The World Bank Group (WBG) launched a “Sahel Initiative” that has a development pledge of $1.5 billion to help the countries of the Sahel region tackle political, food, climatic, and security vulnerabilities with a regionally coordinated approach to build resilience and promote economic opportunity for the region’s families and communities. While the Sahel extends to a much larger area across Sub-Saharan Africa, the core Sahelian countries covered under the 2013 Initiative include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Instability and fragility in the Sahel are driven by land pressures from rapid population growth; high demographics; environmental degradation; climate volatility in countries already prone to desertification, drought, and flash floods; poor basic infrastructure in power and especially water; hunger and malnutrition; and a lack of economic opportunity, particularly for young women and men. These factors have created a regional ‘fragility trap’. The Sahel Initiative is an attempt to help the countries of the region break free from this trap.
During November 2013 joint United Nations (UN) and WBG trip to the Sahel, the following key events took place:
- The WBG pledged $1.5 billion in new regional investments over the next two years, in addition to significant country programs.
- The WBG president joined the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and the President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou in issuing a Call to Action on Women’s Empowerment and Demographics.
Delivery on WBG commitments is on track. So far, the WBG Board of Executive Directors has approved:
- $228 million to support water resources development in the Senegal River Basin (November 2013);
- A $75 million multi-donor Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Trust Fund, with initial support of $75 million from the United Kingdom. This operation supports an integrated approach to social safety nets that builds in risk management and adaptation to climate change (December 2013);
- $8 million for Burkina Faso’s participation in the Africa Centers of Excellence project (April 2014);
- $55.2 million in additional funding to the Kandadji Niger Basin Water Resources Program to help Niger combat recurring drought and chronic food and power shortages. The funds will provide water and irrigation for agriculture, renewable energy, and jobs (May 2014);
- The transformational Banda Gas to Power project (a $261 million IDA partial risk guarantee combined with $585 million in MIGA guarantees) to be implemented within Mauritania but with regional benefits accruing to Mali and Senegal. The project will produce and convert natural gas from offshore gas fields in Mauritania into 300 megawatts of new electricity. This will provide affordable, reliable, and sustainable power to Mauritania’s national grid for its homes, businesses, and mines. It will also export power to Mali and Senegal (May 2014);
- $172 million Sahel Women Empowerment and Demographic Dividend project to increase women and adolescent girls’ empowerment and their access to quality reproductive, child and maternal health services, and to improve regional knowledge generation and sharing as well as regional capacity and coordination (December 2014)
- $200 million OMVG interconnection project to support the expansion of the energy transmission network among member states of the Gambia River Basin Development Organization (OMVG) (April 2015);
- $38 million for Sahel Women Empowerment additional financing for Burkina Faso (April 2015)
- The landmark $248 million Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project, which will develop activities to improve access to essential productive assets, services, and markets for pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in selected trans-border areas and transhumance axes across six Sahel countries, and strengthen country capacity to respond effectively to pastoral crises or emergencies (May 2015)
- $100 million First Regional Trade Facilitation and Competitiveness budget support operation for joint road transport policy reforms in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire (June 2015); and
- $121 million for the Sahel Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Project (June 2015)
The WBG is gearing up to deliver the remaining programs within the next 18 months. The next batch of projects will support irrigation technology, disaster risk power generation and trade, broadband connectivity and transport.
Although somewhat subdued after the joint military operation against them By Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon, the fundamentalist rebel group of Boko Haram is still credited with destabilizing acts that maintain tension in the region, while at the same time, the volatile situation in the Central African Republic (CAR continues to pose spillover risks, primarily in Chad and Niger, both core members of the Initiative.
The resurgence of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone raise the specter of further contamination outside the 3 original countries in West Africa where it first appeared. As such, Ebola continues to create a substantial risk to Sahel countries, as Mali shares a long border with Guinea, where the initial outbreak first occurred in the sub-region. After approving in September 2014 a package of interventions under the $105 million Ebola Emergency Response Grant for the 3 affected countries, the WBG is now preparing for a follow up project aimed at enhancing preparedness for Ebola in west Africa, including in Sahelian countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso.
Great Lakes Initiative
Despite continuing challenges, economic growth in Africa’s Great Lakes Region has continued to be buoyant, with notable positive developments in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the signing of the Great Lakes Peace Agreement in early 2013.
The most recent data show that economic growth in the Great Lakes region has exceeded the average of SSA in recent years, averaging at least 7% in DRC, Tanzania and Zambia during 2011-13
In May 2013, during a joint United Nations (UN) and World Bank Group (WBG) mission to the Great Lakes region, the WBG announced $1.4 billion in new funding to help countries in the region provide better health and education services, generate more cross-border trade, and fund hydroelectricity projects in support of the Great Lakes Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF).
The WBG is making significant progress toward delivering on its commitment:
- A total of $539 million has been approved by the WBG Board of Executive Directors (Board) for regional programs supporting energy development, addressing sexual and gender based violence, women’s health, capacity building support for the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and improvement of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) connectivity.
- On August 6, 2013, the WBG Board approved $340 million for the Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric project, which aims to boost reliable power supply to the electricity grids of Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, reduce electricity costs, promote renewable power and spur job-led economic development.
- On June 26, 2014, the WBG Board approved $106.9 million to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda to provide integrated health and counseling services, legal aid, and economic opportunities to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The project will benefit more than 641,000 women and girls, of whom half a million live in the DRC. As part of the project, all three countries will take steps to promote gender equality, behavioral change and violence prevention.
- On July 16, 2014, the WBG Board approved $92.1 million to improve ICT connectivity within DRC through a new fiber optic backbone. The project will expand international connectivity through connections to neighboring countries’ networks and submarine cables. The project promises dramatically lower costs to users, greater access, and improved reliability of information and communications services. It also promises improved service delivery leveraging ICT infrastructure.
The WBG is also working to prepare the remaining projects under the Great Lakes regional investment plan.
- The Great Lakes Trade Facilitation Project should be delivered by end of September 2015. The development objective of the operation is to facilitate cross-border trade in goods and services by supporting coordinated policy reforms, technical assistance, capacity building and infrastructure investments in conflict-affected border regions of the Great Lakes region.
- Preparation is also underway for the Ruzizi Hydropower Project, the Regional Great Lakes Integrated Agriculture Development Project, the Social Cohesion in Border Communities Project, and the Gulu-Kisangani Road Project and all should be delivered by 2016.
- The WBG’s Global Center for Conflict Security and Development (CCSD), in partnership with the Office of the Special Envoy, has established a regional facility that will provide technical assistance for specific projects and related activities in the Great Lakes region to ensure that they are conflict sensitive, and are aligned with the expected outcomes of Commitment 4 of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) related to economic integration and regional cooperation.