The European Union is set to double its funding for a multi-national military operation in West Africa’s Sahel region today, EU diplomats, part of a broader effort to fight militants and people traffickers.
At a donor conference of some 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, military power France hopes to win enough backing to allow a regional force first proposed four years ago to be fully operational later this year.
“There is a direct European interest in restoring stability to the region,” a senior EU diplomat said.
There is a general awareness now that the future of the European Union is also the future of Africa.
Fears that violence in the arid zone could fuel already high levels of migration towards Europe and become a springboard for attacks on the West have made military and development aid there a priority for European nations and Washington.
The G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, needs more than €400 million ($494 million) to be able to meet the demands of its Western backers, up from the €250 million ($307 million) it has now.
France, which has more than 4,000 troops in the region, hopes to reach at least €300 million ($370 million) today, as the European Union pledges another €50 million ($61.5 million) to take its contribution to €100 million ($133 million) for the force that has struggled to meet expectations while militants have scored military victories in West Africa.
So far, the United States has pledged €60 million to support it. Another €100 million has been pledged by Saudi Arabia, €30 million from the United Arab Emirates and €40 million on a bilateral basis by EU member states, separate from the EU’s joint effort.
Separately, France is set to pledge €1.2 billion to fund development in the region over the next five years, a 40 per cent increase over current levels, an EU diplomat said.