Under the West African Coastal Areas (WACA) Management Program, World Bank Group launched Call for Innovation to respond to the challenges plaguing the coastal communities in West Africa.
This was co-organized in collaboration with the Republic of Senegal’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, Nordic Development Fund, and West African Economic and Monetary Union.
The coastal areas in West Africa serve as the source of livelihood to one-third of the region’s growing population each year. The coastal areas play a vital role in improving the West African ecosystem occupying about 40% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Many underprivileged people find a means of survival in the coastal areas, to fish and to find shelter as well as engaging in other activities. The region harbours major natural resources on sea and land which helps to boost the economy.
Due to coastal erosion and pollution, poor management of natural resources and habitats, and unsustainable infrastructure development, the livelihood and lives of the community people are at stake. Many lives have been lost and this further threatens economic growth in the region.
The cry of the coastal dwellers and shrinking economy have travelled across the sea. Thus, the WACA Call for Innovation project opened its borders to receive proposals from within and outside its areas to find sustainable and innovative solutions to mitigate the environmental, social, and economic challenges respectively. 22 high-quality submissions across 4 thematic categories were received successfully. Initially, 10 proposals were to be longlisted but it was extended to 12 due to the possibilities of the solution-driven entries. Participants entered either as a single entity or in collaboration with other entities, a consortium. 5 participants emerged as the finalists with 3 receiving a financial reward from World Bank Group and awarded certificates after pitching virtually on Zoom on November 18, 2020.
World Bank Group highly recognized the potentials and uniqueness of each project and are currently looking into the CostalProtect Africa by Integral Consulting, a consortium made up of five other entities: SAFEC (Senegal), Medusa (Netherlands), Resolute Marine Energy (U.S.), Oula Amrouni (Tunisia), and Samarcel (U.S.).
In a recent interview with Patrick L Friend and Craig Jones, coastal and marine scientists, and project managers for CoastalProtect Africa, the consortium leaders told us more:
As a project manager, a strategic and technical adviser, what role did you play on the project?
We put a lot of care and planning into writing this proposal, and we really put a big effort into local capacity talking to local people on the ground in West Africa particularly in Senegal. My role was to really bridge the gap between the technical input from the team and the people in Senegal as well as other members in the consortium having an overall view of the project – Patrick
How were you able to filter ideas, create an inclusive working environment to know the best idea to put in for the project?
One thing we realized is the challenges we face globally. As a global community, due to sea-level rise and climate change, there’s no single solution to solving these problems. In particular, in West Africa where we see the same extreme threats of coastal erosion and sea-level rise the population on those coasts are feeling on a daily basis. There are many different things that we have to do. We found it necessary to bring in many different experts and technologies from different fields. For any particular location such as in Dyane, we can bring the right mix of solutions. It’s like baking the perfect cake – Craig
Do you really think this idea was the best to go forward?
There were a number of solutions we had about five different innovative projects as part of our overall solutions. The World Bank and WACA program wanted us to focus on one key innovative infrastructure that we could highlight. We felt a little bit disappointed that there wasn’t a lot of space to include the other innovative projects because part of our solution was a holistic solution which relied on several components coming together for a whole solution for West Africa. So we did focus on one particular technology, the wave energy conversion but all the other technologies would have contributed too in protecting the coast – Patrick
The Wave2O is designed to desalinate water providing fresh water and electricity. Tell us more about the technology?
The Resolute Marine Energy developed that technology with test applications in the United States. They’ve also got the project ongoing in Cape Verde. We are close collaborators and have worked with them for many years to help in the successful deployment of their technology and developing tools for them. Each of our team members has developed individual technology and as expertise, we bring those technologies together to find out how to successfully apply them – Craig
If you are opportune for another project like this, is there anything you’d add or replace in your current proferred solution?
We certainly are continuing to pursue with many different funding agencies and private companies looking for opportunities to deploy the technology. We still think it’s a fantastic idea. Nothing is going to deter us from still trying to help the coastal communities. We think that’s completely viable and we’ll continue to pursue that. Any new opportunity that arises, certainly we’ll be there with the mix of different types of technologies to help solve any problem. We are very committed to continuing defining ways to work with WACA – Craig
There was prize money but we really didn’t enter this for the prize money. We entered this to find a solution to what we believe would be the best solution for coastal protection in West Africa. And I firmly believe, some of the solutions that form part of our holistic approach are truly remarkable. Dr Oula Amrouni’s proposal, for example, to manage coastal aquifers to help prevent coastal degradation is a truly new thing and really deserves a lot of research – Patrick, added.
With your vast experience in issues that have been addressed in the Gulf of Mexico, Central and South of America, and others, how would compare the coastal communities there to West Africa?
Every coastal community has unique challenges due to sea-level rise and climate change. West Africa has unique challenges. It’s an exposed region to waves and storms and also at risk of sea-level rise due to its geology. Many areas are arid, so there’s a lack of water which also creates an additional problem of lack of sediment delivery which helps protect the coast. Those present significant challenges, you often don’t see in the Americas. In the Americas, certainly in the Latin Americas, we’ve a lot of jungle, lot of water coming in to deliver sediments to the coast. The coast ends up being somewhat more naturally protected than what we see in West Africa sometimes. In the Gulf of Mexico, one of the big challenges is hurricane. As we see this year, there are many large hurricanes that came into the Gulf of Mexico affecting Mexico and the United States causing both losses of lives and significant damages as well. West Africa certainly has some substantial coastal hazards which is why we want to focus there to do the most good – Craig
If you receive all the funds you need for CoastalProtect Africa, what future possible challenges do you envision affecting the implementation?
One of the challenges is giving the right resources in some of the areas so that we can build the capacity. So that’s really the first step and also training local engineers, scientists, and construction folks on how to utilize these innovative techniques not just wave energy conversion but the beach stabilization technologies, groundwater management. It requires a local community that can absorb the ideas and techniques and make them their own through adaptation. I think that’s going to be a challenge, but it’s easily overcomeable because we’ve seen it all over the world. And the people we’ve spoken with and worked with in Senegal are credibly innovative. I think it’s an excellent opportunity for them to build the capacity to expand this throughout West Africa. So I think it’s a challenge, but every challenge we know is an opportunity to be able to extend these technologies throughout West Africa.
By Elijah Christopher,
Elijah Christopher, a journalist at A New Touch Of Africa, is also a creative writer, a poet, and an IoT enthusiast. He contributed to the collaborative poem written in celebration of Edwin Morgan Centenary, the first Glasgow poet laureate and Scottish national poet from the University of Glasgow. He loves meeting people and learning about new places, cultures, events, and lifestyles.