Niamey — Representatives from government, media, the private sector and civil society in Niger came together recently for a series of discussions on the World Bank's proposed development strategy for the West African nation.
Held in four regions - Dosso, Tillabery, Tahoua and Maradi - the discussions focused on the Bank's Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for Niger, a roadmap for engagement with the country over the next four years. The goal, according to organizers, was to solicit the views of Niger's citizens in how best to support the country's development agenda of faster, sustainable and more inclusive growth, as defined in the government's Economic and Social Development Plan 2012-2015 (PDES).
Once approved, the CPS will be in place from 2012-2015.
Seeking stakeholder input
World Bank Country Manager for Niger Nestor Coffi chaired the discussions, sharing lessons learned from the previous Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) 2008-2011.
Coffi spoke of the successful implementation of Bank projects despite political instability and a regional security crisis; the increase in mobilized resources ($450 million instead of the $365 million initially granted); and the necessity of a more balanced approach to short and long-term interventions.
Coffi posed a series of questions to the audience to solicit their input:
What are the specific development priorities in your region?
In what areas should the World Bank increase its presence?
What are the main challenges to the development efforts in your region?
Key priority areas for Niger
In each region, participants identified and discussed areas in which they thought the Bank should be more active. They stressed the sectors and areas they considered to be top priority: education, communication, agriculture and security.
Youth and Education
With a population that is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world (3.3 percent per year) and with 47 percent of its population under the age of 15, Niger is facing questions of how to develop a quality educational system - not only focused on basic education, but also secondary and tertiary; how to build the capacity of teachers; how to enroll more young girls in secondary education; and how to create more jobs for youth.
In addition to a challenged education system, Niger is also coping with chronic food shortages and extreme vulnerability to climate change. With 80 percent of the population living in rural areas, many of the participants' concerns dealt with how to optimize farming and livestock farming. Participants asked:
How can the World Bank help in industrializing farming and livestock farming?
How can Niger move towards food-processing/auto-processing?
For help modernizing livestock farming
For capacity-building and training to increase farmer awareness of new technologies
And for the Bank to take into account the weight of tradition when it comes to women in rural areas
In the area of security, Niger's government is taking proactive measures to maintain peace, and to mitigate spillover risks from the crisis in neighboring Mali. Questions posed:
What is the Bank's contribution in terms of peace and security?
How can the Bank help with repatriates from Cote d'Ivoire, Libya and Mali?
Participants asked, too, that the Bank acknowledge the contribution of women peacekeepers.
The Bank portfolio in Niger includes more than 14 active projects in seven regions. Participants questioned the lack of visibility of Bank projects compared to other stakeholders in the country. They asked that the Bank integrate two of the most spoken languages (Hausa and Garb) into its communication strategy and said media should be among the first constituencies to be briefed about World Bank projects.
Input from the consultations, together with feedback from an ongoing country survey, will feed into the strategic directions of the new partnership strategy. The strategy, which is under preparation, is expected to be presented to the World Bank Board of Directors by the end of April 2013.