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February 2024

Security in West Africa:
Building On Agricultural Cooperation

<p><strong>Security in West Africa:</strong><br />
Building On Agricultural Cooperation</p>
Jonathan Guiffard
Senior Fellow - Defense and Africa

Jonathan Guiffard is an expert in international relations and strategic issues.



Institut Montaigne would like to thank all who have contributed to this work, whether anonymously or not, in particular:

  • Assinamar Ag Rhousmane, National Coordinator of Azhar, a Malian development NGO
  • Folahanmi Aina, Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute(RUSI) think tank
  • Papa Amadou Sarr, Executive Director of Mobilization, Partnership and Communication Department at Agence Française de Développement (AFD), former Senegalese Minister of Economy and Finance
  • Ardavan Amir Aslani, Partner in the business law firm Cohen-Amir Aslani
  • Camille André, Researcher and Consultant on geopolitical risks in the Sahel
  • Deborah Asseraf, Expert in development economics and West Africa, rapporteur
  • Joseph Asunka, CEO of polling and research institute Afrobarometer
  • Maxime Audinet, Researcher on Russia in Africa at the Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l'Ecole Militaire (IRSEM)
  • Niagale Bagayoko, President of the African Security Sector Network(ASSN) and Sahel specialist
  • Alpha Barry, Director of Atos Africa
  • Manon Bellon, Editor of the Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture Division, for the Directorate-General for Globalization, French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE)
  • Myriam Brigui, Director of the Network Management Department at Proparco
  • Jean-Christophe Belliard, French Ambassador to Côte d'Ivoire
  • Christophe Carminati, Safety Director of the Ortec Group 
  • Didier Castres, Chairman of the GEOS group, former Senior Partner of the ESL network
  • Alexis Chaumet, Deputy Head of the Regional Economic Department at the French Embassy in Abidjan
  • Jean Pierre Chomienne, Agricultural Advisor at the French Embassy in Abidjan
  • Beatriz de Léon Cobo, Sahel Researcher and Consultant
  • Lawali Dambo, Geographer, Professor at Abdou Moumouni University, Niamey
  • Antoine de Gaullier, Chief of Staff to the CEO, EGIS Group
  • Paul Desbareau, Sahel Coordinator at Expertise France
  • Abdelwahab Diakité, Coordinator of the association Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez (PCQVP) Mali
  • Bréma Ely Dicko, Sociologist, Professor at the University of Bamako (ULSHB)
  • Laurent Dejoie, Former Chairman of the Conseil Supérieur du Notariat, Vice-Chairman of the Regional Council for the Pays de la Loire Loire-Atlantique French Department and Chairman of the Association of Francophone Notariat 
  • Olivier Ducret, Colonel, Head of the Africa Department of the Directorate-General for International Relations and Strategy (DGRIS), French Ministry for Armed Forces
  • Jérôme Fabre, President of La Compagnie fruitière
  • Claire Fillatre, Head of Agribusiness Financing at Proparco
  • Arnaud Floris, Head of Africa at BPI France
  • Etienne Giros, Chairman of the French Council of Investors in Africa (CIAN)
  • Samuel Goldstein, Africa Business Development Director, Meridiam
  • Boubacar Haidara, Researcher on Mali at the Bonn Institute for Conflict
  • Frédéric Hayois, Geographical Manager for Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean, EGIS Group
  • Cameron Hudson, Senior Associate for Africa at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think-tank
  • Jean-Michel Huet, Partner, BearingPoint France
  • Pascal Ianni, General, Head of Division, French Armed Forces General Staff
  • Sylvain Itté, French Ambassador to Niger
  • Pierre Jacquemot, Associate Researcher at the Fondation Jean Jaurès, Chairman of GRET (Professionnels du Développement Solidaire), former French Ambassador and former Director of Development at the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • Jean-Hervé Jezequel, Sahel Project Director, International Crisis Group
  • Severin Kwamé, Manager, Indigo NGO, Côte d’Ivoire
  • Dominique Lafont, CEO of Lafont Africa Corporation, Senior Advisor at KKR and BCG, former CEO of Bolloré Africa Logistics 
  • Andrew Lebovich, Researcher specializing in Algeria and the Sahel, associated with the Clingendael think-tank
  • Morgane Le Cam, Reporter in the Africa department of Le Monde newspaper
  • Denis Le Maoût, Director of Contracts & Municipal Development, Africa Middle East, Veolia
  • Rida Lyammouri, Senior Fellow at the Policy Center for the New South think tank
  • Matteo Maillard, Mali correspondent for Le Monde newspaper
  • Stefano Manservisi, Former Director General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) at the European Commission, current Chairman of the Board of GCERF (The Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund dedicated to preventing violent extremism). 
  • Alexandre Marc, Economist, Associate Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies(IISS) think-tank, former World Bank specialist on conflict, fragility and violence.
  • Alexandre Mesnil, Technical Advisor for the Sahel at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
  • Arnaud Mettey, Colonel, Commander of the French Forces in Côte d'Ivoire
  • Tom Middentorp, General, Chairman of the International Military Council on Climate and Security(IMCCS), former Netherlands Chief of Staff
  • Mahamadou Moctar Dicko, Anthropologist, coordinator and program manager, Association Malienne d'Éveil au Développement Durable (AMEDD)
  • Yannick Morillon, General Manager, Catering International & Services (CIS) 
  • Wassim Nasr, Journalist at France 24, Sahel specialist and Research Fellowat the Ali Soufan Center
  • Alexandre Nayme, Head of Europe & Africa for Inclusive Finance & Impact Investing, BNP Paribas
  • Babacar Ndiaye, Director of Research and Publications, WATHI think tank
  • Marc Petitier, Partner at White & Case, specializing in Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Tanguy Quidelleur, Researcher on the dynamics of violence in Burkina Faso and Mali
  • Maxime Ricard, Researcher on Côte d’Ivoire and West Africa at IRSEM
  • Elodie Riche, Sahel Research Officer, AFD
  • Rémy Rioux, General director, AFD
  • Lamine Savané, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ségou and lecturer in political science
  • Mamadou Sawadogo, Consultant in Ouagadougou, former gendarme
  • Jean-Michel Sévérino, Chairman of Investisseurs et partenaires
  • Michael Shurkin, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council'sAfrica Center
  • Mariam Sidibe, Researcher and Coordinator at the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), specialist in migration, crises and conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Vera Songwe, Cameroonian Economist, former Manager at the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
  • Jean-Fabien Steck, Researcher on Africa at the Centre d'Analyse, de Prévision et de Stratégie (CAPS) of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs
  • Seydou Touré, General Technical Advisor to the Ivorian Minister of the Interior
  • Alexander Thurston, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Cincinnati
  • François-Guilhem Vaissier, Partner at White & Case, specializing in finance and project development
  • Patrick Vaglio, Colonel, Defense Attaché at the French Embassy in Abidjan
  • Christian Yoka, AFD Director for Africa
  • Lassina Zerbo, Former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso (2021-2022)
  • Lionel Zinsou, Former Prime Minister of Benin (2015-2016), Founder and Managing Partner of SouthBridge
  • Yahia Zoubir, Professor at Kedge Business School

