Plastic waste, a brake on the socio-economic development of the African nation

Mostly related to human activities, the scourge of plastic waste is a most urgent concern on a global scale. In addition to damage to ecosystems, they damage infrastructure and slow fishing and tourism activities in Africa.

According to figures from the United Nations Environment Program, every year, 8 million tons of plastics are found in the ocean, causing considerable damage to marine life, fishing, tourism or urban infrastructure. It is also 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds that lose their lives every year because of plastic waste. Damage to the environment is compounded by the real threats this poses to the health of human populations with microplastics consumed by fish that end up on our plates. Globally, damage to marine ecosystems from plastic waste is estimated at $ 8 billion each year.


The plastic, absolute evil and brake the development of African nations has invaded the continent since the 1950s. Since then, it has not stopped compromising the daily lives of millions of Africans and it is a hindrance to the development of Several sectors of the economy: tourism, fishing, hotels … The price paid in terms of missed economic opportunities and major damage to infrastructure is high for African nations already facing many challenges. Obstructed by wild garbage composed especially of plastic, the pipes are not in a position to evacuate the rainwater. This situation partly explains the heavy loss of life caused by the floods, as was the case in Sierra Leone in August 2017 (more than 500 deaths). Ghana was also confronted in 2015 with nearly 150 dead. Several other countries had faced the same phenomenon with a lower balance sheet in terms of human losses (Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania …). More recently, in June 2018, the city of Abidjan (Ivory Coast) was confronted with torrential rains that plunged several neighborhoods underwater for several days and caused about twenty deaths. The impact of the floods on productivity and gross domestic product, although not quantified, is considerable.


The choice of the fight against plastic waste as the theme of the World Environment Day this year is a new opportunity to take the right measure of the scale of the phenomenon and consider strong measures to deal with it especially on the African continent . For this, it is important to consider the phenomenon with courage and lucidity. Some tools can help. By changing perspective to consider the ocean as a pool of opportunities through “a blue vision of the economy”. This will consist of targeting economic prosperity, social, cultural and environmental well-being through sustainable management of maritime and coastal resources (implementation of the principles of the blue economy). And for a better management of the areas of economic activity concerned, Maritime Spatial Planning opens wide prospects for the economies of coastal African countries. In its area of ​​intervention, the Abidjan Convention used this tool to reconcile the positions of actors with potentially conflicting interests. The approach makes it possible to allocate to each of the sectors (maritime transport, fishing, tourism, etc.) clean marine areas, the outcome of an open and transparent dialogue between the different users of the same marine area. In this experience, the Abidjan Convention has developed partnerships with structures such as Grid-Arendal through the Mami Wata project or USAID through the WABICC project. More recently, UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have announced a new initiative (New Plastics Economy Global Commitment) to promote a circular economy around plastic waste.

By initiating a policy of sustainable management of available resources and changing the look of potentialities of the blue economy, African countries would offer an opportunity to overcome the Indian sign and the paradox of letting people sit in poverty. on invaluable riches.

Dr. Abdoulaye Diagana

Associate Researcher at the University of Arizona

Head Unit Partnerships, Communication and Resource Mobilization

UNEP / Abidjan Convention


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