CFI and the French Development Agency (AFD) launch a project to support youth in the Sahel

April 25, 2019

With funding of 8.3 million euros, the AFD and CFI, the French media development agency, are launching the MediaSahel project aimed at promoting the socio-political inclusion of young men and women in three Sahelian countries.

The French Development Agency ( AFD) and CFI have partnered up with a view to building the capacity of local media outlets and produce content with and for Sahelian youth. The MediaSahel project will be implemented in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger over a four-year period with a budget of 8.3 million euros, drawn in particular from the Minka “Peace and Resilience" Fund.
The aim is to promote the inclusion of young people in public debate in the countries of the region.

There is a sense of despondency among young people in the Sahel. For a number of years, many of them have felt abandoned by their elders in post in government agencies and the media. "The MediaSahel project is aimed first and foremost at young people."And yet they are in the majority: in this region of Africa, the under-30s represent 65% of the population. But could this sense of helplessness lie at the very heart of the multifaceted crisis currently affecting Sahelian countries?

The MediaSahel project aims to help young people living in crisis areas to be better informed and to take a more active role in public debate in these countries. The project will provide young Sahelians with greater access to reliable information, incorporating gender considerations and focusing on issues that concern them while also enabling them to participate more actively and more calmly in public debate.

The media as a vehicle for dialogue

In recent years, the Sahel belt has experienced a series of multifaceted, overlapping and worsening crises. One of the factors behind this fragility is the sense of neglect, injustice and marginalisation felt by part of the Sahel's youth, with the under-30s representing over 65% of the population.

As part of the response to this crisis, the media can play a key role in promoting public understanding of the situation. By fostering dialogue between populations, civil societies and the authorities, media outlets will be better able to help prevent and resolve conflicts, promote democratic mediation and disseminate information about local development initiatives.

To support local media outlets, CFI will be drawing on international media organisations such as RFI, the radio station of France Médias Monde, notably through a weekly magazine aimed at African youth and available in French, Mandingo and Fula, the Fondation hirondelle, Burkina Faso's association of private media UNALFA and the Senegalese non-governmental organisation RAES.
MédiaSahel is also being implemented in partnership with the public authorities and civil society organisations in the participating countries and in coordination with other international operators on the ground.

"Conscious as we are that the media are essential to improving understanding of a complex environment and to initiating a more inclusive and more balanced public debate, we are delighted to be teaming up with CFI to help the young men and women of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger produce reliable and independent information that is both focused on their interests and sensitive to gender."
Rémy Rioux, Chief Executive of the AFD.

Combating fake news

The originality of the project is that it seeks to achieve its goals by building the capacity of local media. Some twenty media outlets have been selected in each country, most of which are community radio stations. The project has three objectives: to help produce reliable, cool-headed information that focuses on the concerns of youth while allowing young people to express their views on these issues.

Many training programmes will be offered to radio and online reporters in these countries, with a focus on broadcasting programmes that feature young people, developing new online formats and fact-checking with the aim of combating the spread of fake news.

No small challenge in a region affected by community conflicts and terrorism.

Marc Fonbaustier, Chairman and Managing Director of CFI: "Through MediaSahel, CFI's aim is to provide young citizens, both male and female, in 3 Sahelian countries with the opportunity to access reliable information while giving gender equality its rightful place and focusing on their daily concerns; young men and women need to take ownership of this new media space in order to participate more actively and more serenely in public debate."

Promoting gender equality

Since January, RFI has been broadcasting a new French-language programme in the Sahel devoted to African youth called Alors on dit quoi ? [So, what do you think?] Broadcasts in Fula were also introduced in early April. A first for RFI. And the programme has already found an audience, with over 1,100 calls from listeners on the first day the programme was broadcast in Fula – proof that the programme is meeting a high demand for content in this language.

The project will also help to promote l'égalité femme-homme, whether through the selection of beneficiaries of the project – with preference being given to young women, whether journalists or listeners – or by promoting greater awareness of gender-related issues (among other subjects) on editorial boards. The aim is to increase the representation of women in the media, both on air and on editorial boards.

In the Sahel, positive change is on the horizon and women and young people will be its driving forces.