Africa’s Sahel: Domestic Conflict and Foreign Competition

Panel Discussion

Africa’s Sahel: Domestic Conflict and Foreign Competition

Zoom Webinar

Tuesday, January 18, 2021 | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET


Land- and resource scarcity, further fueled by climate change, poses a constant conflict to the Sahel. In addition, the growing activity of terror groups like Boko Haram and Al-Qaida are not only threats to the local population but have increasing implications for security all around the globe. Despite that fact, France, considered the biggest foreign power in the region, recently decided to reduce its military engagement. What are the current domestic conflicts in the Sahel? What are the interests of the foreign powers involved? What does the future look like for the Sahel? Join us on Tuesday, January 18 at 12 PM EST to learn the answers to these questions from our panel, consisting of Prof. Leonardo A. Villalón, Dean of the International Center and Professor of Political Science and African Studies at the University of Florida, Dr. Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, Senior Analyst with the International Crisis Group, and Hannah Armstrong, Writer and Consultant on conflict and crisis in the Sahel region. This event is co-hosted by Network 20/20 and the Institute of Current World Affairs.

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Dr. Leonardo A. Villalón

Leonardo A. Villalón is Dean of the International Center and Associate Provost as well as Professor of Political Science and African Studies at the University of Florida, where he also coordinates the Sahel Research Group. He previously served for 9 years as director of the UF Center for African Studies. Villalón holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and degrees from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris, the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University, and Louisiana State University. He is a specialist on the countries of the African Sahel (Senegal, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Chad), in particular the role of Islam on democratization, education, and political stability. His research has been supported by Fulbright and Carnegie Scholars awards, and by grants from the US State Department, the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the US DOD Minerva Initiative, and the Sahel and West Africa Club of the OECD. He has published numerous works on the Sahel, and is editor of the Oxford Handbook of the African Sahel. He is past president of the West African Research Association, and currently chair of the board of directors of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

Dr. Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim

Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim is a Senior Analyst with the International Crisis Group. He has a PhD in Political Sciences from the University of Florida. His research interest focuses on violent conflict, political contestations and Islamic discourses in the Sahel, with particular focus on Mali, Niger and Mauritania. Ibrahim was a Fulbright grantee at the University of Florida from 2011 to 2013. He is the co-founder of Project Global Health, a non-profit that aims at improving health care provision in developing countries. From 2009 until 2011, he was the Executive Director of the Niger office of Al-basar International Foundation, an International NGO specialized in establishing ophthalmologic hospitals and running mobile eye clinics in the world.

Hannah Armstrong

Hannah Armstrong is a writer and consultant with over a decade of field-based experience working on conflict and crisis in the Sahel and Maghreb regions. She previously served as Crisis Group’s senior analyst for the Sahel and consulting analyst on Algeria. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Le Monde, and the Washington Post, as well as by numerous think tanks and policy institutes. She has held fellowships from the Institute of Current World Affairs and the Fulbright Foundation.


Joanna M. Gwozdziowski

Joanna M. Gwozdziowski, PhD is a nonprofit management consultant with experience in both domestic and international affairs. She has held positions in a variety of sectors, including federal and municipal governments, academia, think tanks, NGOs, and political campaigns. She has served as a foreign policy advisor to congressional candidates, including Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. Most recently, she has been researching global macro trends for several nonprofits, including the international humanitarian relief organization, Americares. She has also served on the selection committee for various global educational programs, including the US State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.

For the past 13 years, Dr. Gwozdziowski has served on the board of the World Affairs Forum, an affiliate of the World Affairs Councils of America, including as Chair of Programs. She is a Charter member of Network 20/20 and participated as a Public Diplomacy Delegate to Poland in 2004; she authored the subsequent report “Poland Beyond Solidarity”. She earned both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate from St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and holds a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA. In addition, she is a graduate of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University, and was an Encore Fellow in Nonprofit Management at the University of Connecticut.


*Credit image: New York Times (


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