• James Armstrong

Developing a West African economic connection for the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Vaudreuil-Soulanges Prefect and Très-Saint-Rédempteur Mayor Patrick Bousez (center), Bobo-Dioulasso Mayor Bourahima Sanou (left) and First Vice-President of l’Association des Municipalités du Bukina-Faso Mayor Aboubakar Hema met at the MRC-VS offices last week to formalize a mutually beneficial agreement for their respective represented regions.

Two five-year partnerships were initiated with a signing ceremony that took place at the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) headquarters in Vaudreuil-Dorion on Thursday, March 15. The first agreement was between the municipalities of Bobo-Dioulasso and Banfora of Burkina Faso and the MRC-VS and the second between the Sikasso region of Mali and the Town of Rigaud. Burkina Faso and Mali are two adjacent landlocked countries in West Africa on the northern border of the Ivory Coast.

One of the objectives of the agreements is the development of a commercial corridor for the two countries with the Ivory Coast providing access to coastal ports. Embarking on these relationships gives all the participants the opportunity to explore the development of tangible economic relationships and cultural exchanges. As Riguad Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. pointed out last week as the town council approved the signing of the agreement, “It’s our turn to try to promote our industries in other countries. We might not benefit but we are at the table. If we don’t buy a lottery ticket, we are for sure not going to win,” he said adding that Rigaud is making every effort to benefit from the developing relationship.

Creating partnerships

“The objective of this mission is to present the economic development model of the MRC-VS and the City of Rigaud, its governance, its funds, and its policies in order to initiate partnerships with the municipalities of Bobo-Dioulasso, Banfora and Sikasso,” said MRC-VS Prefect and Mayor of Rivière-Beaudette Patrick Bousez in his welcoming address.

The agreements are part of the federal government program Partners for Municipal Innovation – Local Economic Development (PMI-LED). The PMI-LED is an international initiative supporting sustainable economic development in conjunction with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) with funding from Global Affairs Canada. The MRC-VS and Rigaud were chosen by FCM to be part of these partnerships based on their areas of expertise.

“The PMI-LED is certainly an opportunity to solve a big challenge that has always arisen in the course of our local development process,” said Bourahima Sanou, Mayor of Bobo-Dioulasso and First Vice-President of l’Association des Municipalités du Bukina-Faso.

Aboubakar Hema, Mayor of Banfora pointed out that sustainable economic development is part of the mission of local elected officials.

“We know our municipalities, their assets and sociological environment. We are well-placed to begin the internal development of our communities… that will take into account all social groups, namely women and young people,” he said. Both Sanou and Hema were signatories to the partnership with the MRC-VS.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

A new avenue for industry, commerce and socio-economic development was officially opened as Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. (left) and Sikasso, Mali Regional Councillor Fousseni Dembele signed a partnership agreement.

Rigaud participation

“This project allows us to open an economic corridor between Rigaud and Mali,” said Gruenwald noting the positive chemistry in the relationships that had developed during the week of working together. “This is highly significant for us,” said Fousseni Dembele, Councillor for the Region of Sikasso before signing the partnership with Rigaud. “Local economic development is extremely important for us, especially our youth,” he added.

Women and youth

Although the agreements focus on including women and youth, there was only one woman in the African delegation, Boni Madeleine Tinihanco, an assistant to the mayor of Bobo-Dioulasso. “Unfortunately, two of the women delegates were unable to attend due to last minute technical difficulties with passports,” said Rigaud Director General Chantal Lemieux. “We are currently organizing a committee of women to meet with the two delegates in May,” she added.

Gift exchange

At the end of the ceremony, an exchange of gifts took place. The African delegates received oil paintings of scenes of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges area by internationally recognized Québec artist Michel Sauvé. In return, the delegates presented local representatives with several colourful batik print works of art, various sculptures, and a hand-made wood bowl resting in a stand as a symbol of the developing international relationships.

Touring the region

The delegation of representatives from the municipalities in Burkina-Faso and Mali spent a week touring the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region meeting with private enterprises, social development organizations and representatives of the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “In light of our discussions, I see that the potential for exchange within the partnership goes beyond the partnership itself and will continue even after this five-year program,” said Bousez.

Mali civil unrest

Media reports on Monday, March 19 regarding the Canadian Federal Government announcement of armed support for United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Mali were not expected to affect the agreements signed last Thursday according to MRC-VS Communications Director Simon Richard. “The municipalities we have the agreements with are in the most stable areas of the country,” he said in an interview March 18.

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