Countries in the Horn of Africa are this week expected to attract the attention of the world as a high ranking delegation makes a historic trip to the region in a combined force aimed at promoting stability and development.
The delegation led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in the region to pledge political support and major financial assistance totalling more than $8 billion over the coming years.
The delegation also includes World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President as well as high level representatives of the African Union Commission, the European Union, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD).
“The countries of the Horn of Africa are making important yet unheralded progress in economic growth and political stability. Now is a crucial moment to support those efforts, end the cycles of conflict and poverty and move from fragility to sustainability,” said Ban Ki-moon.
He added that the UN is joining forces with other global and regional leaders to ensure a coherent and coordinated approach towards peace, security and development in the Horn of Africa.
On the first day of the joint trip, the World Bank announced a major new financial pledge of $1.8 billion for cross-border activities in a Horn of Africa Initiative that will boost economic growth and opportunity, reduce poverty and spur business activity.
The initiative covers the eight countries in the Horn of Africa that are Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
“This new financing represents a major new opportunity for the people of the Horn of Africa to make sure they get access to clean water, nutritious food, health care, education, and jobs,” said Jim Yong Kim.
He added there is greater opportunity now for the region to break free from its cycles of drought, food insecurity, water insecurity and conflict by building up regional security, generating a peace dividend especially among young women and men and spurring more cross-border cooperation.
The European Union pledged $3.7 billion until 2020, of which about 10 per cent would be for cross-border activities, AfDB announced a pledge of $1.8 billion over the next three years IDB committed to deploy up to $1 billion for four countries.
Though the Horn of Africa is diverse, with some of the fastest growing economies and huge untapped natural resources, the region faces significant challenges including extreme poverty.
Unemployment is widespread among the growing numbers of young people while women face huge obstacles because of their gender, including limited land rights, limited education and social customs that often thwart their ability to pursue economic opportunity.
Countries in the region are also vulnerable to corruption, piracy, arms and drug trafficking. Terrorism and related money flows are also significant and interconnected threats. People-trafficking is also a growing problem in the region.
The World Bank said its new $1.8 billion packaging, which is in addition to its existing development programs for the eight countries, would create more economic opportunity throughout the region for some of the most vulnerable peoples, including refugees and internally displaced populations and their host communities.
Wars and instability have generated more than 2.7 million refugees along with over six million internally displaced people. The Bank Group will also help the region build up its communicable disease surveillance, diagnosis and treatment capacity.
The bank will also support greater regional links between countries with regional transport routes, stronger ICT and broadband connectivity, more competitive private sector markets, increased cross-border trade, regional development of oil and gas through pipeline development, and the expansion of university and other tertiary education.
On its part, the European Union plans to focus on the development challenges that must be tackled to unlock the region’s considerable potential. Support will mostly target the three pillars aimed at boosting growth, reducing poverty by promoting resilience and creating economic opportunities.
“The EU stands ready to further deepen its long-standing partnership with the Horn of Africa – helping to build robust and accountable political structures, enhancing trade and economic cooperation, financing peace keeping activities and providing humanitarian assistance and development cooperation,” said European Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
IDB said its new financing for Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda would focus on critical infrastructure development, food security, human development, and trade. A further $2 billion could be provided by the Arab Coordination Group over the same period.
“The Horn of Africa is an important gateway to Africa and a bridge to Western Asia. Bringing stability and sustainable development to the region will undoubtedly significantly contribute to stability across the entire African continent,” said IDB President Ahmad Mohamed Ali.