In the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, demographic pressure, climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, inequality, and violent extremism intersect to create a burgeoning crisis. Millions face food insecurity and there are increasing numbers of displaced persons. Solving these challenges will require a holistic approach that addresses root causes and includes a strong focus on empowering women and investing in young people.

The Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD) Project, a joint initiative from the World Bank and UNFPA, is collaborating with the governments of Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger to reduce gender inequality in the Sahel, reframe family planning as an essential investment, and accelerate the demographic transition.

All of the SWEDD countries and Lake Chad countries are also FP2020 commitment-making countries:

Burkina Faso is committed to repositioning family planning as a major strategy for economic and social development. The country has already registered a significant increase in the modern contraceptive prevalence rate (from 15.7% for all women in 2012 to 22.4% in 2017), and the government is working with partners to boost the supply of quality services and the public demand for family planning. Burkina Faso’s new CIP for 2017–2020 has a strong focus on SBC strategies (refer here) to tackle the social norms that impede the use of contraceptives. Approximately 28% of the total budget is devoted to adolescents and young people. The government of Burkina Faso assumed a seat on the FP2020 Reference Group in 2017.

Cameroon began developing its national demographic dividend roadmap in 2017. With support from UNFPA, the country launched a highly consultative process that brought together youth-led groups, civil society organizations, government ministries, statistical institutions, and representatives from UN agencies and the World Bank. The Youth Leadership Forum on the Demographic Dividend contributed recommendations on issues directly affecting young people, while Women for a Change Cameroon mobilized CSOs working in areas related to the four pillars of the AU road map. Once Cameroon’s roadmap is finalized, the government will institute an inclusive technical and coordination mechanism for follow-up and implementation.

Chad joined the FP2020 partnership in 2017, with a commitment organized around reaching adolescents and youth with rights-based family planning (refer here). Chad is developing an ambitious framework to hasten the demographic transition, and in 2017 played host to two important regional conferences. At the PanAfrican Youth Forum, held in late June 2017 in N’Djamena, hundreds of young people from countries in the region gathered to define their role in planning for the demographic dividend. A month later the Regional Symposium on “Islam, Demographic Dividend and Family Welfare” brought together 1,200 delegates from 20 countries to discuss women’s health empowerment, youth engagement, and the positive contribution Muslim leaders can make.

Côte d’Ivoire updated its FP2020 commitment this year with a sharpened focus on increasing the MCPR for all women, reducing unmet need for contraception, and decreasing the maternal mortality ratio. Côte d’Ivoire also aims to achieve 100% availability of contraception in public and private health facilities by 2020. The government is committed to increasing its domestic budget allocation for family planning by 10% each year until 2020, integrating contraception into the minimum service package provided by community health workers, ensuring the availability of adolescent and youth-friendly contraceptive services, and strengthening the supply chain for commodities.

When Mali joined the FP2020 partnership in 2015, it pledged to achieve a modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 15% by 2018. The country is on track to meet that goal and even exceed it, and so the government has followed up with a more ambitious pledge. Mali’s updated FP2020 commitment, announced at the Summit, calls for achieving a modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 20% by 2020. Mali is also committed to strengthening the institutional framework for family planning; addressing access for adolescents, young people, and rural and vulnerable populations; and making a greater domestic investment in the purchase of contraceptives.

Mauritania recognizes the importance of family planning as a strategy to improve health and alleviate poverty. With the adoption of its new law guaranteeing the right to reproductive health and family planning (refer here), the country is now better positioned to follow through on its family planning objectives. Mauritania’s renewed FP2020 commitment focuses on introducing new methods and postpartum family planning; providing contraception to women, adolescents, and young marrieds in 100% of targeted health facilities; and strengthening an integrated supply chain.

The government of Niger is keenly aware of the potential benefits of a demographic dividend, and is committed to family planning as the cornerstone of its national economic and social development plan. In its renewed FP2020 commitment of 2017, Niger committed to expanding service delivery options through task-shifting, increasing its domestic budget allocation for contraceptive commodities by 10% each year until 2020, and dedicating at least 15% of the national family planning budget to interventions targeting adolescents and youth.

Nigeria launched its national roadmap for the demographic dividend in July 2017, with the goal of achieving a healthy population and sustainable development. The roadmap calls for a youth-centered approach, with programs to improve health and access to family planning, enhance the potential of young people to contribute to the economy, create a social safety net, and promote good governance and the rule of law. Nigeria’s renewed FP2020 commitment also includes a youth focus, with a pledge to provide youth-friendly services in health facilities and age-appropriate SRH information through the Family Life Health Education Curriculum.