COMMENT: Private sector engagement in Senegal for adaptation to climate change: the experience of PRISE member IED Afrique

The private sector is a key player in combatting climate change, so engaging effectively with it is a priority for PRISE1, whose ambition is to influence policy and decision-making to promote resilient development. But, compared with other stakeholders, engaging with the private sector has been difficult for several reasons. PRISE member organisation Innovations Environnement Développement (IED) Afrique has had to adapt its strategy. This blog explains IED’s experience with private sector engagement in Senegal.

A climate context that cannot exclude the private sector

Climate change has a considerable impact on socio-economic development. In semi-arid zones, different studies and scenarios have shown that the frequency and scale of adverse climatic conditions are evolving, which means efforts to combat them need to be part of a vision of more resilient development. This vision, however, can only come to fruition if all stakeholders are engaged, especially private sector actors. Indeed, according to Agrawala et al. (2013)2, countries that successfully adapt to climate change will do so, in great part, thanks to the private sector.

In this context, PRISE Project 4 has decided to focus on an Enabling environment for private sector/multi-stakeholder action to strengthen resilience to climate change. This project aims to understand how the private sector can contribute to combatting climate change and how companies can adapt and benefit from new opportunities arising out of climate change.

Mobilising stakeholders, an important part of PRISE work

Beyond producing quality research outputs, PRISE depends on stakeholder involvement to reach the project’s objectives. IED Afrique set up a stakeholder platform to promote dialogue and the sharing of knowledge with a view to collaboratively forming practical solutions and targeted policies tailored to achieving climate-resilient economic development. That said, one of our findings was that very few private sector actors were part of the PRISE stakeholder platform in Senegal.

A difficult beginning for private sector engagement

To engage the private sector from the start of the PRISE process, we at IED Afrique focused on mobilising employers’ organisations or bodies seen as the most representative and powerful in the Senegalese private sector. However, initially only the Dakar Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture took part in one of the stakeholder workshops organised by IED Afrique.

Acknowledging the near-absence of the private sector at the start of a process designed to result in establishing a broad-based stakeholder platform, we changed the way we invited private sector stakeholders. In addition to a letter of invitation, we also contacted each employers’ organisation by phone to request that they attend. However, these efforts did not lead to better private sector attendance. Given this situation, which looked like a lack of interest on the private sector’s part, we decided to establish a specific strategy to mobilise private actors.

Improving our targeting strategy: focus on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)

Beyond engaging the Senegalese private sector, we knew we needed to focus on the companies that are most vulnerable to climate risks – Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts due to weak institutional support, lack of adequate infrastructure, low technical capacity, their high dependence on natural resources, and limited access to financial, technological and human resources to address climate risks. By changing our focus to SMEs, IED Afrique not only targets 90% of the economic actors in the country, but also positions itself to influence businesses located in Senegal’s semi-arid zones – the majority of which are SMEs like Khar Yalla Agro-Livestock farm, Modern farm of Senegal, and Neexna Juice. These are businesses that specialise in meat, natural juice and vegetable production in Saint-Louis and Louga regions, in Senegal, and are more vulnerable to extreme climate events.

The first signs of a change: engaging business leaders

This paradigm shift by IED Afrique in influencing the private sector has led to better targeting of actors and a redefinition of how they are engaged – through more of a focus on individual meetings and telephone contacts. This strategy has increased participation from business actors, both heads of socio-professional organisations and, more importantly, business leaders. As a result, there has been significant private sector attendance at subsequent PRISE workshops and research activities. It is through this involvement in research activities that the Saint Louis ‘Maison des éleveurs – a regional farmers and livestock breeders’ organisation with almost 6,000 members –  asked IED Afrique to provide it with technical support to organise a workshop on the impacts of climate change on the livestock sector. The subsequent workshop took place in March 2017, in Saint-Louis, and included 30 key members of the breeders’ organisation.

Next steps

This request by representatives of livestock farmers may appear a small step but it represents a sign of their growing interest in developing a sense of ownership of future PRISE research results, and possibly the beginning of changed private sector behaviour in Senegal to address climate change impacts. When key players directly affected by climate change express their need to understand the phenomenon, this is evidence of a determination to confront climate risks with the appropriate technical information.

While much work has yet to be done, these initial instances of working in partnership with SMEs provide reason for hope. The challenge now for PRISE is to share with these SMEs the best available scientific knowledge in an engaging and accessible way, so that the evidence produced is easy to understand and to apply on the ground.


by Mamadou Diop, Associated Researcher for the PRISE project at IED Afrique

Image: Senegal, by Toon van Dijk, Creative Commons License



  1. ‘PRISE’ – ‘Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies’ – is an applied research project that aims to catalyse inclusive climate-resilient development in semi-arid lands (SALs). The vision of climate-resilient development of PRISE is of inclusive development that both eliminates poverty and maximises people’s capacity to adapt to climate change. This requires – a hypothesis of the PRISE project – a ‘change in mechanisms of economic growth and social development, including institutional and regulatory frameworks, markets and bases of human and natural capital’.
  2. Agrawala, S., Carraro, M., Kingsmill, N., Lanzi, E., Mullan, M. & Prudent-Richard, G. 2013. Private Sector Engagement in Adaptation to Climate Change: Approaches to Managing Climate Risks. OCDE environment working paper No. 39, p56.