Published on Sustainable Cities

What is happening on West Africa’s coast?

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Vincent Tremeou / World Bank Vincent Tremeou / World Bank

West Africa’s coast is under stress from rampant development of coastal infrastructure, city expansions, population increase, and a blanket over use of natural resources. Development of Africa is important and should not be slowed. But we find that coastal degradation put people’s livelihoods are at risk, and in fact, the countries’ economies are also at risk.  According to an analysis of the World Bank, the degradation of the coast of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Togo cost $3.8 billion in 2017, or 5.3% of the four countries’ GDP.

How is the World Bank helping the countries in managing their coastal areas?

Regarding coastal erosion, there is an urgency in managing the sediment transport along the shore and around coastal infrastructure.  In West Africa, coastal infrastructure has an effect about 50 km downstream, and the challenge is therefore trans-national in nature.

The West Africa Coastal Areas (WACA) management program was launched in November 2018 to mitigate the consequences of coastal erosion, flooding and pollution caused by human activity, climate change-induced sea-level rise and storm surges. The WACA Program's vision is to create a dynamic space where both coastal countries and partners will work together, share knowledge, expertise, and mobilize finance to build long-term coastal resilience that supports prosperity and sustainability. The Program aims to achieve these goals in the spirit of collaboration and co-creation, and its success is dependent upon the commitment and contributions of all partners.

Countries and Regional Organizations are Taking Action!

It was about 10 years ago that West African environment ministers, convened by the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union, together with partners engaged in developing the West Africa Coastal Zone Management Scheme. This work, which has been updated recently, forms the basis for the WACA Program, and for the continued collaboration with the Abidjan Convention, the Centre de Suivi Ecologique, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is somewhat of a complex matter to have countries work together and have the regional organizations play their part. However, countries continued dialogue and commitment to sustainability is the key ingredient for success in tacking the erosion, flooding and pollution.

In 2018, following technical assistance on risk assessment, institutions, and multi-sector investment plans, the World Bank Board approved $222 million dollars of financing to six countries - Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo - to build coastal resilience. Financing is also provided to WAEMU, IUCN, ABC, and CSE to assure the needed regional integration. Next the World Bank convened development partners to establish a WACA Scale-Up Platform so that solutions and finance is mobilized at the scale needed. Many partners are prepared to provide resources, because they see the benefit of working as part of large program where support is easy leveraged for broader impact.

In this way, WACA serves as a catalyst for cooperation and mobilizes technical expertise, financing, and political will to ease regional integration and scale up proven results.  Donors, youth, private sector, and grassroots organization contribute to the efforts and to the mosaic of interventions.

There is Space for Many Other Actors, What Can They Do?

We are pleased by leveraging World Bank Financing offers. Many have provided funds so far, and these should be recognized for supporting WACA, including the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Nordic Development Fund, GFDRR, GIZ, Korea-World Bank Partnership Facility, PROBLUE, and the NDC Support Facility. We facilitate discussions between countries and France, Spain, India, Korea, and Japan for channeling investment finance or technical assistance and expert to West Africa. These efforts are critical for the scale up.

There are non-traditional resources that can be unleashed. In February 2018, the private sector expressed the need to develop “a fund” that could provide technical expertise and knowledge as well as investment finance for profitable projects respecting sustainable coastal development , including managing erosion, flooding and pollution. We are convinced that there is an untapped resource of innovation and action from local level and youth, some of which may need new ways to be mobilized.

We need everyone engaged for sustainable West African coasts: Local communities, local governments, youth, private sector, national NGOs, regional organizations, and the development banks. WACA is not just a project, it is a movement to make every player do its part in sustainable coastal management.


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Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Former Regional Director, Africa, Sustainable Development Practice Group

Peter Kristensen

Lead Environmental Specialist

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