The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Mano River Union (MRU) held a joint technical seminar in Abidjan this week to discuss reactivation of the MRU initiative.
The initiative aims to strengthen regional integration and resilience by reducing the infrastructure gap, with a special focus on energy and road infrastructure. It also seeks to facilitate intra-regional connectivity, and promote trade and private sector development within its member states of Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The February 16 meeting deliberated on a draft Strategic Framework and the associated work program, taking into account challenges and opportunities in the region. It highlighted the impact of the Ebola epidemic, youth unemployment, and the potential of member states to feed the area in the context of their vast natural resources. The framework serves as a multi-donor platform to facilitate funding, while providing incentives for regional integration.
In his opening remarks, Sibry Tapsoba, Director of the Bank’s Transition Support Department, underlined the importance of the MRU initiative in harnessing the region’s agricultural potential and addressing youth unemployment. He also cited the initiative’s role in leveraging opportunities for tackling fragility within the region.
Similarly, Koffi Kouman, MRU’s Deputy Secretary General, reiterated that addressing infrastructure deficit, promoting effective management of natural resources, and addressing youth unemployment were critical for the region to transition out of fragility into robust inclusive economies. Other sectors that the initiative will focus on include transport, energy and ICT.
The MRU member states have experienced prolonged years of crisis and fragility and were on a path towards rebuilding their economies, and consolidating peace, stability and human development when the Ebola epidemic hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The AfDB supported these countries with over US $250 million to arrest the outbreak.
At the conclusion of the meeting, participants endorsed a priority list of regional projects in selected sectors and agreed on key roles and responsibilities in finalizing the framework. Present at the event were the MRU Secretariat, representatives of MRU member states, and staff from various departments of the Bank such as energy, transport, human development, agriculture, regional integration, transition support and natural resource management, among others.