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Engaging with coastal voices for the health of our oceans

Improving the health of our oceans is indeed a matter of survival.

I just came back from the Regional Coastal and Marine Partnership (PRCM) forum, an annual event gathering conservation actors from West Africa. The exchanges were encouraging. They reiterated the urgency to act to preserve the health of our oceans and brought a high-level network of donors and partners that could help advance the World Bank’s agenda on coastal resilience.

Countries as well as think tanks continue to seek ways to curb factors contributing to the pollution of their oceans. The Government of Senegal, by hosting this event, has showed that preserving the health of our oceans is at the heart of its vision for sustainable development. The PRCM, has, over the years, addressed the challenges facing West African coastal communities and strengthened the dialogue between governments, civil society, and parliamentarians.

Why are we supporting oceans’ health?

Oceans support our economies, our livelihoods, and the health of our planet. Around the world, billions of people depend directly on the oceans for their jobs and livelihoods. That is why supporting Africa’s transition to a blue economy is a crucial agenda for the World Bank, especially in the context of the post-COVID economic recovery and the impacts of climate change on the coastline.

How is the World Bank contributing to this agenda?

As of 2021, the World Bank's portfolio of blue economy projects has exceeded $9 billion in over 60 countries.  These investments serve to protect the natural capital of the oceans, manage these resources sustainably, and optimize the potential of ocean-related economic sectors.

On the continent, several initiatives support the blue economy. In the fisheries sector, the recently concluded West African Regional Fisheries Program transformed the sector and will be followed by a series of upcoming investments on fisheries growth and sustainability in several countries. This include a $50 million project in Senegal to be approved by July.

On the marine plastic pollution, the World Bank is stepping up on various initiatives. In Africa where plastics has become the most favored materials in food and water packaging, there is a risk that by 2060, it could bypass Asia, if nothing is done. Beyond the environmental costs, plastic pollution brings challenges in terms of health and nutrition. An increase in the risk of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue is linked to untreated waste, including plastics. Fish catch has reduced in the polluted coastal lagoons of the Gulf of Guinea where fish provides over 50% of the protein intake.

We have also established with our partners, a PROBLUE Trust Fund of over $200 million that is truly dedicated to identifying opportunities for blue economy development and building knowledge. Through it, we are supporting Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania control marine pollution, create plastic recycling markets, and transition to circular economies.

On coastal erosion, a regional dynamic has been initiated by (WAEMU) since 2007. It has enabled to federate countries’ efforts, harmonize policies through the development of action plans; and provide countries with appropriate and on-demand support.

Inspired by WAEMU’s model, the World Bank, countries and partners launched the West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA) in 2016 to strengthen this collaborative process and invest in coastal resilience. Designed to complement other initiatives in the region, WACA has mobilized so far, nearly $650 million from the World Bank and its partners, including the Global Environment Facility, the Nordic Fund, and Dutch, French, and Spanish cooperation. WACA program provides expertise to participating countries to identify coastal erosion risks, design appropriate solutions, and mobilize the necessary funding. Six countries are already benefiting from the program and three more will soon join.

WACA’s contribution to several events allowed us to ground-truth the need for action. Two reports were launched: the 2020 State of the Coast tracks changing conditions in 12 coastal countries and makes recommendations that will inform decision-making and policy formulation while the Compendium of Coastal Management Practices provides solutions to control coastal erosion, prevent flooding and mitigate damage to society.

Promising initiatives have emerged such as ecotourism which could be a pathway to preserve the coast while providing livelihoods to communities.

Improving the health of our oceans is indeed a matter of survival.



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