One year ago, four US soldiers were killed in Niger; they were part of a quiet US presence in the increasingly sensitive region. Niger is a key supplier of uranium for the nuclear power plants of France. Beginning several years before, Mali, Niger’s neighbor to the west, was wracked by a civil war between Islamist fighters and the government, supported by France. The conflict continues; Mali has been called France’s Afghanistan. Chad has provided critical military support to France, a surprising role for what had been one of the poorest countries in the world. Chad today is playing an increasing military and political role in the region, fueled to a large extent by the oil revenues it has reaped from an Exxon-led, and World Bank supported, petroleum project that began 15 years ago. Across the Sahel region, state fragility, energy and development policies have created a volatile mix, one with increasing international relevance.
To kick off our latest speaker series “Energy for Development” the Center on Global Energy Policy hosted a presentation and panel discussion on energy, development and international security in the region. Serge Michailof, author of “Africanistan: Development or Jihad”, former World Bank Country Director for the Sahel, and #2 at the French Aid Agency, presented findings from his on-going work on this topic, including his extensive experience in the Sahel and Afghanistan. Avril Haines, Senior Researcher for Columbia World Projects, former US Deputy NSA and US Deputy CIA Director, and Philippe Benoit, CGEP Adjunct Senior Research Scholar, joined Mr. Michailof for a panel discussion following the presentation.