Life is shifting fast for coastal communities in West Africa. In some areas, coastlines are eroding as much as 10 meters per year. Stronger storms and rising seas are wiping out homes, roads and buildings that have served as landmarks for generations.
I was recently in West Africa to witness the effects of coastal erosion. To understand what’s going on, we took a three-country road trip, traveling from Benin’s capital Cotonou, along the coast to Lomé in Togo and then to Keta and Accra in Ghana. These three countries, among the hardest hit by coastal erosion, offer a snapshot of what is happening along the rest of the coast, from Mauritania, via Senegal to Nigeria.
“Tell me where you live, and I can predict how well you’ll do in life.”
Does welfare vary largely across space?
Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I do know for a fact that location is an excellent predictor of one’s welfare. Indeed, a child born in Togo today is expected to live nearly 20 years less than a child born in the United States. Moreover, this child will earn a tiny fraction—less than 3%—of what his or her American counterpart will earn.
In Ghana, coastal erosion and rising seas are burying some seaside villages, like Fuveme, which is now completely under sand. As in neighboring countries, hydrocarbon exploration is well underway not too far from the shore, and coastal urban areas are expanding. The fish stock has declined dramatically, and formerly thriving fishing communities are in trouble.
Quality education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality; yet it remains elusive in many parts of the world. The Programme for the Analysis of Education Systems (PASEC), which is designed to assess student abilities in mathematics and reading in French, has for the first time delivered an internationally comparable measure around which policy dialogue and international cooperation can aspire to improve. The PASEC 2014 international student assessment was administered in 10 countries in Francophone West Africa (Cameroon, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Chad, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger).