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Niger’s Kandadji Program to Boost Regional Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Electricity in The Sahel

As part of its long-term solution to recurring drought, and chronic food and power shortages in Africa’s Sahel region, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved US$203 million for the “Niger Basin Water Resources Development and Sustainable Ecosystems Management Program (APL 2A),” which will contribute to the funding of the Kandadji Program to increase food production, generate more electricity, boost jobs, and create economic opportunities for families and communities in the countries of the Niger Basin.

The project will also support the Niger Basin Authority to further strengthen regional cooperation among its nine riparian countries. The Kandadji Program is an example of the World Bank’s push to create ‘growth poles’ in Africa that generate growth across agriculture, infrastructure and other key sectors. This latest initiative includes the Kandadji dam, a power plant, transmission line, environmental and social measures, irrigation for farms, and an economic development plan for local communities.

“Kandadji is a transformational development project that will deliver significantly more opportunity to communities, more food, water, and electricity, and less poverty in the poorest region of Africa,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region. “As African countries look to sustain and boost their high growth rates while improving their development prospects, projects like Kandadji can be game-changers for a continent looking for significantly more irrigation and electricity, as well as better health, education, and economic opportunities for its growing population of young people.

According to Diop, who believes that greater agricultural productivity and electricity expansion are vital to Africa’s development future, more than 47 per cent of Niger’s 16 million people are under the age of 15.

Recurring droughts and chronic food and power shortages routinely afflict the region, and the Sahel is currently suffering from drought. Only 12 percent of Niger’s land is fertile enough to grow food crops. The Kandadji program takes an integrated approach to helping communities in the Basin area build up their long-term development resilience to drought, hunger, and other threats, by providing them with secure water storage, improved irrigation, and significantly increased renewable hydropower energy by up to 130 megawatts.

“The Kandadji Program will make a significant contribution by helping to meet the development needs of the people of Niger and its other neighbors in The Sahel,” said Jamal Saghir, the World Bank’s Director for Sustainable Development in Africa. “By supporting transformational projects like Kandadji with cross-border benefits, we can all mobilize behind energy solutions to help create a more promising development future for West Africa.”

Increasing food production in some of the driest parts of the world and helping farmers to improve their economic livelihoods is vital for reducing poverty in the region. The Kandadji dam will increase the Niger Valley’s irrigated cropland from 10,000 to 55,000 hectares, a significant contribution to improve food security and resilience to droughts that will be exacerbated with climate change.

“The Kandadji Program marks an opportunity to show that good development can happen with well-designed programs that jumpstart growth,” said Amal Talbi-Jordan, Senior Water Resources Management Specialist in the Bank’s Africa Region and project Task Team Leader. “We look forward to effective project implementation so that the project’s benefits help to create better development prospects for communities, both in Niger and in the wider Niger Basin countries.”

The Kandadji Program will be part of the West Africa Power Pool and is designed to generate substantial development benefits for the region. The Kandadji Program design integrates regional, national and local cooperation, and promotes greater synergy between the different priorities of agriculture, environment, energy and water sectors. It is an illustration of good development. Seven of the nine Niger basin riparian countries are among the 20 poorest in the world and good development needs to take place. The World Bank’s zero-interest financing will come from its International Development Association,* the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries.

Today’s approval of the Kandadji Program responds to the priorities set by The African Caucus and the Kinshasa II Declaration issued on August 2, 2012 which called for boosting African agricultural productivity through the development of integrated regional projects and strengthen energy power pools for regional impact. The project will be implemented using strong international environmental and social safeguards.

WASHINGTON, October 3, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)

Crédits: AK-Project