The authors would also like to thank Marie-Pierre de Bailliencourt, Alain Le Roy, Michel Duclos, Mathieu Duchâtel, Mahaut de Fougières, Cédric Menissier and Axel Noisette for their invaluable help in facilitating and delivering this work.

The security crisis in West Africa, driven by the presence of jihadist groups in the region, is a major concern for the affected states, the safety of local populations, as well as for France and Europe.
Originating in Mali during the early 2000s, the crisis escalated significantly in 2012 when jihadist factions seized control of the country's northern regions. Since then, these groups have expanded their influence, initially to Niger and Burkina Faso within the Sahel, and later to northern regions of the Gulf of Guinea's coastal countries. Other countries are in a vulnerable position and could be subject to attacks in the medium term, such as Mauritania and Senegal. Similarly, while Nigeria and Chad may seem somewhat removed from the security crisis, they share similar issues and interconnected challenges. Thus, this crisis is no longer limited to the Sahel and now affects the broader West African region.
In light of this situation, what role can France and Europe play? The announcement of the end of Operation Barkhane in November 2022 has triggered a reevaluation of France's strategy in West Africa. This report aims to put forward a renewed perspective by proposing a novel approach: a targeted policy centered on economic cooperation involving both the public and private sectors, along with international donors. This work is based on a year-long research effort, over 80 interviews, workshops, and a field study.

Security in West Africa: Building On Agricultural Cooperation

Economic Marginalization: a Source of Instability and Insecurity

Understanding the underlying causes of the jihadist threat is crucial in order to effectively address the deteriorating security situation in West Africa. These causes are multifaceted: religious factors, political instability, intracommunal tensions... Therefore, relying solely on a military response is insufficient to address the crisis affecting the region.
The economic marginalization of rural populations was identified as a significant cause for the expansion of jihadist groups. This marginalization is particularly evident in areas which are predominantly rural and distant from the more stable and prosperous capital cities. These regions have become fertile recruiting grounds for jihadists, capitalizing on the absence and weakness of state authority.

