Although trade unions in Benin represent up to 75% of the formal workforce, the large informal economy has been noted by the International Trade Union Confederation to contain ongoing problems, including a lack of women's wage equality, the use of child labour , and the continuing issue of forced labour .
Currently, about a third of the population live below the international poverty line of US $1.25 per day.
An insufficient electrical supply continues to adversely affect Benin's economic growth though the government recently has taken steps to increase domestic power production.
In order to raise growth still further, Benin plans to attract more foreign investment, place more emphasis on tourism, facilitate the development of new food processing systems and agricultural products, and encourage new information and communication technology.
The main pillars of the country’s poverty reduction strategy are: accelerating growth, improving access to basic services, and promoting better governance and institutional capacity building.
A high average fertility rate of 6.2 children per woman of reproductive age.
Nearly 65% of population is less than 25 years old.
Few Burkinabe have had formal education. Schooling is in theory free and compulsory until the age of 16, but only about 80.3% of Burkina's primary school-age children are enrolled in primary school. Of those enrolled, only about 41.7% complete primary school.
The United Nations Development Program Report ranks Burkina Faso as the country with the lowest level of literacy in the world
Drought, poor soil, lack of adequate communications and other infrastructure, a low literacy rate, and an economy vulnerable to external shocks are all longstanding problems.
Political and economic problems in Cote d'Ivoire have had a direct impact on revenue for millions of Burkina households.The 8-year-old crisis in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire negatively affected trade between the two countries.
Street crime in Burkina Faso poses high risks for visitors. Most reported incidents involve purse-snatchers and street scam artists, who target wallets, jewelry, cell phones and other valuables.
There continue to be armed robberies and attacks on intercity roads throughout the country. Although these armed individuals and groups operate mostly at night, there have been daytime attacks. They have injured or killed individuals who refused their demands or attempted to drive through their roadblocks.
Kidnapping remains a threat in the northern border areas of the country.
Ouagadougou occasionally experiences demonstrations and civil unrest. Although most demonstrations are generally peaceful, there have been incidents of violence and destruction within recent years.
Burkina Faso: Medical Facilities & Health Information
Medical facilities and emergency hospital care are very limited, particularly in areas outside of Ouagadougou. Emergency response services, such as ambulances, are in very short supply, poorly equipped, and in many regions simply nonexistent.
Malaria, Meningitis, and Tuberculosis are serious health concerns.
As of 2009, it was estimated that there were as few as 10 physicians per 100,000 people.
According to the World Health Organization in 2005 an estimated 72.5% of Burkina Faso's girls and women have suffered female genital mutilation.
Burkina Faso needs to address its economic vulnerability and develop a broader and more durable resource base through the intensification and diversification of its economy.
With limited fiscal space and a rapidly growing population requiring more basic services, improved governance and efficiency in delivering services at the local level will be critical to underpin improvements in human development.
The underling principles are: transformation of the Burkinabe economy, adaptability to a global context marked by the recent recession, selectivity of the Bank’s interventions and a better coordination of its support in different sectors, and lastly, a strong focus on results and efficiency.
The US$30.7 million Burkina Faso Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project aims at supporting the country in creating the conditions for improved competitiveness and a more dynamic development of enterprises.
The Ouagadougou Water Supply Project, co-financed by the World Bank, helped to restructure the Water and Sanitation Office within six years. The project developed access to drinkable water, reliability of water supply and improved operational management in the sector.
The country has experienced continued, periodic episodes of political unrest and violence since 2002, when a failed coup attempt evolved into an armed rebellion that split the country in two.
Although the political situation has improved, it still has not returned to normal. Long-delayed presidential elections have been repeatedly postponed.
Cote d'Ivoire has a high population growth rate, a high crime rate (particularly in Abidjan), a high incidence of AIDS, a multiplicity of tribes, sporadic student unrest, a differential rate of in-country development according to region, and a dichotomy of religion associated with region and ethnic group.
These factors put stress on the political system and could become more of a problem if the government does not succeed in implementing the Ouagadougou Political Agreement and if the economy does not return to consistent growth.
