Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

West Africa Regional Program

Table of Contents

© ACDI-CIDA/Roger LeMoyne


Of the 15 countries in West Africa, all but one are ranked as ''low'' for development in the 2010 United Nations Human Development Index (PDF, 95 KB, 5 pages). More than half of the population of the region lives on less than US$1.25 per day, and more than two of every five West Africans are less than 15 years old.

Regional cooperation and integration are necessary to meet some of the common development challenges faced by West African countries, including the fight against transboundary diseases such as malaria, meningitis, and tuberculosis. Children in West Africa are particularly vulnerable to disease because of their high levels of malnutrition. For example, in Sierra Leone, the chances of a child dying before they reach the age of five is one in four.

Economic growth has been relatively strong in recent years due to the export of natural resources. Most West Africans earn a living from small and undiversified agricultural activities. Both sectors are very vulnerable to global market fluctuations. Higher food prices in 2008 caused an economic shock throughout the region, provoking social tensions.

Even though poverty in West Africa is widespread, women are poorer and more vulnerable than men, earn far less, and have limited access to credit.

West African governments have established a number of regional organizations to address these issues, including the Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine (UEMOA), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its specialized agencies, such as the West African Health Organisation, and key technical partners such as the Niger Basin Authority and the Confédération des institutions financières. These organizations are critical to mitigating the impact of the food crisis and enabling future economic growth based on improved agricultural productivity.

As part of the Government of Canada's Economic Action Plan 2012, CIDA is restructuring and streamlining its operations and, as of April 2012, will no longer support new projects under the Central Africa Regional Program, the Southern and Eastern Africa Regional Program, and the West Africa Regional Program. Regional institutions across Africa will remain eligible for Canadian assistance through a consolidated and more modest Pan-Africa Regional Program.

Thematic Focus

The goal of CIDA's West Africa Regional Program is to strengthen economic growth and to secure a future for children and youth.

CIDA's West African Regional Program is directly aligned with the Regional Poverty Reduction Strategy for West Africa (PDF, 14 MB, 220 pages) developed by the African Union, ECOWAS and UEMOA.

Economic growth

CIDA focuses on strengthening the enabling environment by:

  • Improving regional financial systems such as common banking, insurance, audit, and information technology for the eight countries with a common currency
  • Strengthening water management in order to increase agricultural productivity and farmers' incomes
Selected examples of expected results
  • Six savings and credit networks in six countries will develop bank and insurance services to benefit their 2.2 million members in more than 500 institutions
  • Nine countries—Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal—will be better able to predict and respond to floods and droughts
  • Nine countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria—will improve the management of their water resources and increase both agricultural production and income

Children and youth

CIDA focuses on strengthening national health systems to jointly fight communicable diseases to which children and youth are particularly vulnerable and to reduce the infant and child mortality rates by:

  • Improving disease tracking
  • Increasing vaccination campaigns
  • Providing greater access to basic health services
Selected examples of expected results
  • Vaccination campaigns in five countries—Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Niger—will protect thousands of children against measles, meningitis, and yellow fever
  • The 15 ECOWAS countries will improve the quality of their health services through 40 demonstration projects

Progress on Aid Effectiveness

CIDA works closely with established and trusted regional organizations such as UEMOA and ECOWAS to increase aid effectiveness. As these organizations are increasingly capable of developing their own strategies, donors, including Canada, are aligning their programs with these strategies and coordinating their support so they work in tandem to deliver effective and efficient programs. In West Africa, CIDA is supporting community ownership to improve production while other donors with greater financial resources address broader issues such as macroeconomic stability and infrastructure investments.

Achievements 2009-2010

Economic growth

  • Increased the number of clients of savings and credit networks by 13 percent between 2005 and 2009, now serving 2.44 million members
  • Increased savings and credit by 15 percent each year between 2005 and 2009
  • Increased the number of female employees in microfinance institutions from 31 percent to 47 percent

Children and youth

  • Improved disease tracking to cover 95 percent of Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger

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