Challenge and Opportunity
Erosion and flooding in West Africa’s coastal areas from Mauritania to Gabon severely threaten people’s livelihoods, safety and investments. Stronger storms and rising seas are wiping out homes, roads and buildings that have served as landmarks for generations. Beaches no longer have sand, mangroves are deforested and populations are even more vulnerable to the impact of climate change. With their homes swept out to sea and fishing limited, people have no choice but to move away to make a living—a trend that is breaking up communities and changing the social fabric of lives for future generations.
Every year, an average of 500,000 people living along West Africa’s coastline are threatened by floods and aggravated coastal erosion, with economic losses estimated at more than 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). In some areas, the coastline is eroding by as much as 10 meters or more per year. In 2016, about a third of the region’s population (122 million) lived in areas of an elevation below 5 meters.
Rapid and often unplanned urbanization causes significant conversion of the natural landscape which once served as a buffer for erosion and flooding. About 80 percent of coastal pollution originates from land-based sources, primarily industrial, agricultural and urban.
These developments disproportionately affect the poorest and most marginalized, and will intensify due to climate change.
The coastal erosion and flooding problem is not unique to West Africa. It affects countries’ coastlines around the world. The World Bank Group is the single largest provider of climate and disaster resilience-related investment finance. It is a significant player in resilient infrastructure finance through regional programs including, Caribbean Resilience Initiative and Program, Pacific Resilience Program and ongoing national programs; and the Southwest Indian Ocean Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative. The Bank has also launched the Small Island States Resilience Initiative.
While countries have started to act to contain erosion and flooding, their finance needs are enormous. Coordinated regional action is needed as efforts to combat erosion in one country can impact the coastline in a neighboring country. Collaboration at the policy and technical levels can help countries manage erosion hotspots, and maintain the livelihoods that a healthy coastal ecosystem provides to people and economies.
West African countries are working together to address challenges posed by their shrinking coastline. The West African Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA) was developed by the World Bank Group in partnership with the program’s ultimate beneficiaries: the people who live along the West African coast and depend on it for their livelihoods, nutrition, food security, and prosperity. This program targets 17 West African countries to improve the management of shared natural and man-made risks affecting coastal communities.
The WACA program provides countries with access to technical expertise and finance to support sustainable development in the coastal zone, using management of coastal erosion and hazardous flooding as an entry point. The World Bank and its partners are pioneering this first-of-its-kind regional approach to address severe coastal erosion.
Under the WACA Program, a High-Level Investment Platform (WACA Platform) will be launched in 2018 that will crowd in public and private investments, attracting at least $2 billion to address coastal degradation and climate change adaptation. A first West Africa Coastal Investment Resilience Project (WACA ResIP) is expected to be approved in early 2018. This project is expected to provide $200 million in financing from the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA), the Global Environment Facility, and Nordic Development Fund, and will initially cover six countries (Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal and Togo). It will work with existing regional institutions, including the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union.
Key facts & figures
- West Africa’s coastal population is increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially among the poor, whose already precarious livelihoods depend on the quality and quantity of natural resources.
- Every year, about 500,000 people in the region are threatened by floods and aggravated coastal erosion, causing economic losses equivalent to about 2 percent of GDP.
- In 2016, an estimated 122 million people—or a third of the population in coastal provinces from Mauritania to Gabon—lived in areas of an elevation below 5 meters.
- The cost of coastal environmental degradation in Togo and Mauritania was equivalent to 7 percent in 2013 and 7.5 percent in 2014 of national GDP respectively.