PARIS Dec 4 Ivory Coast President Alassane
Ouattara appealed to international donors on Tuesday for $4
billion to help fund post-war development, saying it would help
stem the spread of instability and crime in West Africa.
With the international community anxious to contain an al
Qaeda enclave in neighbouring Mali, Ouattara urged a conference
of wealthy nations and multilateral organisations in Paris to
treat Ivory Coast as an anchor of stability in West Africa.
Ouattara and many in the international community have voiced
hope his arrival in power last year has drawn a line under a
decade of instability and conflict in the regional powerhouse.
He took office with French military backing in May 2011
following a brief but brutal civil war after ex-President
Laurent Gbagbo rejected his election win.
"Ivory Coast is rediscovering its place at the heart of the
region," Ouattara said, inaugurating the donor conference which
concludes on Wednesday. "Investing in Ivory Coast is investing
in the region and reducing poverty beyond our borders."
Economic growth in the world's largest cocoa exporter is
forecast at 8.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this
year as it bounces back from a decade of economic decline.
Ouattara said a $20 billion 2013-2015 national development
plan would push economic growth into double-digits by 2014 but
the government needed help to plug a $4 billion funding gap.
While he acknowledged many wealthy Western nations were
facing budgetary constraints, Ouattara said supporting Ivory
Coast would help to prevent the spread of Islamic militancy and
international crime in turbulent West Africa.
Rebels dominated by Islamists linked to al Qaeda seized the
desert north of Mali this year, sparking fears of attacks by
militants in the region or in Europe. African nations are
seeking a U.N. mandate for military intervention.
"We must be united to fight terrorism, the traffic of arms
and drugs, women and children, with all our force," he said.
"The best way of facing these dangers is supporting Ivory Coast
in its efforts toward development."
The development plan was decisively boosted by the IMF,
World Bank and Paris Club's decision this year to cancel $10
billion of Ivory Coast's $12.5 billion external debt, freeing up
some 40 percent of the budget earmarked for debt service.
The government is seeking some 5.3 trillion CFA francs
($10.56 billion) of private sector investment for the plan in
agriculture, transport infrastructure and energy production.
The state has earmarked some 2.1 trillion CFA of its own
resources but that leaves a funding gap for donors of some 2.0
trillion CFA francs, Ouattara said.
Patrick Achi, minister of economic infrastructure, said the
government was focused on boosting regional transport links to
increase trade in the Economic Community of West African States
(ECOWAS). He cited a planned $160 million railway from Ouangolo
in northern Ivory Coast to Sikasso in southern Mali.
"We are saying to investors, Ivory Coast is not just a
market of 23 million people: it gives you access to a regional
market of 300 million people," he said.
($1 = 501.8220 CFA francs)
(Reporting By Daniel Flynn; editing by Ron Askew)