Many borders between West African states were drawn randomly by the colonial powers. They are still perceived as an obstacle by the people living there today. The borders restrict free movements of persons and goods and impede regional integration. This is also having a negative impact on the regions’ economic development.
Therefore, the «Programme de Coopération Transfrontalière Locale» (PCTL), which is supported by Switzerland, is promoting regional, cross-border integration in cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States (UEMOA). To this end, in an initial step, a 165,000 square kilometre region with more than 7.5 million inhabitants that is situated between Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire was analysed in terms of agriculture, education and training, and healthcare services. The result is that the considerable economic potential of this region, with its capitals Abidjan, Bamako and Ouagadougou, has so far only been made limited use of.
One important reason is the poor state the roads are in. Small, interregional roads in particular are in often bad repair and are sometimes not negotiable during the rainy season. Food goes bad before it reaches the regional markets. The analysis has also revealed that most regions have a considerable demand for hospitals, schools and sanitation.
In a number of workshops with representatives of communities, towns and regions as well as civil society, six priority, cross-border zones and 18 specified projects were defined. Eight of them concern improvements in central road sections with a total length of 850 kilometres. Furthermore, projects have been selected for better water management in a zone between Mali and Burkina Faso that has considerable agricultural significance. And four cross-border health centres are planned.
All in all, over the coming years, around 79 million Swiss francs - CHF - (45,670 million FCFA) is to be invested in the PCTL. Three projects are being provided directly with 5.5 million CHF by Switzerland. Since 2016, the UEMOA has been financing the local cross-border projects via its Regional Aid Fund FAIR (Fonds d’aide à l’intégration régionale) with a total of CHF 800,000.