Entrepreneurs give their take on private sector development in the Sahel

Entrepreneurs give their take on private sector development in the Sahel

BRUSSELS, 11 February 2021 - The Sahel countries - Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad - face many challenges, including chronic insecurity, rising extremism, a lack of economic prospects, and poor access to education, employment and essential services, such as water and electricity.

In 2017, development partners and large international organizations responded to the double-edged challenge of security and development by launching the Sahel Alliance.

In the framework of the Sahel Alliance’s Private Sector Group, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has co-organized a virtual dialogue to listen to the voices of Sahel entrepreneurs and to better support the private sector in the Sahel region.

In her opening remarks, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, current President of the Sahel Alliance General Assembly and Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, insisted on the importance of youth entrepreneurship, access to finance, and industrial and digital transformation for the inclusive and sustainable development of the Sahel countries.

Sandra Kramer, Head of Unit Africa at the European Commission (INTPA) welcomed this initiative put together by the INTPA, the European Investment Bank, UNIDO, and other development partners active in the region. Also participating in the initiative are the Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the G5 Sahel, the Union of G5 Sahel Employers , and the Center for International Private Enterprise.

The video conference, featured nine entrepreneurs from Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad who highlighted the challenges, opportunities and concrete solutions for developing the private sector in the Sahel:

  • It is important to promote actions addressing youth employment and entrepreneurship. To support real entrepreneurial dynamics based on active youth, it is necessary to invest in human capital. Public policies should therefore offer specialized technical training applied to privileged sectors such as agribusiness, promote networking among entrepreneurs, or provide mentoring programmes for entrepreneurs and young people in training.
  • Access to finance is the second major challenge for the Sahelian private sector. Incentives and inclusive fiscal measures to promote employability, reducing the cost of credit, and revising investment criteria downwards are among the measures suggested for investment funds, banks, and development finance institutions. 
  • Finally, the transformation of the Sahel will require innovative and integrated industrial and digital policies. To create an ecosystem conducive to the creation of formal, inclusive, and sustainable jobs, a political vision driven by a clearly committed state was also recommended by many stakeholders.

One of the speakers that UNIDO invited, Zeinabou Maidah, CEO of Niger Lait, highlighted the importance of taking concrete measures to strengthen transport and energy infrastructure, improving competitiveness through product standardization and quality, and putting in place inclusive policy frameworks for industrialization. In her words, “industrialization is the key for a sustainable development of the private sector in the region”.

The outcome of the dialogue is to be presented to the General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance taking place in Ndjamena, Chad, on 15 February 2021.

For more information, contact:

Patrick Gilabert, UNIDO Focal point in the Private Sector Group of the Sahel Alliance