The ‘conflict economy’ of sesame in Ethopia and Sudan

Think tank: Chatham House

Author(s): Ahmed Soliman; Dr Abel Abate Demissie

April 4, 2024

This report from UK think tank Chatham House examines how the sector has become entangled in local and transnational conflict.

The sesame trade is no longer just a mainstay of local livelihoods in Ethiopia and Sudan.

Amid civil war and territorial rivalry on both sides of the border, it now plays a central role in a conflict economy that perpetuates violence and political instability. Competition to control sesame revenues has reshaped local agricultural markets, and provided a strategic motivation for conflict participants and members of political and economic elites. If left unaddressed, these shifts threaten to prolong and intensify conflict and worsen the inequalities faced by people living in the border regions.

This research paper explains how the sesame industry is connected to, and interacts with, both internal and transnational conflict dynamics affecting Ethiopia and Sudan. It also offers recommendations to help policymakers in Ethiopia and Sudan, as well as regional and international partners such as the UK, respond.