A new World Bank study aims at closing critical knowledge gaps to inform the policy discussion on challenges and opportunities for faster, more inclusive, and sustained economic growth in the Lake Chad region.
The Lake Chad region, an economically and socially integrated area in West and Central Africa straddling Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, is confronted with an interplay of multidimensional development challenges that have resulted in low economic growth, limited opportunities, and fragility.
Boosting growth and job creation in the region requires policies and programs that restore peace and improve the service delivery of basic public services for greater economic opportunities.
Yet, a severe lack of data and diagnostics hinders coordinated, evidence-based interventions.
The Lake Chad Regional Economic Memorandum “Development for Peace” provides a detailed account of the interlocked development challenges affecting the Lake Chad region. It finds that poverty rates, economic growth, and other core socio-economic indicators in the region trail behind other areas of the respective countries.
This stagnation is perpetuated by the negative feedback loops between “3Ds and 2Cs”: that is,
- the low density, long distances, and profound social, cultural, and ethnic divisions that characterize the economic geography of the region; and
- climate change and conflict that exacerbate such development challenges.
Marco Hernandez, Lead Economist at the World Bank and one of the co-authors of the report, explain: “The Lake Chad region is confronted with interlinked development challenges that are trapping the region’s 30 million inhabitants in a vicious cycle of low growth and endemic poverty. In turn, these conditions are fueling conflict, displacement, land degradation, and a general sense of dissatisfaction with government institutions. It is thus critical to identify policy levers that break this vicious cycle and promote a virtuous one of economic growth, job creation, and poverty reduction.”
The Regional Economic Memorandum calls for a multisectoral approach that generates a “big push”, strong enough to revert this self-reinforcing cycle that has kept the Lake Chad region in a suboptimal equilibrium.
It also highlights four crosscutting policy areas as pathways for growth—namely, trade facilitation, connective infrastructure, effective governance, and improved natural resource management.
Ms. Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa, said: “The development challenges in the Lake Chad region are cross-country and so are the solutions. The interlinked challenges and the extent of the shared opportunities, including economic spillovers across boundaries, suggest that coordinated strategies can work better than independent national initiatives in the region. The Lake Chad Regional Economic Memorandum can help inform the debate and expand collective understanding and action.”