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WB, EU Pledge More Than US$8 Bln for Developing Africa's Sahel

Xinhua News Agency, November 5, 2013 Adjust font size:

The World Bank and the European Union (EU) on Monday pledged US$8.25 billion to boost economic growth and lift more people out of devastating poverty in Africa's Sahel region.

The announcement came as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on Monday reached conflict- torn Mali for a visit, which will also take the two to Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

According to a press release from the UN spokesperson's office, the World Bank Group has pledged US$1.5 billion in new regional investments 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 over the next two years.

The EU has also announced it will provide 5 billion euros ( about US$6.75 billion) to six countries in Sahel region - - Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad -- over the next seven years, aiming to help them tackle the specific and complex challenges the region faces. 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 programs from 2014 to 2020.

"The challenges in the Sahel respect no borders -- neither should our solutions. The cycle of crisis can be broken," said Ban, who arrived in Mali's capital Bamako Monday with other development leaders from the World Bank, the African Union, African Development Bank and the EU.

Home to more than 80 million people, the Sahel region, a belt dividing the Sahara desert to the north and the Savannah to the south, stretches from Mauritania to Eritrea, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

According to the UN, the Sahel has suffered three major droughts in less than a decade. More than 11 million people living in the vast region lack sufficient food and 5 million children under age five are at risk of acute malnutrition. In addition, political instability and unconstitutional changes in governments have had significant economic and social consequences in the region and terrorist acts, as well as organized crime, have threatened the region's stability.

"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 Jim. "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."

This is the second time for Ban and Kim to visit Africa together. The two also traveled to the Great Lakes region in May, drawing attention to the same issue of promoting peace and development. During that trip, Kim pledged US$1 billion for regional programs to improve health, education, nutrition, access to energy, and job training.

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