Bank to Launch New Platform to Connect Mano River Countries

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Connecting people, consolidating peace and accelerating economic transformation were the main themes of a high-level seminar organized by the African Development Bank in Abidjan on Monday, May 13, whose aim was to promote regional integration in the four Mano River Union (MRU) countries of Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Sponsored by the Bank, in close collaboration with the Mano River Union Secretariat, this new initiative proposes a major effort to address the region’s infrastructure gap, in transportation and energy in particular. The Mano River Initiative will connect people within and between these countries, promote trade and private sector development, thereby helping the region transition out of fragility and instability.

As Amadou Zakou, Manager of the Bank’s Energy Division, pointed out, “Access to electricity in the Mano River countries is among the lowest and most expensive in the word, with coverage of 15 per cent, compared with the African average of over 40 per cent, and 80 per cent for the rest of the world.” Electricity costs are nearly twice as high as the African average, and nearly four times as high, compared with the world average.

Intra-regional trade in the region is also one of the lowest in the world, largely suffering from poor road quality. “The share of paved roads in the region is between six and nine per cent, versus an African average of 18 per cent,” said Manuel Benard, Transport Economist at the African Development Bank.

This initiative aims at reducing these gaps by presenting a comprehensive framework for infrastructure development of the MRU countries, focusing on two main pillars: energy and roads. The initiative will help finance major infrastructure backbones, including the interconnection lines from Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (CLSG) and the Trans African Highway, together with supplemental projects.

“Thanks to all such initiatives, the sub-region is on the rise,” said Sarah Daraba Kabba, Secretary General of the Mano River Initiative, who stated her commitment to play a key role in supporting this initiative.

Projects would be regionalized to facilitate their funding, while providing incentives for regional integration. “By grouping and placing large and expensive infrastructure in a multi-donor platform, the initiative would free up resources for country interventions,” said Franck Perrault, Regional Director of the Bank’s West Africa Department.

The high-level workshop, attended by Ministers of Finance and those in charge of infrastructure and public works, as well as the MRU Secretariat, enabled the Bank to exchange with the countries on the proposed institutional arrangements, review priority programs and projects.
“We welcome this initiative,” said Albert Toikeusse Mabri, Ivorian Minister of State, Minister of Planning and Development. “We look forward to working closely with the Bank on this important endeavour.”

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