Seefar in West Africa: mission-driven and innovative with a sustained impact
Since 2015, Seefar has worked on several projects in West Africa spanning Niger, Mali, The Gambia, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Guinea. Our work in the region centres around themes such as modern slavery, and drivers of migration. Recent projects based in and on West Africa have included major mixed-methods research and strategic communications campaigns in hard-to-reach areas, in addition to our other services.
“My journey was so hard and so risky for me. I suffered a lot to reach to here. I did not expect that it will be as dangerous as it was.” (Guinean, male, 25)
Driving change in West Africa through research
One of the most impactful studies that Seefar has participated in recently was a large-scale study in six countries. The European Commission engaged Optimity Advisors and Seefar to study information consumption and decision-making processes among West Africans planning to migrate irregularly to Europe.
Seefar researchers spoke with over 1,000 West Africans: returnees, those considering migration and those facilitating irregular migration in West Africa, the Sahel, and Libya. One of the most important findings was that respondents were not migrating with any expectation of failure – they were confident that their journey would be successful. The most vulnerable respondents felt confident but demonstrated poor knowledge when asked about aspects of the journey and destination. The study investigated how migrants obtain information for the journey, how they share it among themselves, and how this affects decision-making. In the final report, available on the EU Publications website, one of the recommendations focused on the importance of communications campaigns to support those in West Africa contemplating irregular migration. When done right, strategic communications campaigns offer a choice-oriented, rights-compatible approach to migration management which acknowledge the agency of migrants and potential migrants and assists in their decision-making process.
In 2016, Seefar conducted a mixed-methods research project on the topic of human-trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nigerians in the UK. This included conducting field interviews with returned victims in Nigeria, civil society organisations working with victims and government institutions. We and our partner Britain Thinks conducted interviews with survivors of human-trafficking and labour and sexual exploitation in the UK, law enforcement authorities, specialised investigators in human-trafficking, as well as NGOs. Within two months, we managed to collect all the required data from the UK and Nigeria, and compile our findings into a report and presentation. Our research is crucial in the understanding of this hidden, yet widespread issue. We hope to use it to further our work on modern slavery and human-trafficking so that less Nigerians fall into human trafficking and sexual expolitation in the UK.
In another research project, Seefar conducted an assessment mission in Mali and Niger to produce an action plan for the EU-funded Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) programme. The Action Plans for Mali and Niger contained recommendations on providing legislative assistance, capacity building, regional and transregional cooperation, protecting and supporting victims, assistance and protection for children and strategic policy development. While Mali is making progress on starting the journey to combating trafficking in persons (TIP) and smuggling of migrants (SOM), there is a long way to go. Mali will require intensive support from donors to protect vulnerable people from becoming potential victims of these crimes. In Niger, it may be difficult to differentiate between a smuggled migrant and a trafficking victim due to both using the same routes and transport. Thus, implementing projects that deal with both TIP and SOM at the same time was recommended.
Ethical, engaged, effective: Seefar strategic communications in West Africa
According to past research by Seefar, we found that almost two thirds of surveyed potential migrants declared they do not have any knowledge on the risks and realities in transit and destination countries, making them vulnerable to detention and exploitation. To address this issue, in 2019 we launched two strategic communications campaigns; one in Mali and one in Niger, that address misinformation and knowledge gaps about irregular migration and life in transit and destination countries.
A key strategic communications campaign in West Africa was launched in 2018 to help potential migrants in The Gambia and Nigeria to better understand the risks and realities of irregular migration. This campaign provided potential migrants with more complete and accurate information to help them make informed decisions through the three core outputs. For the first year of this project, we reached more than 15,900 people in The Gambia, and more than 32,500 people in Nigeria through face-to-face, remote consultations and second-hand spread of information, The media liaison officers were able to achieve more than 160 pieces of media coverage secured in the target media outlets in The Gambia, and more than 230 in Nigeria. The related Facebook pages of this campaign reached more than 15,800,000 of the primary and secondary audience. Audience members also accessed information on the website, which exceeded 700,000 page views
“It gives a forum to discuss freely about irregular migration which is a problem of the day. The government and other organisations talk about it, however TMP (The Migrant Project) was different in that they came to your door through interface [face-to-face contact].” 34 year old male beneficiary in Serrekunda/Brufut, The Gambia
In 2018, Seefar launched the Aroko project in Nigeria: a behaviour change campaign to to prevent modern slavery in the form of domestic servitude in the UK. The campaign targeted Nigerians and aimed to raise awareness among communities and other stakeholders in Nigeria that domestic servitude, alongside sex trafficking, is a major concern. The majority of the beneficiaries were young women from the Yoruba community in South-West Nigeria and their guardians.
