Skip to Content
X

Overview

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.


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

Nigeria

Value Chain Development Programme
Read More

Guinea

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

Côte d'Ivoire

Marketing/Storage/Processing: Agricultural Value Chain Development Support Programme (PADFA)
Read More

Related news

Increased investment in Sahel will boost development and resilience of rural populations

February 2021 - NEWS
About one million rural people in the Sahel region will benefit from a new joint programme, the first of its kind, IFAD announced today. The US$180.4 million Regional Joint Programme will revitalize economic activities and food systems in the Group of Five Sahel countries and in the Republic of Senegal.

IFAD and GCF scale-up action to improve life for millions of people and restore ecosystems in Africa’s Great Green Wall

January 2021 - NEWS
A new investment programme is planned to support Sahelian governments through a partnership between the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and IFAD in order to boost climate finance for these rural populations.

National Calls for Proposals (The Gambia, Ghana, Senegal): Supporting remittances in times of crisis in Africa

December 2020 - NEWS

The Financing Facility for Remittances (FFR) of IFAD is pleased to announce the 2020 National Calls for Proposals: Supporting Remittances in Times of Crisis in Africa.

Related publications

Investing in rural people in Burkina Faso

March 2021

In Burkina Faso, IFAD loans help better manage natural resources, in addition to building inclusive and sustainable institutions through pro-poor investments and policies and supporting innovation and education.

Crowdfunding Malian diaspora remittances to finance rural entrepreneurship

October 2020
This case study examines a pilot initiative carried out by the IFAD-supported FIER project in Mali, together with the Babyloan crowdfunding platform, to leverage diaspora remittances abroad as a way to support rural entrepreneurship in the home country. 

Research Series Issue 63: The adoption of improved agricultural technologies - A meta-analysis for Africa

August 2020
 In this paper, particular attention is given to the identification and promotion of productivity and resilience enhancing agricultural practices.