In recent years Côte d'Ivoire has been subject to greater competition and falling prices in the global marketplace for its primary agricultural crops: coffee and cocoa. That, compounded with high internal corruption, makes life difficult for the grower and those exporting into foreign markets.
Grab-and-run street crime and pick-pocketing in crowded areas are widespread. Armed carjackings, robberies of businesses, and home invasions occur frequently and have targeted residents who are perceived as wealthy.
Some armed robberies have been carried out by men in military uniforms.
Armed criminals use force when faced with resistance.
There are numerous police-controlled vehicle checkpoints throughout Abidjan to check vehicle and passenger documents; often, security forces use the checkpoints to extort money from drivers and passengers.
Cote d’Ivoire has been unstable since a coup in 1999, and territorially divided since 2002.
Political instability has contributed to economic decline and high unemployment, exacerbating social tensions and creating the potential for labor unrest and civil disorder. There have been recurring episodes of violence, some of them severe.
In December 2009, there was a large anti-government rally, as well as several incidents of localized violence protesting the removal of names from the provisional voter registration list without due process.
On February 12, 2010, there were incidents of violence, including a clash between protestors and security forces in the town Gagnoa which left several dead.
Cote d’Ivoire: Current Travel Warnings & Alerts
March 2, 2011
In addition to the unstable political situation following the contested November 28, 2010 presidential elections, a rapidly declining economy and a banking crisis may result in a scarcity of fuel, food and other vital commodities.
Following the contested results of presidential elections in November 2010, many demonstrations turned violent, resulting in death and injury.
Clashes between military and militia continue to escalate, as do increased and spontaneous road blocks, many by youth extremists loyal to Gbagbo, who have in recent days perpetrated violence and aggression against vehicles and drivers.
The State Department anticipates a general economic downturn, serious shortages of fuel, food, and other commodities as well as price increases, which could result in severe hardship and a simultaneous upswing in civil disturbances and crime.
Cote d’Ivoire: Medical Facilities & Health Information
Abidjan has privately-run medical and dental facilities that are adequate, but do not fully meet U.S. standards.
Medical care outside of Abidjan is extremely limited.
Malaria is a serious health problem in Cote d’Ivoire.
The avian influenza or “bird flu” virus has been confirmed in animals in Cote d’Ivoire as of June 2006.
The government needs to consolidate peace by completing the implementation of the OPA, notably to implement the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration program, create a unified army, restore control over the entire country and hold presidential elections. The government will support good governance by modernizing the public administration and improving public services, including justice services and the penal system.
The Government is also focused on strengthening public financial management and procurement reforms to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency in the use of public resources, and reducing its high debt situation.
The country needs to create more jobs and wealth by creating a more enabling environment for the private sector; investing in improvements in agricultural productivity and food self-sufficiency throughout the country; promoting trade, income-generating activities and self-employment; creating incentives for labor-intensive employment opportunities and strengthening professional and vocational educational opportunities.
The government needs to invest in basic education and health services to make progress toward the MDGs, improve access to basic infrastructure such as potable water, adequate sanitation and energy services, and establish a decent urban and rural environment.
A 2007 strike turned violent after President Conte ignored the unions’ demand that he resign from office. Nationwide, protesters began barricading roads, throwing rocks, burning tires, and skirmishing with police. Violence peaked on January 22 when several thousand ordinary Guineans poured into the streets, primarily in the capital, calling for change. Guinean security forces and the military's "red beret" presidential guard reacted by opening fire on the peaceful crowds.
On February 12, President Conte declared a "state of siege," which conferred broad powers on the military, and implemented a strict curfew. According to media reports, the following days saw military and police forces scour Conakry and towns in the hinterlands where they committed serious human rights abuses.
Security forces are believed responsible for having killed at least 137 people and injuring more than 1,700 others during the strike-related violence in January and February 2007.
There was a political protest on September 28, 2009, which attracted tens of thousands of protesters to the national stadium in Conakry. The Guinean military responded by opening fire on the crowd, killing at least 157 protesters, wounding more than a 1,000 others, and sexually assaulting more than 100 women, triggering widespread condemnation from the international community and increasing isolation for the junta.
On June 27, Guinea had its first round of presidential elections.n the weeks leading up to and immediately after the elections, ethnic violence broke out, resulting in several hundred internally displaced people and at least a dozen deaths.
