Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Regional solutions for regional challenges: the World Bank’s support for resilience and livelihoods in the Lake Chad region

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La Banque mondiale soutient la résilience et les moyens de subsistance dans la région du lac Tchad La Banque mondiale soutient la résilience et les moyens de subsistance dans la région du lac Tchad

Surrounded by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, the Lake Chad region has been a regional hub integrated across the national borders and shores of the lake for centuries. Economic activities and livelihoods were built around daily cross-border flows of people and goods. This intense activity around the lake is buoyed by shared cultural, linguistic, religious and family links. The lake itself is recognized well beyond the region’s borders as a long-shared resource known for having fed the population of the region.

Map of the Lake Chad Region.
Map of the Lake Chad Region

Recent history has been tumultuous though. Indeed, the Lake Chad region has one of the highest global concentrations of extreme poverty and lags on almost every development indicator. Since 2009, the region has experienced sustained levels of high intensity conflicts which caused massive levels of forced displacement and severely impacted vulnerable groups -- women and youth in particular. Recurring climate shocks, rapid demographic growth and weak governance further compound the region’s fragility. As a result, the Lake Chad region has been designated a priority area for World Bank Group support.

Recognizing that the challenges faced are often regional in nature, the governments of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria are committed to intensifying regional coordination to support early recovery and development. The World Bank is supporting these joint efforts through an integrated program of national and regional operations.

On May 26, 2020 the Bank approved two new projects that will contribute to the stabilization of the Lake Chad region and support the gradual shift to longer-term development approaches. The Lake Chad Region Recovery and Development Project (PROLAC, $170 million) is the first World Bank-funded regional project dedicated to help address challenges in the region. Together with an additional financing to the Multi-Sectoral Crisis Recovery Project for North Eastern Nigeria (MCRP AF, $176 million), they will lay the foundations for future regional and coordinated investments that will improve access to regional markets, promote value-chain development and revive cross-border and regional trade.

Four main areas are at the core of the World Bank Group’s regional program for the Lake Chad region, in line with the World Bank Group’s Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence:

  • Consolidating the foundations for regional cooperation by supporting an enhanced regional dialogue involving local institutions (governors, communes, local universities and research centers), and filling the knowledge gap in and on the region, notably through the creation of a regional knowledge platform hosted by the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
  • Addressing the most pressing needs of the population and fostering the capacity of local communities and institutions to address them by restoring resilient livelihoods and regional value chains, rehabilitating small-scale agriculture infrastructure and productivity in the polder areas in Chad, the farming of oasis areas in Niger, and in the areas close to the shores of the Lake Chad in the Far North Cameroon and North-Eastern Nigeria.
  • Enhancing social cohesion and restoring trust through citizen engagement mechanisms and labor-intensive public works that will create temporary jobs benefiting excluded communities such as youth and women.
  • Better connecting this remote region, notably through enhanced energy and transportation infrastructure to support growth, trade and job creation.
Lake Chad
© Odilia Hebga, World Bank

Focusing on these fundamental areas will assist Lake Chad communities to create more of the polder areas (silted lands near the lake) that will help families secure their livelihoods. It will give citizens a voice, and create space for women and youth to grow and learn. And, it will develop connections between countries in the region, providing a means for communities to increase their support of one another.

The Lake Chad region experiences the multiple impacts of threat that know no borders, such as conflict and climate change. Through strengthening regional cooperation, supporting the needs of the population, enhancing cohesion and trust and building connectivity, the World Bank Group aims to deliver on its commitment to one of the region’s most fragile areas.


Deborah Wetzel

Director, Regional Integration for Africa, the Middle East and North Africa

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