The Sahel region of Africa has been targeted by the United Nations to increase prosperity and security. The countries Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Cameroon, are part of an initiative by the UN, Peacekeepers and African Union.
Urgent issues to be tackled in this vast area include cross-border co-operation between states, prevention and sustaining peace. There is also a focus on climate action and renewable energy. Inclusive growth is also on the agenda along with women and youth empowerment.
The last point is extremely important as nearly 65% of the population in the Sahel is under 25 years old. So the plans include significant and specific investment in education and training.
At the same time, an innovative new service has been launched by the Food and Agriculture Organisation in partnership with Pennsylvania State University. A mobile phone app named Nuru helps farmers identify infestations of the Fall Anyworm parasite that threatens crops and food security in the Sahel.
The app is currently in English with Swahili, French, and Twi being added soon, and more languages to follow. The hope is that the app will support farmers checking their crops, allow them to track disease, give them advice on how to combat the infestations and report findings back to the central authorities. So far the pest – a caterpillar – has affected millions of hectares of vital crops.
Such bold new plans and accompanying innovations are essential in supporting the region. Security can increase along with economic prosperity. And we have mounting evidence to show how essential the involvement of women and young people are in boosting the economy. All these factors are intertwined and essential to overall success.