Investors pledge $7.8 billion to kick-start Senegal growth plans
PARIS, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Senegal secured pledges worth about $7.8 billion at a donor conference that began in Paris on Monday to help kick-start a development plan aimed at doubling economic growth rates over the next decade.
Senegal is one of West Africa's most stable democracies. Its president, Macky Sall, has been praised for anti-corruption measures he has implemented since winning office in 2012.
But his government is under pressure to create more jobs and diversify the economy.
The development plan being presented at a gathering of private and public sector institutions in Paris this week had sought 2.97 trillion CFA francs to help finance development over the next four years, but managed to raise 3.729 trillion CFA francs ($7.8 billion).
"This shows that Senegal has won the confidence of donors, but that means we do not have the right to fail this trust," Sall told reporters late on Monday. "We have to make sure we put this plan in motion."
The plan aims to boost output from agriculture, fisheries and agro-industry, as well as the mining sector and tourism. The government also hopes to make Senegal a logistics hub for West Africa's market of some 300 million people.
Sall said the immediate objective was to ensure the former French colony's economy grows about 7 percent annually over the next 4 years from the current 4.6 percent and reduce the budget deficit to 3.9 percent from 5.4 percent.
"About 46 percent of financing is for infrastructure, and we're initially going to focus on 27-28 projects," Sall said, highlighting in particular interest from the World Bank, French Development Agency, the Islamic Development Bank and China to finance rail projects.
Authorities say the 10-year "Emerging Senegal" plan will cost just over $21 billion and will eventually target doubling economic growth.
Unlike most nations in the region, Senegal has never seen a coup. Power has changed hands several times during mostly peaceful elections.
Sall has made fighting corruption a priority, a drive that has left about a dozen senior figures from his predecessor's administration in prison.
"Transparency and good governance will guarantee the success of this plan," Sall said.
However, Senegal's burgeoning young population is clamouring for jobs at a time when Dakar's position as West Africa's francophone hub is being rivalled by the post-war recovery of Ivory Coast, the region's economic heavyweight.
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