In February 2022, USIP created the nonpartisan Senior Study Group on Coastal West Africa to identify specific programs and interventions that the United States and other international partners can offer coastal West African governments and civil societies to help prevent conflict and support lasting peace in the subregion . Comprised of 11 former senior policymakers, private sector leaders and respected academics from the United States and West Africa, the senior study group will look at a number of underlying problems that undermine the subregion’s democracy and stability — including unequal and inadequate development, marginalized communities and weak institutions of accountability.

In coastal West Africa, the reversal of democratic norms and a growing susceptibility to violent extremism highlight the challenges facing the subregion’s stability and economic development. As a  major source of two-way trade with the United States, the heavily populated subregion is situated near critical Gulf of Guinea shipping lines — which have attracted the attention of both U.S. allies and adversaries and been the subject of piracy, oil bunkering and illegal fishing.

May of coastal west Africa countries

However, there are opportunities for the United States and its African partners to get ahead of these growing threats. The USIP Senior Study Group on Coastal West Africa is working to better pinpoint the risks for violent conflict in each country and inform U.S policy towards the subregion.

Between February and August 2022, the senior study group had a series of six discussions that consider the political and socioeconomic vulnerabilities reshaping dynamics in the subregion. The findings of these discussions have been compiled and disseminated as a final report to inform the approach of U.S. and international partners in strengthening conflict prevention and addressing the factors that undermine democracy and stability in the subregion.

Senior Study Group Members

Dr. Pauline Baker
President Emeritus, Fund for Peace; Senior Advisor on Governance, Creative Associates International

Ambassador Johnnie Carson
Senior Advisor, United States Institute of Peace; Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Dr. Raymond Gilpin
Chief Economist and Head of Strategy, Africa Bureau, U.N. Development Programme; Former Dean of Academic Affairs, Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Ambassador Robert Jackson
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Cameroon

Representative James Kolbe
Former U.S. Congressman (AZ-8); Senior Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States

Ambassador Deborah Malac
Former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and Liberia

Minister Aïchatou Mindaoudou
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Niger; Former U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General for Côte d'Ivoire

Minister W. Gyude Moore
Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development; Former Minister of Public Works, Republic of Liberia

Ambassador Tibor Nagy  
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Former U.S. Ambassador to Guinea
and Ethiopia

Dr. Leila Ndiaye
President and CEO, Initiative for Global Development; Former Senior Director of Policy for African Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Former Special Advisor to the Head of State, Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

Serge Thiémélé
Founder and Managing Partner, First Capital; Former President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Côte d’Ivoire

Final Report

Summaries of Recommendations

Our one-page summaries of recommendations from the USIP’s Coastal West Africa Senior Study Group highlight the actions proposed for the US Government and other actors to take to support the efforts of the region’s countries to realize sustainable peace and prosperity, particularly in the context of the United States’ roll-out of the Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.

Featured Resources

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Democratic Concerns in West Africa

While West African countries present “some of the steepest declines in democracy,” USIP’s Oge Onubogu says there is “still an overwhelming support” for democratic governance among citizens in the region, which “presents a key opportunity for engagement between African leaders and this administration.”