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W/Bank advocates investment in infrastructure, trade for growth in Lake Chad region

The World Bank group has advocated the need for investment in infrastructure, trade, governance, and natural resource management to drive growth in the Lake Chad region.

In its latest report titled: ‘Lake Chad regional economic memorandum- development for peace’ which was launched on Monday, the Bank stressed on immediate and realistic opportunity to break the region’s cycle of underdevelopment and fragility. Presenting the report via a virtual meeting, Takaaki Masaki , World bank Economist, said that the metrics of the socioeconomic development of the region paint a challenging picture as it is characterized by high rates of poverty, low human capital, and poor access to key services.

According to him, the region’s poor development is a major factor fueling violence, conflict, emigration and displacement.

“In the last three decades, economic activity and household incomes have been decreasing. The region has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, and fertility rates average around 5 children per woman.

“Communities in the vicinity of the lake are lagging compared with the socioeconomic standards in other parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, which are already underperforming compared with other developing economies worldwide,” he said.

According to the report Nigeria’s North East, which flanks the lake to the southwest, poverty rates are estimated at over 70 percent, almost double the rate in the rest of the country.

Read also: Insecurity, poor policy implementation key challenges to Nigeria’s growth – ICSAN

The report identifies and examines the interplay within structural factors such as weak governance, lack of access to basic services, limited market accessibility, and socioeconomic exclusion, as well as with two exacerbating factors that have become more prominent in recent decades: violent conflict and climate change.

In his comment, Marco Hernandez, Senior Economist at World Bank said that investing in infrastructure would help close connectivity gaps in the region, thereby leading to higher productivity and better-quality jobs, particularly in rural areas.

Important steps to note according to him include improving road connectivity between cities and rural areas, expanding the delivery of basic services, and promoting digital infrastructure.

“Secondly, enhancing trade and regional integration would serve to reduce distance and division, leading to stronger agricultural value chains, higher incomes, improved food security, and greater stability.

“Promoting fishing and fish trading would be a timely step, as would be the gradual facilitation of cross-border trade, including through tariff harmonization by taking advantage of the opportunities inherent in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area as well as the visa-free movement of people.”

According to him, there was need for a renewed focus on natural resource management, including efforts to strengthen the sustainability of food systems and more effective land and water management practices suited to local agro-ecological conditions.

This, he said would require a solid regulatory environment and targeted support for producers, such as through the provision of credit, inputs, and extension services, as well as investments in technological innovation and knowledge transfers.

In his remark, the Executive Secretary, Lake Chad Basin Commission, Mamman Nuhu said that promoting needed growth in the region requires consensus effort among stakeholders at all levels.

Shubham Chaudhuri, World bank Country Director, noted that strengthening the rule of law and the functioning of institutions through enhanced governance at the community, local, national, and regional levels are crucial for promoting the better delivery of basic services, which in turn are pivotal to address persistent gaps in human capital outcomes, to mitigate the devastating effects of violence conflict on lives and livelihoods, and to promote social inclusion.

He explained that “improving coordination between federal and subnational governments, mobilizing domestic revenues more effectively, improving data for evidence-based policy making, and investing in local government capacity is vital to restoring a positive government presence in the Lake Chad region, as are measures to restore social cohesion and trust between citizens and the state.

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