The Sahel region: A litmus test for EU-Africa relations in a changing global order

'12 years of crises in the Sahel' series

Policy Study


The strategic importance of the Sahel region for the EU, and the need for stronger partnerships with African countries, have become increasingly evident, particularly in the wake of the energy crises triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Yet, military coups and multipolar competition, combined with the fragility of the regional architecture on which part of the European strategy relied, have reduced the EU’s ability to foster greater democracy and security, and to guarantee human rights in the region. Moreover, Russia’s war in Ukraine has been an opportunity for the “Global South” to reinvigorate its foreign-policy autonomy and non-alignment as tensions between the West and Russia increase.

In the policy study, Francesca Caruso and Francesca Lenzi analyse the context in which the EU is trying to implement its 2021 Integrated Strategy in the Sahel by examining the challenges and opportunities that the new regional context offers Europe to act on behalf of security, peace and democracy in Africa. 

The authors argue that despite EU’s formal engagement, the challenges to implementing its strategy from a political and security perspective remain high. As a result, lasting stability and peace cannot only result from military operations but must also involve a restructuring of social cohesion between institutions and non-state actors.

The modest success in strengthening democracy and governance through cooperation with local governments and support for the military mean that the EU should look to revise its strategic approach. The latter should seek more engagement with local civil society organisations, recognition of the multitude of actors involved, and allow to develop a long-term political approach that goes beyond military operations.

Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)
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