Global leaders pledge billions of dollars for Africa's Sahel

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A local man takes advantage of the World Food Programme (WFP)'s food-and-cash for work programme in the village of Dan Kada, Maradi Region, Niger.WFP/Phil Behan

Two international development agencies have announced major financial pledges to the Sahel region: $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.

Signalling a new focus on boosting economic growth and lifting people out of devastating poverty in Africa's hard-hit Sahel region, the announcement comes at the start 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 Secretary-General, other 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, 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.

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.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration:  2’05″

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