DAKAR (Reuters) – The World Bank said on Tuesday it has signed deals to finance four projects in Senegal worth a total of $495 million to help improve education, electricity, economic development and road access to rural areas.
The West African nation of around 16.7 million, considered lower-middle-income by the World Bank, was hit hard by border closures during the pandemic that affected tourism and delayed oil and gas extractions.
Most of the coastal country was struggling with unemployment even before the coronavirus hit, with jobs and industries concentrated in the capital Dakar and a few other cities.
The World Bank director for Senegal and neighbouring countries, Nathan Belete, announced what he described as a “record” funding in a statement.
A project to improve the quality of the education system will be awarded $100 million and benefit over 600,000 students, the bank said.
Another $45 million will fund a project to help develop the economy of the impoverished southern Casamance region, focusing on rural areas and including the construction infrastructure resistant to the impact of climate change.
The Bank also said that $150 million will be disbursed to improve electricity access across the country, connecting 200,000 households to the grid and improving power services in schools, health facilities, and small and medium enterprises.
The fourth project, worth $200 million, will focus on developing better road links to rural food producing areas in northern and central regions.
Agriculture is Senegal’s main driver of economic growth, while services remain the biggest contributor to gross domestic product (GDP), the World Bank says.
The pandemic caused its real GDP growth to slow to 1.5% in 2020 from 4.4% a year earlier.
The economy bounced back to 5% growth in 2021. It is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to accelerate to 5.5% in 2022 and peak at about 10% in 2023-24 with the start of oil and gas production.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by James Macharia Chege and Bill Berkrot)