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Dear Colleagues,

Another fruitful year draws to a close. The big news of this year is that the WACA Program is open for business, and we are particularly excited to have so many partners join the call to support of countries’ quest for coastal resilience.

In this issue, we bring you up to speed on the recent WACA Program Launch in Senegal and the common vision on coastal resilience thirteen countries expressed the 2018 WACA Ministerial Communique. We invite you to explore the new website at Finally, we interview our WACA pioneer, Dahlia Lotayef, and share the new WACA video.

We’d love to hear your views on the WACA Program, and your ideas for mobilizing knowledge and finance to tackle coastal erosion flooding, and pollution in West Africa.
With best wishes for the New Year.

Peter Kristensen

WACA in Action

Video - West Africa: From a shared vision of the coast toward a sustainable reality 
 Click here to visit the new knowledge hub and find out more about the program 

WACA Countries Reaffirm their Commitment to Manage Coastal Risks

As government officials, scientists, and media approached the tattered coast of Bargny, Senegal, recently, they saw former homes lost to coastal erosion standing like ruins. But just as clearly, they saw cohesive communities looking for support. The opportunities for coastal protection work to preserve the vital neighborhoods that keep moving further from the water are clear and immediate.
WACA Program Launch gathered 250 participants in the Senegalese capital to discuss the best solutions to deal with coastal erosion, flooding
and pollution. Thirteen of the 17 WACA countries along the Atlantic Coast between Mauritania and Gabon, were represented by high-level delegations. Regional and international organizations also took part in the launch, including the Abidjan Convention, the Centre de Suivi Ecologique, the Global Center on Adaptation, the Nordic Development Fund, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the West African Monetary and Economic Union (WAEMU). Development partners from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Canada, and the United States were also on hand.
The Port Management Association of West and Central Africa offered to work with the WACA Platform to engage the private sector and countries to improve resilience and reduce the environmental impact of port operations. The 13 heads of delegations attending the WACA Program Launch adopted the 2018 WACA Ministerial Communiqué (
available here), in which they reaffirmed their commitment to scale up knowledge and finance for managing coastal risk. 

Dahlia Lotayef, Guardian of the Coast      

Born and raised in Cairo, Dahlia Lotayef is an environmental engineer and Lead Environmental Specialist in the Middle East and North Africa Region of The World Bank. Until very recently Lotayef led the WACA program. Prior to joining the Bank, Lotayef also led pioneering initiatives to manage pollution and foster sustainable uses of the Mediterranean Sea. The team is taking this opportunity to thank Dahlia for her passionate contributions to Africa coastal resilience. Here she speaks candidly about how WACA came about under her leadership. We hope her story inspires you too!  

Q: How did the West Africa Coastal Management Program (WACA) come about?

Dahlia Lotayef: “It all began with a very small technical request from the then-minister of Togo, who the environment 
said "We are noticing an alarming coastal erosion problem in Togo that has a lot of social implications on fishermen and the population in general." Togo asked us for a small amount of technical assistance to find the root cause–would it become more severe or was this temporary–and some potential solutions. Our colleagues in Disaster Risk Management (DRM) traveled to Togo in 2013 to explore the level of vulnerability and returned with powerful images from a limited technical mission that already showed the devastating impacts of the erosion. Entire villages had disappeared. We knew the problem was a serious one, but the extent of the devastation, as if from a natural disaster, took our breath away.” This was how it all started.

Q: So how did you get from there in 2013 to the recent World Bank board approval of a $222 million WACA Resilience Investment Project (ResIP)?

It was simple. (Laughter). Based on this presentation, we started digging (so to speak), especially on the marked coastal changes after the Lome Port Construction that had really changed the appearance of the coast. In Togo, a lot of damage can be traced back to the building of the autonomous
deep sea port in 1968. It was amazing to learn how a port in a small country like Togo could have radical upstream and downstream effects for its neighbor countries.
every coastal intervention affects adjacent countries in the region, that’s why we call the coast “a sand river.” As environmental specialists, we knew if we wanted to provide solutions, we had to look at the impact of Togo on Benin. The more protection work that was done in Togo, the worse the impact on Benin, until the work was stopped. We understood that any solution needed to be regional—I guess you could say that was when WACA was really born.
When we looked at what previous work had been done in West Africa, we found that 
WAEMU had this huge project on coastal erosion with IUCN, They developed this master plan for coastal protection, and we understood quickly enough that maybe it would be important to have a better understanding to continue collaborating.
The Nordic Development Fund was among the first to believe in us and provided technical assistance co-financed with the World Bank and WAEMU for key studies and events. Things really started to advance, and we thought it would be interesting to approach the GEF, which had done strategic work and analysis that resulted in recommendations.

Q: It sounds like you were eager 
to collaborate with partners on the ground?

The whole point of WACA is not to start from scratch and not to reinvent the wheel but to build and capitalize what other partners have done in this space because so much more needs to be done, and we are coming up against devastating social implications—homes, communities, and livelihoods disappearing--and the accelerations of climate change. This is a regional issue, and in many cases, the interventions that have been performed have contributed to the aggravated flooding and erosion. A small project included a risk assessment of four countries — Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and we started to look at The Netherlands, for obvious reasons. All of this started with 500,000 euros, and for a long
time we operated on this budget.

Q: How did you get to grips with the scale of the problem?

That first trip to Togo was the trigger but when we started looking at what other entities are working on it became clear that you had to work on a regional level with so much crosscutting. We are developing an advisory committee under the platform, a scientific committee that will look at all the terms of references and impact evaluations and help us determine what can protect these communities for the long term. We reached out to the Netherlands and France and learned from their experience.

Q: Where does WACA go from here?

Millions of people have been terribly affected by coastal erosion and flooding in West Africa, but there is so much that can be done. Sometimes, surprisingly simple interventions can have a real impact—sea defense systems, groins, slow-growing mangroves that ultimately create a whole barrier system. Ports will be more resilient, wetlands need to be restored and protected areas well planned around fishing communities, tourism 
and industry. The private sector realizes it can be part of these solutions too. The countries are passionate about this—they don’t want to lose any more of their precious coast.
But the scale of the problem is larger than WACA. Mobilizing knowledge and finance through the multi-partner WACA Platform is how we can raise the level of dialogue to decision-makers and achieve the needed coordinated effort. We are also looking at best practices in combating coastal erosion from around the world. While West Africa has its work cut out, this evidence-based and innovative support promises new hope for the region.


West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA) - The World Bank Group

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