March 25, 2015 / 7:09 PM / 3 years ago

Donors pledge more than one billion euros for Guinea-Bissau

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - International donors pledged more than one billion euros ($1.10 billion) for Guinea-Bissau on Wednesday to support a 10-year development plan aimed at giving the country a new start after prolonged political instability.

File photo of Guinea-Bissau's President Jose Mario Vaz as he arrives to speak with journalists after a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Anibal Cavaco Silva (not pictured) at Belem presidential palace in Lisbon June 19, 2014. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

The total fell short of the $1.8 billion the tiny West African nation was seeking to finance the 115 projects in its 2015-2025 plan.

Donors attending a Brussels conference hosted by the European Union endorsed Guinea-Bissau’s development strategy and “pledged over one billion euros of financial support for achieving its goals,” the European Commission’s development department said on Twitter.

“Every effort must be deployed so that Guinea-Bissau will no longer be a burden on the international community but will instead become an example to be followed,” Guinea-Bissau President Jose Mario Vaz told the conference.

The European Union, which recently ended curbs on aid to the country imposed in 2011 after a military mutiny, pledged 160 million euros.

Guinea-Bissau’s finance minister, Geraldo Martins, told Reuters last week that the development plan would help the former Portuguese colony of about 1.7 million people to attract tourists and investors to its under explored resources.

Since Guinea-Bissau won independence in 1974, no elected leader has completed a five-year term.

Amid rampant corruption and weak state institutions, it became a transit point for Latin American cocaine destined for Europe, earning the country the reputation as West Africa’s first narco-state.

Martins said a 2014 election, two years after a 2012 military coup, gave the cashew exporting nation the chance to make a clean start, with support from foreign partners.

Bissau’s economic growth is expected to hit 4.7 percent in 2015, up from 2.6 percent last year, according to the government and the International Monetary Fund.

Reporting by Adrian Croft and Clement Rossignol; additional reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Crispian Balmer

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