Another recent strategic communications campaign in West Africa was launched in 2018 in Mali and Niger. The campaign recognised that women are at particular risk of gender-based violence including sexual abuse and exploitation during irregular migration journeys. Our engagement with women, therefore, included a focus on these protection risks, alongside more general messages for both genders about the risks and realities of irregular migration. At the heart of the campaign are word-of-mouth counsellors who consult directly with potential migrants to help them make more informed decisions about onward migration. This is reinforced with remote counsellors, online engagement, events and media stimulation.
In addition to research and strategic communications, Seefar offers monitoring and evaluation, consulting and programme design services. Our approach to these services is often based on detailed knowledge gained from research and a deeper understanding of our beneficiary’s needs and wants from our strategic communications campaigns.
For donors, we provide reviews, advice, training and templating at every stage of the monitoring and evaluation cycle, from building a theory of change through to final reporting and the next iteration of programme design.
In 2015, Seefar undertook a monitoring and evaluation consulting project for the Peace and Stabilisation for the Sahel (PSP Sahel) programme. The PSP Sahel project includes several funding commitments to: the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD) and the Danish Demining Group (DDG). Seefar evaluated the performance of these three organisations, and provided substantive and administrative recommendations on whether and how to continue supporting them.
Programme design at Seefar is the process of moving from a vision to a practical plan. We dedicate our programme design expertise to two domains:
- External consulting in the development and security sectors, to help donors design effective programmes
- In-house research and development to identify needs and methods.
Seefar has been supporting Denmark to update the Peace and Stability programme design and management in the Sahel, focused on Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, in response to their fast-changing environments. Some of the activities supported by Danida’s programme include: support for enhanced rule of law and border management, combat transnational organised crime by encouraging local – national partnerships, and involving pastoral groups in decision-making to create better social inclusion. The overarching aim of the programme is to create a conducive environment for regional cooperation that supports national initiatives to achieve long term sustainable development and security objectives.
If you are interested to know more details on Seefar’s work in West Africa contact us here
Mission-driven: intro to Seefar research and Strategic Communication campaigns
Seefar’s research team works with over 70 researchers based in field teams across the world and regularly operates together with other service and programme teams within the enterprise. Our research aims to understand the best responses to challenges that impact vulnerable people. In general, we focus on low skilled migrants, people at risk of exploitation, and people prevented from accessing justice.
Our research services include research design, data collection, literature reviews and literature quality assessments, qualitative analysis, structural surveys, focus group discussions, descriptive and inferential statistical analysis, monitoring and evaluation, (live) data visualisation, and policy analysis.
The findings of our research not only provide valuable insight to our donors, but inform further services in those topics, such as strategic communication campaigns, programme design and monitoring and evaluation. Not all of our research is published, but you can request unpublished reports and a briefing on any of our research reports here.
Strategic Communication campaigns
Seefar’s strategic communications campaigns are designed to encourage attitudinal and behaviour change. In the past four years, we have tested and refined our strategic communications approach and have successfully pioneered the ethical, engaged and effective (3E) method. Direct community influence is at the core of our campaigns, providing two-way communication with our target audiences to enhance knowledge, shift attitudes, and change risky behaviours. Our strategic campaigns are also largely influenced by original research on crucial topics.
Seefar’s strategic communication campaigns employ an integrated approach to drive attitude and behaviour change. The campaigns seek to facilitate change through three core outputs:
- Community influence (including educational outreach)
- Media engagement
- Online and social media outreach.
Our expertise with strategic communications is rooted in knowing how beneficiaries understand and engage with our projects in all operational focus areas of Seefar, including consulting, monitoring and evaluation and programme design. We are also implementing large-scale irregular migration campaigns in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, localised to the target audience of each area. More information about our strategic communications work can be found here.