wca banner

Asset Publisher

West and Central Africa


The West and Central Africa region has made impressive gains in recent decades, but still has a long way to go in terms of rural transformation.

Economic growth has been slow over the past few years. Economic activity in 2020 is projected to contract by 3.2 per cent, due to a weaker external environment and measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rural poverty is widespread and concentrated among women and young people. Three quarters of the region’s population is under the age of 35. With 12 per cent of its population under the age of 15 and around 64 per cent under the age of 24, Western and Central Africa has one of the youngest populations in the world. In rural areas, young people are mostly landless, marginally employed, and suffer from poor working conditions and exploitation.

So far, the region’s economies have been unable to absorb this potential windfall of energetic and creative young workers. As a result, young people are abandoning agriculture and rural areas in search of better lives in cities or abroad.

Connecting farmers and markets

The main brakes on rural transformation include insecure land tenure, a lack of basic infrastructure, inadequate credit and insurance, and ethnic and gender disparities.

What many countries in the region really need are more well-organized markets, and reliable connections among them. Different types of investments are necessary to accelerate the shift from subsistence agriculture to market-based production.

This shift has the potential to increase incomes while improving food security for both farmers and people living in growing towns and cities.

Experience wins

IFAD has been working for almost four decades to enhance rural output in the region. By the end of 2019, we were running 38 ongoing projects in 20 countries in the region, and had invested a total of US$1,639.3 million.

Our current priorities are to strengthen the value chains that link producers and their organizations to markets and consumers, create a virtuous upward spiral by helping farmers to sell more and earn more, and to address the immediate challenges faced by small scale farmers  to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the enormous challenges facing young women and men living in rural areas in the region, IFAD is supporting numerous initiatives to provide training, encourage entrepreneurship, and boost the creation of decent jobs both on and off the farm.

IFAD also supports efforts towards greater financial inclusion and making cashless credit more readily available to smallholders. We are also investing in projects that enable smallholder farmers to adapt to climate change.

Our breadth of experience, in terms of climatic and soil conditions, social organization and market development, makes us the partner of choice for governments, NGOs and local groups keen to achieve long-lasting rural transformation.

Learn more

Approximately 552 million people live in West and Central Africa, the majority living in rural areas as smallholders farmers.

Finding work for the growing numbers of young people in rural areas is a priority in West and Central Africa. In Senegal, for example, 47 per cent of the population is under 15 years of age.

Agriculture is important to the West and Central African economy, providing 30-50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in most countries and income and livelihoods for 70-80 per cent of the population.

Bernard Mwinyel Hien

Regional Director

Bernard Mwinyel Hien Regional Director, West and Central Africa Division


Where we work

The Sahel

The Sahel

Facing the challenges of sustainable development in the Sahel

The Sahel, meaning “the shore” in Arabic, is a vast area crossing 6,000 kilometres from East to West Africa. It covers many geographic and agro-ecological systems, 12 countries and is home to 400 million people.

Projects and programmes

Projects and programmes


Value Chain Development Programme


Family Farming, Resilience and Markets Project in Upper and Middle Guinea (AgriFARM)

Côte d'Ivoire

Agricultural Value Chain Development Support Programme (PADFA)

Related news

Related news

Experts and practitioners come together to improve nutrition outcomes in agricultural development in West and Central Africa

November 2023 - NEWS

A regional knowledge and experience sharing workshop that addresses nutrition, rural development and food system transformation began today in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Improving food and nutrition security in West and Central Africa is crucial. It is estimated that 29.8% of the population of West Africa and 13.9% of the population of Central Africa are undernourished.

IFAD and African Development Bank are on a mission to boost agricultural productivity in Africa

January 2023 - NEWS

As food security for millions of Africans continues to be impacted by rising food and fuel prices further compounded by threats of a debt crisis in some countries, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and IFAD are joining forces to address the structural problems hampering agricultural productivity in Africa through a new programme aimed at feeding Africa sustainably.

Small-scale farmers are vital to feeding West and Central Africa and transforming food systems

November 2022 - NEWS

On 16 November 2022, IFAD will convene policy-makers, development practitioners, rural producers and farmers organizations at its second Farmers Forum in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire to explore opportunities to strengthen partnerships between them. Together, they can work jointly for sustainable transformation of food systems and food security.

Stories and blogs

Stories and blogs

Investing in a better future: West and Central Africa

October 2023 - BLOG

West and Central Africa is as intricate as it is vast. We sat down with Regional Director, Bernard Mwinyel Hien, to better understand the region’s strengths and challenges.

Her land, her rights: How land ownership can transform the lives of women - and hold back desertification - in Niger

June 2023 - STORY

Meet the woman who fought for her right to land ownership and contributed to halting drought and desertification.

Cabo Verde is small in size but not in ambition

June 2023 - BLOG

Despite its name, Cabo Verde is arid and water starved. IFAD AVP, Jo Puri, visited the archipelago to discuss its future with the country’s leadership and hear from the rural people IFAD supports about how we can improve their lives.

Related videos

Related videos

Tackling climate change: Saving Senegal's mangrove forests

September 2021 - VIDEO

Marianne Ndong and her colleagues make a living from raising and selling oysters in the village of Dassilamé Sérère, in Senegal’s Saloum Delta. Mangroves don’t just support marine life, like the oysters Marianne raises. They also form a protective barrier between land and sea.

Niger: No safety without water

February 2020 - VIDEO

Increasing violence in the Sahel region is causing a rise in the number of internally displaced persons. Fleeing Boko Haram through the desert, there is an urgent need for shelter and basic resources, like water.

Zero hunger, climate resilient: Transforming agriculture in Guinea-Bissau

January 2020 - VIDEO
Innovative and forward-looking, the IFAD-funded project in Guinea-Bissau will transform rural economic networks for a sustainable agriculture of the future.

Related publications

Related publications

Best management practices guidelines for small-scale tilapia cage aquaculture in Ghana and Nigeria

April 2023

This technical manual and the accompanying brief were compiled for the Promoting Sustainable Cage Aquaculture in West Africa (ProSCAWA) project, undertaken in Nigeria and Ghana from 2020 to 2023.

Access to Finance for Farmers’ Organizations: Evidence from a multi-country survey

April 2023

This report offers new evidence to inform the design of suitable and timely financial products for farmer organizations, based on a survey of 220 farmers’ organizations in West Africa and Asia and the Pacific.

Improve partnerships between Post and Money Transfer Operators for better remittance services to rural Africa

December 2022

This flyer was produced in the framework of the African Postal Financial Services Initiative (APFSI) to highlight the improved partnerships between the Post and Money Transfer Operators to provide remittance services in rural areas.