WASHINGTON, March 31, 2022—Over 16 million people living in at-risk communities in northern Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Togo will benefit from a new regional project to proactively prevent the spread of conflict from the Sahel, reduce vulnerability to climate change, and strengthen local institutions, economic opportunities, and public trust. The Gulf of Guinea Northern Regions Social Cohesion Project, approved today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors for $450 million in International Development Association (IDA) financing, seeks to “think regionally and act locally” to boost regional collaboration, socioeconomic and climate resilience in vulnerable northern regions of these four Gulf of Guinea countries.
Needs are surging across this subregion where multiple crises converge. External pressures of conflict, climate change, and COVID-19 are compounded by longstanding challenges of poverty, exclusion, and weak governance—all of which may breed marginalization and inequality. The lack of opportunities for youth, inter-community tensions and structural fragilities poses an increasing security challenge for the Gulf of Guinea countries who face serious threats of southward transmission of the rapidly escalating Sahel conflict.
“This project responds to the complexity of the crisis by supporting interlinked and regionally coordinated solutions, security efforts, climate and disaster risk management, and state capacity building,” stated Coralie Gevers, World Bank Country Director for Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Togo.
“By working together, the participating countries can save lives and focus on untapped regional potential to boost economic opportunities in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner”, added Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Over the course of five years, the project is expected to reach 4,600 border-zone communities across the northern Gulf of Guinea subregion. It will focus on strengthening local institutions who will play a central role in prioritizing local development investments and promoting social cohesion and trust, while offering the flexibility to engage and enhance the voice and influence of the most vulnerable (particularly youth and women), to develop customized solutions and maximize regional impact to common challenges.
The Gulf of Guinea Northern Regions Social Cohesion Project comes in response to governments’ demands and reinforce their efforts to strengthen community-driven development, agriculture, youth inclusion, and digital development. The project puts a specific focus on vulnerable village clusters in border areas exposed to conflict and climate risks and introduces a regional lens to local investment by harmonizing approaches for community development to maximize cross-border impacts. This includes developing a Regional Collaboration Platform to facilitate trans-boundary flows of information and policy dialogue.
“Regionality is essential to promote dialogue and coordination on conflict prevention, climate and disaster risk management, and cross-border opportunities,” stated Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Regional Integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa. “We are combining this with a bottom-up, tailored approach in selecting investments that can promote a sense of inclusion and cohesion among local populations.”
The project is linked to an integrated approach and platform for recovery and stabilization for West Africa’s most vulnerable conflict-affected regions. In this sense, it complements two projects previously approved by the World Bank in 2021, the $170 million Lake Chad Recovery and Development Project and the $350 million Community Based Recovery and Stabilization Project for the Sahel. Collectively, the three projects represent a $970 million engagement in regionally coordinated and community-centered development, allowing African countries, donors, and communities to take transboundary approaches to counter the deteriorating fragility in the region.
* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 77 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.5 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $18 billion over the last three years, with about 54 percent going to Africa.