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From Recycling to #MadeinDakar, Senegal's Capital Maps Route to Resilience

A man is seen walking along a street in Dakar, Senegal, Dec. 19, 2016.
A man is seen walking along a street in Dakar, Senegal, Dec. 19, 2016.

Senegal's capital Dakar aims to boost its ability to weather floods, disease, unemployment and other shocks through a wide-reaching strategy for urban resilience unveiled on Thursday.

The rapidly growing city, which juts out into the Atlantic, is Africa's first to publish such a strategy in partnership with the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network, a global initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation.

By anticipating disasters, creating more green spaces to help curb climate change, and tackling problems like waste, Dakar is aiming to craft a model for other cities facing similar challenges on the continent.

"[Dakar] is a city where there is no more green... where we live everywhere and in every which way," said Mayor Khalifa Sall at a ceremony marking the publication of the plan.

He emphasized the need to protect Dakar's beaches against coastal erosion, and to re-think housing policies for the urban hub of around 3 million people, where half-finished buildings are a common sight along highways and in already packed neighborhoods.

The resilience plan includes projects in five priority areas: civic engagement, health and sanitation, private-sector partnerships, energy efficiency and inclusive governance.

One idea is to introduce the concept of resilience in early education, teaching children about environmental responsibility and what it means to be a citizen.

Another is the creation of a brand to promote local crafts and goods with the label "#MadeinDakar," increasing artisans' visibility and helping them partner with formal businesses.

"One thing I like about this strategy is that it's a mix between ambitious things and do-able, funded things," 100RC President Michael Berkowitz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A cityscape of Dakar is seen from the top of African Renaissance hill, Senegal, Dec. 19, 2016.
A cityscape of Dakar is seen from the top of African Renaissance hill, Senegal, Dec. 19, 2016.

One of the more ambitious goals is to install a city-wide recycling system. Waste management is a major problem in Senegal, where there are few opportunities for recycling and many citizens are unaware of its importance.

But a relatively low-cost step identified in the strategy is to organize horse-cart drivers, who do informal trash collection, to partner with the city and pick up different kinds of waste.

Dakar was one of the first cities selected in 2013 to join the 100RC network, and is also the first Francophone city to publish its strategy, with Paris and Montreal planning to do so later this year.

Dakar's Chief Resilience Officer Antoine Faye said the next step would be to instill ownership of the initiative in the local population, working with youth groups, women's organizations and the media to spread the message.

"When we talk about this city's capital, the most important is the human one," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "We are going to try to impact people's behavior."

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