Stimson in the News

Richard Cincotta in New Security Beat on demography and democracy in Sahelian states

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Between the Sahara to the north and savanna to the south lies the semi-arid Sahel, a region stretching from Senegal to Sudan that has experienced desperate poverty, climate change, malnutrition, and violence. While every context is different, the Sahelian countries share some common challenges, including a pattern of recurring crises and fluid borders. Boko Haram’s reign of terror in northern Nigeria and Mali’s coup have both had cross-border components.


Globally, 80 percent of new conflicts originate in countries with youthful populations, said Richard Cincotta, a Wilson Center global fellow and demographer in residence at the Stimson Center. There’s also a strong relationship between median age and democracy, according to Cincotta. “Youthful countries lose liberal democracies at quite a rapid rate,” he said, and in youthful countries that do achieve democracy, it is often short lived. “More than half of them are gone [within] 10 years,” he said. Reaching a median age of 26 tends to be a critical point at which it starts to become more likely a country can achieve and maintain democracy. The median age of all Sahelian states is under 20.

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