Senegal Steps Up
A few years ago, the Rockefeller Foundation initiated the international resilience project Resilient Cities (100RC), which was aimed at building resilience in cities around the world. Close to 70 cities were selected as members, and 20 of these cities released their own resilience strategies.
Now Dakar, Senegal, has become the first city in Africa to release its own city resilience strategy. The move is significant because it shows how even economically struggling cities may be looking toward resilience practices, not only to be prepared in a crisis, but also to help with their development process.
“The implementation of the resilience strategy [will] enable the city to not only anticipate and resist shocks, risks, and constraints, but to act on the socio-economic dimension in order to improve the living conditions of its citizens,” Dakar Mayor Khalifa Ababacar Sall said in the new 100RC report.
Overall, 100RC member cities take a broad approach to resilience. The approach includes not just preparing for recovery from natural disasters, like storms, earthquakes, and fires, but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis.
Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, is located at the westernmost part of the African continent, and so it serves as a geographic junction point between Africa, Europe, and the Americas. It is also the fifth most populated city in West Africa, with a population estimated at 3.3 million in 2015. At the current rate of growth, Dakar’s population is expected to double by 2025. Residents younger than 35 make up 72 percent of the city’s population.
The city’s challenges include a youth unemployment rate of nearly 17 percent; roughly 30,000 child beggars, many of whom live on the streets; and rising sea levels that will threaten more than 300 buildings and 60 percent of this coastal city’s beaches by 2080.
Given these problems, Dakar’s resilience strategy is starting from square one, with one of its first planned initiatives aimed at raising awareness of the concept of resilience in Dakar. It plans to do this by introducing the concept in schools, creating a system for citizen feedback on resilience efforts, and exploring early warning tools that would provide residents with access to information in real time about imminent shocks.
Other primary objectives of Dakar’s resilience program are to improve the physical environment for residents, position the private sector as a resilience partner, and leverage energy-efficient technologies to support the city.
Since Dakar is a microcosm of the challenges faced by many African cities, it could serve as a prototype and testing ground for local solutions to problems posed by rapid and complex urbanization.
“Dakar hopes to accelerate its evolution to become a model African city, which will have successfully aligned its rich heritage to opportunities that the 21st century offers,” the report says.