Youth unemployment remains a large problem. Guinea needs an adequate policy to address the concerns of the urban youth. The problem is the disparity between their life and what they see on television. As the youth cannot find jobs, seeing the economically stable and consumerism of richer countries only serves to frustrate them further.
Residential and street crime are very common. Some crime is perpetrated by individuals in military uniforms.
Nonviolent and violent crime are both problems. Most nonviolent crime involves acts of pick-pocketing and purse-snatching, while armed robbery, muggings, and assaults are the most common violent crimes.
Despite the police’s good intentions, they have been unable to prevent the rapid escalation of crime. Police and military officials have also been known to make direct and indirect requests for bribes.
Guinea’s first democratically-elected President Alpha Condé was inaugurated on December 21, 2010. The second round of presidential elections was marked by ethnic-based violence between supporters of both Presidential candidates, and reports of excessive force and sexual assaults perpetrated by undisciplined members of Guinea’s armed forces. Although the situation has remained calm following the Supreme Court’s December 3 proclamation of election results, there is nevertheless a residual potential for violence in Guinea.
Persons have periodically reported abusive treatment by security forces and being taken into custody for purposes of extortion.
During many demonstrations, crowds of people gather and burn tires, create roadblocks, and damage vehicles by throwing rocks and bricks. The military has also been known to demonstrate and incite unrest due to their grievances with the government.
Although Guinea has been relatively calm since the interim government declared a State of Emergency on November 18 to deter violence and protests following the disputed November 7 presidential election, large crowds of demonstrators have continued to block major intersections throughout the capital, and pelt passing vehicles with rocks.
Additionally, an upsurge in property crime has resulted in the issuance of a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
Guinea: Medical Facilities & Health Information
Medical facilities are poorly equipped and extremely limited, both in the capital city and throughout Guinea. Medicines are in short supply, sterility of equipment should not be assumed, and treatment is frequently unreliable.
There are no ambulance or emergency rescue services in Guinea and trauma care is extremely limited.
Water in Guinea is presumed to be contaminated.
An estimated 170,000 adults and children were infected with AIDS at the end of 2004. The spread of the epidemic was attributed to factors such as proximity to high-prevalence countries, a large refugee population, internal displacement and subregional instability.
The Guinean Government adopted policies in the 1990s to return commercial activity to the private sector, promote investment, reduce the role of the state in the economy, and improve the administrative and judicial framework.
Guinea has the potential to develop, if the government carries out its announced policy reforms, and if the private sector responds appropriately.
So far, corruption and favoritism , lack of long-terms political stability, and lack of a transparent budgeting process continue to dampen foreign investor interest in major projects in Guinea.
Three main pillars: Sustaining faster economic growth and creating income-earning and employment opportunities, particularly for the rural poor; Improving and extending access to basic services; Improving governance and strengthening institutional and human capacity.
Mali's estimated 2006 per capita GDP of $470 placed it among the world's 10 poorest nations.
The high cost of petroleum products, the fall in the world market price for cotton and gold, and corresponding loss of customs revenues put pressure on the economy and led the government to be very tight on cash disbursements in recent years.
Petty crimes, such as pick pocketing and simple theft, are common in urban areas.
Criminals will not hesitate to use violence if they encounter resistance from their victims.
There are sporadic reports of nighttime robberies occurring on the roads outside of the capital.
There has been a recent increase in violent criminal activity in Bamako. Several violent attacks were reported in January 2010, most occurring south of the Niger River in the neighborhood of Badalabougou. The reported attacks took place at night, and the majority have targeted unaccompanied individuals and ranged from muggings at gun or knife point to physical assaults. Many of the attacks occurred near the residences of the victims, both inside and outside of their vehicles.
Sporadic banditry and random carjacking have historically plagued Mali's vast northern desert region and its borders with Mauritania and Niger.
The terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) continues to use northern Mali as a safe haven and platform from which to conduct operations.
The threat posed by AQIM, potential Tuareg unrest, sporadic banditry, run-ins with traffickers, and the porous nature of Mali’s northern borders with Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania all reinforce longstanding security concerns affecting travel to northern Mali.
