Regional Strength as Global Strategy

Opening of IFPRI’s West and Central Africa Office (WCAO) in Dakar, Senegal
May 16, 2011

To avoid future food price crises and cope with other emerging global challenges—and, ultimately, to thrive—people and governments in developing countries need to work together at the regional level. IFPRI’s new West and Central Africa Office in Dakar, Senegal, aims to strengthen such cross-border collaboration, as mentioned by several speakers—including high-level officials from Senegal, Sierra Leone, and the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS)—at today’s opening ceremony.

While IFPRI has long been committed to reducing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in Africa, the Institute has, until now, underinvested in the region of West and Central Africa. By opening a regional office in Senegal, led by Director in Africa Ousmane Badiane, the Institute’s research, tools, and other resources will be more accessible and better tailored to the particular circumstances and needs of the countries served. “Our capacity to collaborate and contribute has greatly increased, as we grew from a team of less than five people to twenty this year and probably to forty by 2012,” said Badiane in a press briefing with a dozen local, national, and regional journalists.

Among other responses to the global food crisis emphasized by Director General Shenggen Fan during today’s panel discussion, was a need for transparent, fair, and open trade, which is an issue of particular concern for West and Central Africa, where the recent food price crisis saw some countries close their borders. Senior Research Fellow David Laborde reiterated the need to reform such protectionist policies because instead of insulating domestic markets from global crises, trade restrictions can actually contribute to price spikes. While global practices—including farmer subsidies in the United States and Europe—and global conditions—including extreme weather events—obviously influence food prices in a way developing countries cannot control, regional policies related to trade, markets, and social protection can minimize their negative effects.