What future for the African Sahel?
The Center for African Studies at the University of Florida hosted the 2017 Gwendolen M. Carter Conference in African Studies on 23-25 February. Organised by the Sahel Research Group, the conference brought together over 50 academics and policy makers working on the Sahel from Africa, North America and Europe. The event provided an opportunity to discuss the pressing environmental, social, economic and political challenges that the region faces. In his keynote address, Professor Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan of the Niger-based Laboratory of Studies and Research on Social Dynamics and Local Development (LASDEL) highlighted the modernity of Sahelian societies and the widening gap between these societies and the state. Building upon the work conducted in the Atlas of the Sahara-Sahel, Olivier Walther, one of its authors, examined the geographical significance of the Sahel, its fluid boundaries, its spatial dynamics and how the region has been progressively redefined by security issues. In the concluding roundtable, Hassana Alidou, Nigerien Ambassador to the United States, encouraged scholars and policy-makers to pursue more wide-ranging, open dialogue on the specificities and constraints of today’s Sahel. The papers presented at the conference will be published in the Handbook of the African Sahel by Oxford University Press.