In addition to threats posed by AQIM and potential hostage takers, there have been confrontations between the Malian military and Tuareg rebel groups in Nampala.
Additionally, the Sahel has been used by traffickers in arms, drugs, and people because of its remoteness and centralized location between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa for hundreds of years. While these elements usually attempt to avoid contact with outsiders, even an accidental encounter could generate a violent response due to the illicit nature of their activities.
On January 5, 2011, an individual claiming connections to AQIM attacked the French Embassy in Bamako with a handgun and an improvised-explosive device. Two injuries were reported.
On July 24, 2010, AQIM executed a French hostage in retaliation for the killing of six AQIM members during a Mauritanian-launched hostage rescue operation with French assistance in northern Mali.
As a result of Western involvement in these operations, it is possible that AQIM will attempt retaliatory attacks against Western targets of opportunity.
AQIM has also claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of four European tourists in January 2009 on the Mali-Niger border, and the murder of a British in Mali in June 2009
In addition to threats posed by AQIM and potential hostage takers, violent confrontations between rival drug and arms traffickers have occurred in northern Mali over the past year.
The threat posed by AQIM, sporadic banditry, and the porous nature of Mali’s northern borders with Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania all reinforce longstanding security concerns affecting travel to northern Mali.
Mali second transport sector project aims to provide better access and transport services to rural and urban communities by improving key rural infrastructure in Mali and urban transport infrastructure in Bamako.
Energy Support Project for Mali: improve the access and efficiency of electricity services in Bamako and in other targeted areas in the country.
The Household Energy and Universal Rural Access Project supports the Government of Mali's efforts to increase the access of isolated low income populations to basic energy services to help achieve economic growth and poverty reduction targets, including those linked with the Millennium Development Goals.
Although the civil war that led to the suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy ended in 1999 and elections were held in 2005, 2008 and 2009, political tensions do persist.
Sporadic politically-motivated violence remains a problem. For example, in March 2009, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff was assassinated, prompting members of the military to kill the President in retaliation.
The potential for future political unrest remains high.
Unexploded military ordnance and land mines remain scattered throughout the country. Although the capital city of Bissau was declared “mine-free” in June 2006 by the national de-mining center, occasional findings or unintentional explosions do occur.
Guinea-Bissau: Medical Facilities & Health Information
Modern medical facilities are virtually nonexistent in Guinea-Bissau.
The WHO estimates that there are fewer than 5 physicians per 100,000 persons in the country.
The key challenges for the country in the period ahead would be to achieve fiscal discipline, rebuild public administration, improve the economic climate for private investment, and promote economic diversification.
Politics in Mauritania have always been heavily influenced by the military and by "strong men" or personalities. A leader's ability to exercise political power depends upon control over resources; financial means; perceived strength; and tribal, ethnic, and family considerations.
Conflict among White Moor, Black Moor, and Black African Mauritanian groups, centering on unequal access to power, language, government, education, and land tenure, continues to be a major challenge to national unity.
Slavery, and the repatriation and compensation of victims from the 1989-90 purges of Afro-Mauritanians are still socio-political issues awaiting resolution.
There is increasing activity by the terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mauritania.
On August 24, 2010, a suicide bomber attacked a Mauritanian military barracks in Nema. On December 18, 2009, two Italian citizens were kidnapped from their vehicle near the town of Aioun.
On November 29, 2009, three Spanish NGO workers were kidnapped from their vehicle while traveling from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott. On August 8, 2009 there was a suicide bombing near the French Embassy in Nouakchott. Two French guards and one Mauritanian citizen were injured. The bomber is believed to have been a member of, or acting under the orders of, AQIM.
The Mauritanian military led a bloodless coup on August 6, 2008. International mediation resulted in the creation of a Government of National Unity that held elections on July 18, 2009. These elections were certified to have been satisfactorily free and fair. However, the possibility of political instability or of spontaneous violent protests still remains.
Deteriorating economic conditions could cause civil unrest.
Land mines also remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara.
AQIM continues to demonstrate its intent and ability to conduct attacks against foreign nationals.
