A New Horizon: West Africa

Bernd's international network concerned with the future of the earth's great rivers, the IFGR, held its 6th session in Dakar and Saint Louis in Senegal in March 2018. Host was the OMVS, the organisation governing the Senegal River, which is shared by Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and Guinea. The task the group dealt with was the re-introduction of navigation. However, as a truly holistic collaboration unfolded, other important aspects were tackled alongside. The five-hour ride from Dakar to Saint Louis revealed the increasing desertification that steadily dries out the north and east of the Senegal. Whereas the expanding Sahara encroaches on the hinterlands of West Africa, coastal erosion due to the rising Atlantic with annual land-losses of 10-40m devastates the coasts. Climate change attacks Africa brutally. 

The progressed navigation project has been advanced through international engineering consultants. This led to the question, if the result of these enormous efforts would be another replication of development as per the rationale of the Global North or what the specific West African character of it may be? Bernd, a keen supporter of local culture, emphasised that it will be essential for the long-term success of the project to be rooted in the ancient wisdom of the West African legacy, particularly when considering an array of new port towns along the Senegal River's banks. The river connects a large part of this continent and its development should therefore strengthen the joint culture of West Africa.

The High Commissioner of the OMVS, see the picture of Hamed Semega with Bernd, pointed out that the results of this week's work are so important that they will be discussed on the ministerial level of the participating nations.