Event description

In the recent Scowcroft Center report, What Future for the Western Sahel? The Region’s Demography and Its Implications by 2045, co-authors Richard Cincotta and Stephen Smith argue that unless the Sahelian states focus on reversing the underlying conditions that sustain high fertility—the cause of a persistently youthful and rapidly growing population—they are unlikely to dislodge the mutually reinforcing crises of instability, forced migration, and food insecurity in the foreseeable future. 

With only a few exceptions, however, the Sahel’s political elites seem unmoved to address, or even discuss, the drivers of sustained high fertility. In the region, these include forced early marriage of girls and high rates of adolescent childbearing; a very limited degree of educational opportunity and autonomy among women; large desired-family sizes coupled with short birth intervals; and limited access to, and knowledge of, modern contraception. Without a focused effort to reverse these drivers, the region risks drifting to a tipping point—a moment Afghanistan encountered in 2021, and Somalia in 1993—when European governments, the United States, and key international and regional organizations abandoned their commitments, opting instead to contain spillovers of political violence, criminal activity, and out-migration at the regional frontiers. 

Join us on March 22 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. for the official launch of the Scowcroft Center report, What Future for the Western Sahel?


  • 11:30a.m. – 11:40a.m.: Introduction by Mat Burrows
  • 11:40a.m. – 12:00p.m.: Presentation of the report by Richard Cincotta and Stephen Smith
  • 12:00p.m. – 12.30p.m.: Reactions from Alex Ezeh and Karen Hardee
  • 12:30p.m. – 1:00p.m.: Panel discussion and audience Q&A
  • A light lunch will be served at 1:00 pm


Nov 4, 2021

What future for the Western Sahel?

By Richard Cincotta and Stephen Smith

The Western Sahel is in a demographic impasse. To work their way out of this dilemma, Sahelian governments must shift a significant part of their development focus and funding to policies and programs aimed at preventing adolescent marriages and childbearing, promoting girls’ education, securing women’s participation in public- and private-sector workplaces, and achieving small, healthy, well-educated families.

Africa Energy & Environment


Richard Cincotta, Ph.D
Global Fellow, Environmental Change and Security Program
The Wilson Center

Stephen Smith, Ph.D
Professor of the Practice of African and African American Studies
Duke University

Karen Hardee, Ph.D
President and Chief Executive Officer
What Works Association

Alex Ezeh, Ph.D
Dornsife Professor of Global Health 
Drexel University

Mathew Burrows, Ph.D
Director of Foresight, Scowcroft Strategy Initiative
Atlantic Council

The Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security works to develop sustainable, nonpartisan strategies to address the most important security challenges facing the United States and the world.