On February 2, 2011, Mauritanian security forces successfully prevented a car bombing in the capital city, Nouakchott, by intercepting and destroying a vehicle containing large quantities of explosive materials. All passengers in the vehicle were killed when the vehicle exploded during the engagement with Mauritanian security forces.
A second vehicle containing explosive materials was found abandoned in Rkiz, in southern Mauritania. Mauritanian authorities apprehended the passengers of the abandoned vehicle before they were able to escape into Senegal.
AQIM claimed responsibility for both of these attempted car bombings.
On August 24, 2010, a suicide bomber attacked a Mauritanian military barracks in Nema. On December 19, 2009, two Italian citizens were kidnapped while traveling near Kobenni, in eastern Mauritania, and in November 2009, three Spanish NGO workers were kidnapped from their vehicle while driving from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott.
A suicide bombing near the French Embassy in Nouakchott, on August 8, 2009, injured two French guards and one Mauritanian citizen. The bomber is believed to have acted on orders from AQIM.
Mauritania: Current Travel Warnings & Alerts (Continued...)
March 11, 2011 (Continued...)
On June 23, 2009, a private U.S. citizen was shot and killed in Nouakchott in an apparent kidnapping attempt by individuals associated with AQIM.
Terrorists also killed 11 Mauritanian soldiers out on patrol approximately 40 miles from the northern town of Zouerate in September 2008.
The Israeli Embassy and an adjoining nightclub frequented by Westerners were attacked in Nouakchott in February 2008.
In December 2007, terrorists shot and killed four French tourists and wounded a fifth near the town of Aleg in southeastern Mauritania. Two days later, terrorists killed four soldiers near the town of El Ghallaouiya in northern Mauritania. The perpetrators of these attacks are all believed to be linked to AQIM.
There have been reports of banditry and smuggling in the more remote parts of Mauritania.
Land mines remain a danger along the border with the Western Sahara.
Mauritania: Medical Facilities & Health Information
Medical facilities in Mauritania are limited. There are few modern clinics or hospitals beyond the capital and a few major towns.
Because of the Mauritanian views of beauty, in which obese women are considered beautiful while thin women are sometimes regarded as "sickly", the obesity rate among Mauritanian women is high.
It is imperative that Mauritania pursue further growth driven by the private sector and that it diversify its economy by drawing the most from the natural resources of the country, including its fishing resources and mineral deposits.
Improving public spending and finance management is crucial in order to support improved access to public utilities in Mauritania.
There are also challenges looming in the following areas: justice, the struggle against corruption, the role of the civil sector, the efficient and transparent management of public utilities, the modernization of public administration, the role of local communities and their decentralization and the private sector.
The child mortality rate (deaths among children under age of 5) is particularly high (198 per 1,000) due to generally poor health conditions and inadequate nutrition for most of the country's children.
Niger's fertility rate (7.8 births/woman), is among the highest in the world, and is far higher than the sub-Saharan African average of 5.4.
Two-thirds (66.7%) of the Nigerian population is under age 25.
Avg. inflation rate (Sept. 09 to Aug. 2010): 0.6%.
One of the poorest countries in the world, ranking last on the United Nations Human Development Index, Niger's economy is based largely on subsistence crops, livestock, and some of the world's largest uranium deposits.
Niger’s economic growth rates vary widely reflecting the effect of rainfall on agricultural output.
Poor legal and physical infrastructure make investment less attractive for smaller firms.
In February 2007, a previously unknown rebel group, the Movement of Nigerians for Justice, emerged as a formidable threat to peace in the north of Niger. The predominantly Tuareg group issued a number of demands, mainly related to development in the north. It attacked military and other facilities and laid land mines in the north.
The resulting insecurity devastated Niger's tourist industry and deterred investment in mining and oil.
Drought cycles, desertification, a 2.9% population growth rate, and the drop in world demand for uranium have undercut the economy.
Rainfall varies and when insufficient, Niger has difficulty feeding its population and must rely on grain purchases and food aid to meet food requirements.
Conditions of insecurity persist in the northern and western areas of Niger.
campuses, or other gathering places such as public parks. Although demonstrations can occur spontaneously, large student demonstrations typically begin in January and February and continue through May.
Many past demonstrations have involved rock throwing and tire burning, especially at key intersections in the city of Niamey.
Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a terrorist group, continues its attempts to kidnap Westerners in Niger and has been successful in kidnapping Europeans in the region.
On January 7, two French nationals were kidnapped in the capital city of Niamey. They were found dead less than 24 hours later following a rescue attempt by French and Nigerian military forces.
In September 2010, seven people, including five French citizens, a Togolese national, and a Malagasy citizen, were kidnapped by AQIM from the northern mining town of Arlit. All are still being held hostage by AQIM.
In November 2009, heavily armed individuals attempted to kidnap U.S. Embassy officials in Tahoua.
Niger: Medical Facilities & Health Information
Health facilities are extremely limited in Niamey, and completely inadequate outside the capital. Although physicians are generally well trained, almost all hospitals in Niamey suffer from inadequate facilities, antiquated equipment, and shortages of supplies, particularly medicines.
Emergency assistance is also extremely limited.
Tap water is unsafe to drink throughout Niger and should be avoided.
The Kandadji Dam on the Niger River, whose construction started in August 2008, is expected to improve agricultural production in the Tillaberi Department by providing water for the irrigation of 6,000 hectares initially and of 45,000 hectares by 2034.
The present government actively seeks foreign private investment and considers it key to restoring economic growth and development.
Minor street crime is very common in Senegal, particularly in cities. Most reported incidents involve pickpockets and purse-snatchers, who are especially active in large crowds and around tourists. Aggressive vendors, panhandlers and street children may attempt to divert the victim’s attention while an accomplice carries out the crime.
There is traditionally an increase in crime before major religious holidays.
Violent crimes and crimes involving the use of weapons are increasing.
Break-ins at residential houses occur frequently as in major cities everywhere.
Public demonstrations, political gatherings, and student protests are relatively common in Senegal, both in Dakar and in outlying regions, particularly on Friday afternoons. In the past, these events have sometimes turned violent.
Banditry occurs with some regularity on the main highways after dark, particularly in the central and eastern area of Senegal, including around Tambacounda and Matam.
Violent clashes in the region between government forces and alleged members of the Movement of the Democratic Forces of the Casamance (MFDC) increased considerably during 2010. At least eight soldiers and one civilian were killed by alleged MFDC rebels between January and September 2010.
There are also reports of splintering within the MFDC’s southern and northern wings. The leaders of these splinter groups are considered hardliners who are more likely to engage in armed violence, attacking both government and civilian targets.
Land mine explosions continue to plague inhabitants of the Casamance.
Senegal: Medical Facilities & Health Information
Several hospitals and clinics in the capital, Dakar, can treat major and minor injuries and illnesses; however, medical facilities outside Dakar are extremely limited. These facilities are not prepared to handle major injuries.
Water supplies in Senegal are not consistently free of disease-causing microorganisms.
Raw vegetables and fruits should be washed in a bleach solution before eating (for visitors).
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Senegal.
Deeply flawed elections held in April 2005 were marred by violence and widespread accusations of vote tampering, causing tens of thousands of Togolese to flee to neighboring Benin and Ghana.
Now in his second term, President Faure Gnassingbe continues to face a significant challenge: balancing entrenched interests with the need to implement democratic reforms and revive Togo's deteriorating economy.
Togo's long-suffering population has seen its living standards decline precipitously since the beginning of the 1990s.
Political instability during the last decade has eroded Togo's position as a trading center.
Togo long served as a regional banking center, but that position has been eroded by the political instability and economic downturn of the early 1990s.
Over the past year, Togo has seen a marked increase in incidents of violent crime throughout the country. Recent incidents have included machete attacks as well as an unfortunate rise in the number of firearms-related crimes.
Rapid inflation and food shortages have contributed to increases in already-critical crime levels in both urban and developing areas.
Pick-pocketing incidents and theft are common in Togo, especially along the beach and in the market areas of Lomé.
Residential and business burglaries are becoming frequent in Lomé.
Togo has experienced periodic violence, strikes, and political tensions since 1990.
Following the death of President Eyadema in February 2005, political activists took to the streets and held demonstrations throughout the country that resulted in more than 500 deaths and thousands of political refugees to neighboring countries.