Deterioration of the West Africa coastal area: losses in the amount of nearly $ 3.8 billion and 13,000 deaths recorded every year

The facts are obvious. In Côte d’Ivoire, the coastal area is greatly deteriorated, with this process worsening year after year. Moreover, the situation is similar in all the countries of West Africa’s coastal strip. The World Bank carried out a study (the result of which were officially published on 14 March 2019) in order to assess in a more accurate manner the consequences of the deterioration of the coastal area on the relevant countries. Entitled “Cost of the deterioration of the coastline in West Africa” and echoed by Ecofin, the study was conducted in 2017 four countries, being Benin, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal.

Its findings are alarming: 3.8 billions of dollars of losses, representing 5.3% of their gross domestic products (GDP). The most dramatic finding was that this deterioration caused the deaths of more than 13,000 people in the same year (2017), mainly as a result of floods and air and water pollution. It was estimated that 20 million people (i.e. 36% of the overall population of the countries surveyed) lived on the West African coastline which is 3,400 km long. This coastal area alone contributes 56% of the GDP of the countries surveyed. Côte d’Ivoire was the most affected.

The four countries were diversely affected, some more than others, by the deterioration of the coastline. For instance, while losses due to floods were estimated at $ 1.45 billion, Côte d’Ivoire alone incurred $ 1.183 billion of the bill, representing 2.9% of its GDP, followed by Senegal ($ 230 million), Benin ($ 29 million), and Togo ($ 10 million). The bill is likely to be steeper, as according to experts, floods have increased over the last fifty years, and the trend is expected to continue in the years ahead. The 2014 State of African Cities Report underscored the expectation that corridors and urban areas would become more vulnerable to pressures from climate changes – floods, storm waves, sea rise, salinization and erosion along the coastal belt. With regard to erosion, it affected more than half of the coastline of the countries surveyed, with Senegal and Benin being the most affected (65% of their coastline).

In Benin, in particular, the sea spreads by four metres every year, engulfing infrastructures and houses worth $ 117 million, i.e. 1.3% of its GDP. In Togo, the loss was 4.4% of the GDP ($ 213 million), whereas in Senegal, it was estimated at $ 537 million. The study concluded that in Côte d’Ivoire, the most affected country by floods, the deterioration of the coastline costed $ 2 billion in 2017, representing 4.9% of its GDP.

As part of the study, the World Bank also took a look at the management of waste water of which only 10% of the 335 million cubic metres produced annually in all four countries taken together were treated. The remaining quantity would go to rivers or to the sea untreated. This situation contributes to the spread of water-borne diseases, and the cost of these is particularly high for Côte d’Ivoire ($ 450 million) and Senegal ($ 334 million).

A contributing factor to the deterioration of coastal areas lies in the difficulty to manage household refuse. While coastal dwellers in these countries produce together every day 10,000 tons of refuse, the lack of sanitary landfills obliges them to either burn them or throw them into wild dumps. This situation entails a cost of $ 192 million, representing 0.3% of the combined GDP of the four countries. Control measures. To address this phenomenon, the World Bank has put in place the West Africa coastal areas management programme (WACA).

With a budget of $ 225 million, this programme will focus on the construction of infrastructures aimed at reducing coastal erosion. These grey infrastructures include groynes, breakwaters, seawalls, revetments and other dykes. Emphasis will also be put on developing green infrastructures. Whether natural or artificial, these reproduce the features of protective elements such as reefs, mangrove forests or dunes. Finally, the programme may possibly contribute to the displacement and relocation of populations threatened by a deteriorated coastline. For Maria Sarraf, who co-authored the study, such an effort could help reduce the pressure on the coastline, provided that populations, on their side, do not remain aloof. They must embrace circular economy based on the three “Rs”, i.e. “Reducing waste production, Re-using products, and Recycling waste”.

Elysée LATH - Linfodrome