Therefore, the region’s stability is intricately tied to issues of food security and economic and social development in rural areas. For instance, in Benin, the school enrollment rate is around 95% in Cotonou but drops to 25% in the rural north, where the jihadist threat is expanding.

Agriculture: a Critical Sector to Invest In

Structuring the West African agricultural sector has emerged as a priority to address the economic marginalization of rural populations in the long term. Agriculture not only contributes significantly to poverty reduction but also represents the main source of income for 80% of the rural population in West Africa.

However, the agricultural sector faces a range of challenges and barriers. Despite abundant resource potential in terms of water, sunlight, and arable land, the majority of African countries still heavily rely on food imports. Moreover, between 30 and 50% of agricultural production is lost during the stages of production, processing, and transportation.

Efforts to modernize the West African agricultural sector are also hindered by a lack of adequate financing and investments. Public development aid has fallen from 17% in the 1980s to a mere 3.8% today. Additionally, a closer look at the allocation of commercial loans in 2016 reveals that out of $14 billion, only $660 million were allocated to agriculture.

12 Recommendations for an Impactful Economic Cooperation Policy

A strong collective commitment from French and West African public authorities, international financial institutions, and French and European companies is crucial to effectively structure the agricultural sector and tackle the development and security challenges in West Africa.

This report outlines twelve recommendations aimed at establishing an ambitious and impactful economic cooperation policy. It also proposes two concrete and easily replicable projects at the regional level: the National Schools with a Regional Focus (École nationale à vocation régionale or ENVR) in agriculture and integrated cooperatives.

Pillar 1: Structure the West African agricultural sector by implementing a stable land tenure policy, investing in agricultural inputs upstream, and establishing targeted value chains.
In detail

Recommendation 1: Stabilize the legal framework for land tenure through certification and cadastral surveys, regulatory changes and international technical support.

Recommendation 2: Increase the productivity of agricultural inputs by implementing a targeted development and distribution policy. This approach should encompass research initiatives, commercial distribution channels, certification regulations and region-specific experiments.

Recommendation 3: Promote local industrial processing of agricultural raw materials in specific sectors, fostered by partnerships with French and European companies. Highlight the potential of local free trade zones, public subsidies and infrastructures to enhance the value of production.

The integrated cooperative model, which possesses the necessary critical mass to promote financing and seamless integration into the value chain, appears exceptionally well-suited to the requirements.

Pillar 2: Build up the required infrastructure and skills to increase the value of agricultural efforts
In detail

Recommendation 4: Focus efforts on water and energy, and particularly on irrigation infrastructure and farm electrification using decentralized solar technologies.

Recommendation 5: Enable national and international distribution of products by developing regional transport infrastructure and logistics chains.

Recommendation 6: Strategically enhance expertise within the agricultural sector by prioritizing agronomy in French cooperation policy.

The agricultural model of the École nationale à vocation régionale (ENVR), which promotes scientific cooperation, training and experimentation, seems well-positioned to help address these skills challenges.

Pillar 3: Adapt public and private financing to the needs of the agricultural sector
In detail

Recommendation 7: Attract sustainable private investments in the agricultural sector by promoting the emergence of national and local agricultural banks and investment companies. Foster these initiatives through public-private partnerships that provide guarantees against risk.

Recommendation 8: Incorporate part of the diaspora's financial remittances into agricultural investment through appropriate money transfer conversion solutions.
Recommendation 9: Focus official development assistance (ODA; public donors) on agricultural production, at a minimum level of 0.1% of French GNI by 2025 and 0.2% by 2030 for the relevant countries, in order to have an undiluted impact.

Recommendation 10: Assist these countries in improving tax collection through innovative administrative practices, directing funds toward long-term agricultural development, and progressively formalizing the informal sector into the legal economy.

Pillar 4: Incentivize foreign companies to invest in the agricultural sector and catalyze the economic potential of the subcontinent
In detail

Recommendation 11: Pursue the professionalization of the business environment to secure long-term investments, aligning with the G20's Compact with Africa initiative, while ensuring application of quality and operational standards in international funders’ regional project calls.

Recommendation 12: Encourage sustainable investment from French companies in the West African zone through a dedicated export policy focused on agro-industrial investments, fostering private partnerships between French and African companies.

<p><strong>Security in West Africa:</strong><br />
Building On Agricultural Cooperation</p>
(108 pages)
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