CC-BY-NC 2.0 European External Action Service

Strategic cooperation or strategic about cooperation? The politics of the African Union and the European Union towards the Sahel


The Sahel has been framed as an area where the challenges of climate change, migration and the fight against extremism are most pertinent. These dynamics unfold between the rural areas, often perceived as vast sparsely populated spaces, and the urban areas, among which the capitals, are also entry points for the politics of the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) towards the Sahel. This contribution provides an analysis of the AU’s and the EU’s strategy for the Sahel (respectively the African Union Strategy for the Sahel Region and the European Union Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel). While both strategies address matters of security and development, and advocate to strengthen governance, a closer look reveals a differing framing between them of such common challenges as well as the envisioned responses to them. In both strategies the organizations make reference to one another and emphasize the importance of regional cooperation. At the same time they also pursue different approaches to cooperation in the Sahel: The AU is supporting the Nouakchott Process, encompassing 14 countries in the area, and the EU is supporting the G5 du Sahel a regional grouping of five states. Which strategic choices do actors in the region make about cooperations? How does their framing of challenges impact the ensued responses? This contribution juxtaposes the AU’s and EU’s strategy for the Sahel in a critical reading that is informed by ongoing empirical research in Addis Ababa, Abuja, Bamako and Ouagadougou.

Basel, Switzerland