Cross-Border Zones of West Africa

As part of its growing involvement in cross-border cooperation in West Africa through the Local Cross-Border Initiatives (LOBI) programme, UNCDF was invited by the UEMOA Department of Territorial Planning to take part in a workshop in Abidjan from the 23rd-25th June 2014, to validate the provisional report of a new UEMOA programme to develop the cross-border zones of West Africa.

This programme aims at resolving the issue of transitioning from an integration of states towards the integration of peoples by adopting a territorial approach to regional integration, according to Mr. François Albert Amicha, President of the Council of Local Authorities in the UEMOA zone (CCT). With this in mind, the main concern going forward is to embed projects of regional integration in the territories themselves by empowering local authorities, civil society, the private sector and other local actors and giving them a greater role in carrying and managing these projects.

The workshop in Abidjan brought together members of the CCT, the technical staff of the associations of local governments, representatives of members states (Burkina Faso, Benin, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo), representatives of the UEMOA, technical and financial partners (UNCDF, GIZ, ALG), technical support staff and the team of consultants behind the report.

UNCDF has contributed to this report by formulating and sharing a technical note with concrete proposals on how to improve the existing methodology and the content of the study by putting a greater emphasis on an analysis of the cross-border zones, a reorientation in the approach to project implementation towards a greater pooling of resources and means and collaborative provision of basic services, a better emphasis on existing cross-border initiatives, a bigger focus on the issues of decentralization and local development in the UEMOA zone in general, as well as an increased focus of the role of local authorities in cross-border cooperation.

Regarding the next steps in the finalization of the report, a consensus was established around the necessity to define a regional policy on cross-border cooperation, to consolidate national approaches and mechanisms for supporting cross-border cooperation and the implementation of cross-border projects and to operationalize the new UEMOA funding mechanism for local authorities. Furthermore, it was agreed to start a joint reflection on a possible institutional repositioning of the CCT from being a consultative body towards a more operational mandate. It was also judged necessary to create an expert group to follow and support the team of consultants in their work. UNCDF was nominated to be part of this expert group and has accepted to take a greater role in the next steps of the program formulation.