Bamako — Signaling a renewed focus on boosting economic growth and lifting people out of devastating poverty in Africa's hard-hit Sahel region, two international development agencies announced major financial pledges: $1.5 billion from the World Bank Group in new regional investments over the next two years, in addition to significant country programs; and €5 billion ($6.75 billion) from the European Union to six countries in the region over the next seven years.
The announcement comes on the eve of an historic trip to The Sahel by development leaders, led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to discuss peace, security, and resilience with the leaders of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad.
In addition to the UN's Ban, others leaders making the trip are World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim; Andris Piebalgs, European Union Commissioner for Development; African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma; and African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka.
The World Bank Group's pledges for the next two years will support major regional development priorities such as social safety nets to help families weather the worst effects of economic adversity and natural disasters, improve infrastructure and create opportunities in rural areas.
The World Bank Group's funding, which is additional to its ongoing development multi-country and national programs in the region already worth several billion dollars, will create more hydropower and other sources of clean energy to greatly expand irrigation and transform agriculture; protect and expand pastoralism for more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods; expand health services for women and girls; and improve regional communications and connectivity between countries.
It also includes $300 million from the IFC, the Bank Group's private sector arm, which will support economic development in several countries in the Sahel. The inclusion of funding for private sector projects is aimed at attracting additional billions of dollars, which will be necessary in order to create good jobs and help bring stability to a region that has been rocked by conflict in the last two years. In addition, the Bank Group's MIGA, which provides political risk insurance, will provide $585 million in guarantees over the next year for a gas project in Mauritania that exports power to Senegal and Mali.
"The people of the Sahel region desperately need more secure living standards, and our hope is this funding helps build a new path for economic growth in the region," said the World Bank Group's Kim. "For too long, the people of the Sahel, especially women, have struggled with the devastating impact of too little economic growth and opportunity, a harsh climate, hunger, high fertility rates, and the world's highest number of maternal and child deaths."
The European Union's support to Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad (subject to approval by the European Parliament and the European Council) for the next seven years will aim to help those countries tackle the specific and complex challenges of the Sahel region: security and stability, development and resilience. Governance, rule of law and security, delivery of social services, agriculture and food security, as well as regional trade and integration will be at the heart of the development programmes over 2014-2020.
"The Sahel is a priority for the European Union where it mobilizes all its instruments to address a complex situation," said European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. "We are determined to continue and increase our support to both the States and people of the Sahel. Our approach is built on the principle that security is a pre-requisite for growth - there can be no development without it."
The other leaders on the trip said that the Sahel region needs an infusion of development assistance in order to secure peace and prevent future conflicts.
"The challenges in the Sahel respect no borders - neither should our solutions. The cycle of crises can be broken. By working together and investing in governance, security, resilience and opportunity for women and young people, we can help the Sahel move from fragility to sustainability. Fighting fires in the Sahel remains crucial; but we also need to clear away problems that ignite conflict and instability," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"The Sahel faces old challenges, climate vulnerability and recurrent drought, now compounded by insecurity. We must now together build resilience and create opportunities for all through jobs especially for the young. For that we will invest in infrastructures, regional integration and support the private sector. The solution for the Sahel is inclusive economic growth, trade and investment. This is what will lay basis for lasting stability and sustainability," said African Development Bank Group President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka.
Added African Union Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma: "Our efforts to create peace and stability must be reinforced by investments in the peoples and countries of the Sahel region. If we connect communities and countries through infrastructure and market linkages, if we assist local farmers including women to deal with droughts and improve their agricultural outputs, if we invest in education and skills development for youth and children and if we build democratic, people-centered and inclusive political cultures and governance, we will create the conditions for lasting peace, prosperity and the renaissance of the Sahel."
For the UN's Ban and World Bank's Kim, this is the second trip in six months together to Africa. In May, the two travelled to the Great Lakes region, drawing attention to the same issue of promoting both peace and development. During that trip, Kim pledged $1 billion for regional projects for programs to improve health, education, nutrition, access to energy, and job training.