Investment is critical to boosting the economy in West African countries. Despite the relatively strong economic growth in West Africa over the past few years, the region accounts for only around one percent of global Foreign Direct Investment. In fact, as countries put a strong emphasis on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as drivers of growth, issues related to access to finance, capacity building, and even the broader investment climate have traditionally prevented these small-scale businesses from growing to their full potential. Today, governments in the region are eager to improve their business regulations to attract investors that can boost their economies. To achieve this, they are looking to partners who can support them in improving their business environment, attract foreign investments, and help local businesses grow.
The World Bank Group and USAID have partnered to implement Invest West Africa, a five-year, $15 million program to increase trade and investment in the West Africa region.
The program will facilitate access to finance in the region; build capacity of SMEs, helping them grow and create jobs; generate investment by implementing reforms; and reduce the transaction costs for the private sector. It will focus on:
Regulatory reforms: Invest West Africa provides tailored support to resolve the specific challenges potential investors face during a transaction. The team works directly with the relevant counterparts, identifying specific regulatory constraints and designing solutions.
Institutional building: The Invest West Africa team works with agencies mandated to attract investment in each country, building their capacity in investment research, promotion, targeting, and facilitation. The program will explore opportunities to facilitate regional learning and innovation among investment agencies as well as cooperation related to investment promotion, targeting, and facilitation where appropriate.
Hands-on support to the private sector and transactions: The program team provides direct support for specific investment transactions informed by the experience of IFC’s investment department, among others. An important aspect of this support it to help companies become more environmentally and socially sustainable. Invest West Africa will proactively identify investors based on their network of global and regional contacts and will then support the realization of investment projects. In addition, the team can help the local private sector create a competitive and sustainable supply chain with international investors interested in West Africa.
Knowledge sharing and learning: Given the strong emphasis on reforms and investment promotion in the region, the program also organized topic-specific peer-to-peer learning events to share its experience on implementing reforms and investment-generation activities in West Africa.
In addition to key activities that will cover West Africa as a region, the program will focus on country-specific needs for attracting investment and developing SMEs. To this end, the team is currently working on projects in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, and Senegal.