorism brigade is to be deployed to northern Mali.
The G5 Cross-Border Joint Force’s political momentum comes from the G5 Chair (taken over by Burkina Faso in 2019). Its strategic control is ensured by the G5 Sahel defence ministers meeting. Its operations target border areas in three zones: the West zone, which has its command post (CP) in Néma, Mauritania; the Centre zone, which has its CP in Niamey, Niger; and the East zone, which has its CP in N’Djamena, Chad. The CPs are coordinated from the Joint Force’s headquarters in Bamako. The Joint Force has successfully carried out several operations, with others planned for 2019. It is intended to be flexible in order to adapt to the changing threat environment and intervention priorities. It does not replace but rather supplements the operations of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the mandate of which is to support the Malian authorities in stabilizing their country. The relationship between the Joint Force and MINUSMA is governed by Resolution 2391 of 8 December 2017, under which the latter provides operational and logistical support to the former.
Financial and material support for the G5 Sahel is progressing. The Sahel Coalition conference organized at France’s initiative in La Celle-Saint-Cloud on 13 December 2017 helped consolidate international support. It was followed by a donor conference for the G5 Sahel Joint Force, held in Brussels by the European Union, the African Union, the UN and the G5 Sahel on 23 February 2018.
Following these two events, which confirmed the international community’s commitment to the Sahel, financial contributions totalling €414 million were pledged. These sums are being used to train and equip the G5 Sahel Joint Force.
As part of its mandate to support the development and continuity of regional security activities, the G5 Sahel drew up a Priority Investment Programme (PIP) in 2014. This programme features 40 regional projects, for a total cost of €2.4 billion. Most PIP projects target Sahel border areas, and reflect the solidarity and cooperation between these countries, which have opted for a regional response to shared crises. Many initiatives concern infrastructure projects to open up the region (through roads, bridges, air links and extended telephone coverage), facilitate access to resources (through agro-hydraulic projects and electrification) and improve governance (through the inclusion of women and support for justice). The programme also includes an emergency stabilization programme, which will be immediately rolled out in the most vulnerable areas.
On 6 December 2018, an international donor conference took place in Nouakchott to fund the PIP programme. France announced that it would contribute €220 million towards regional development, including €90 million for the emergency stabilization programme.
In 2019, the first year group of officers in training from the Sahel was trained by the G5 Sahel Collège de Défense in Nouakchott. Some 36 higher ranking officers from each of the G5 countries benefitted from this training and now share a joint military culture which will strengthen cohesion and interoperability between the various armed forces in the Sahel. The Collège project was launched in 2018 by the 5 Sahel countries and was supported by France and other international partners from the outset.
The training course is based on two key elements: operations and academics. The geography, history, geopolitics and sociology classes focused on the Sahel give the officers better knowledge and understanding of the Sahel which enables them to have a comprehensive approach to resolving crises in the Sahel. More than 16 weeks of training are also dedicated to learning operational methods (lessons and practical exercises).
The second intake will have its operational training extended to 19 weeks and will be eligible for a Master 2 qualification in Defence and International Relations.
Through this joint training course, the G5 armed forces are better able to work together effectively against shared threats, particularly within the framework of the G5 Sahel Joint Force.
Efforts made to ensure regional security will be ineffective unless they are accompanied by sustainable development.
To stabilize the region and prevent violent radicalization, it is crucial to create the conditions for economic development with the potential to generate jobs, especially given the growing number of young people.
This requires greater efforts to boost development in the region. At the initiative of France and Germany, the Sahel Alliance was launched in Paris on 13 July 2017, in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini. It brings together the main multilateral and bilateral development partners of Sahel States. The Alliance’s goal is to speed up aid deployment and ensure it is not spread too thinly, especially in the most vulnerable areas. The Alliance currently has 25 members: France, Germany, the European Union, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, the European Investment Bank and Norway. The United States, Japan, Canada, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Ireland, the International Finance Corporation, the Gates Foundation, the Tony Blair Institute and the OIF are observers.
The Sahel Alliance is not a new structure or a financial advocacy forum. It is a mechanism for improving the coordination of partners so as to deliver faster, more effective and better targeted assistance to vulnerable areas. It has six key priorities: youth employability, education and training; agriculture, rural development and food security; energy and climate; governance; decentralization and support for rolling out basic services; and internal security.
Alliance technical and financial partners will fund over 873 projects in the area, worth a total of €17 billion. France is playing a leading part in this drive for development in the Sahel. Since 2012, the French development agency AFD has invested €5.3 billion in the Sahel. In 2020 alone, AFD earmarked €471 million and paid out €350 million for projects in farming, in water and sanitation, in education, in governance and in health.
In October 2018, the G5 Sahel signed a partnership agreement with the Sahel Alliance. This agreement seeks to better coordinate the support from technical and financial partners and the needs expressed by Sahel countries, in order to improve the effectiveness of development assistance in the region.