10.2.5. Settlements and Infrastructure
10.2.5.1. Overview of Issues
The main challenges that are likely to face African populations will emanate
from the effects of extreme events such as tropical storms, floods, landslides,
wind, cold waves, droughts, and abnormal sea-level rises that are expected as
a result of climate change. These events are likely to exacerbate management
problems relating to pollution, sanitation, waste disposal, water supply, public
health, infrastructure, and technologies of production (IPCC, 1996).
The pattern of distribution of human settlements often reflects the uneven
nature of resource endowments and availability between regions and within individual
communities. In Africa, as elsewhere, there are heavy concentrations of human
settlements within 100 km of coastal zones (Singh et al., 1999), in areas
of high economic potential, in river and lake basins, in close proximity to
major transportation routes, and in places that enjoy hospitable climatic regimes.
Changes in climate conditions would have severe impacts not only on the pattern
of distribution of human settlements but also on the quality of life in particular
The transport sector is based on long-term, immovable infrastructure such as
roads, rails, and water. Road networks have tended to link industrial centers
with major areas of agricultural activity; railways have been designed primarily
with a sea-route orientation to facilitate international shipments of primary
products. Climate change may lead to industrial relocation, resulting either
from sea-level rise in coastal-zone areas or from transitions in agroecological
zones. If sea-level rise occurs, the effect on the many harbors and ports around
the continent will be quite devastating economically for many coastal-zone countries.
Excessive precipitation, which may occur in some parts of Africa, is likely
to have serious negative effects on road networks and air transport.
10.2.5.2. Coastal Settlements and Sea-Level Rise
More than one-quarter of the population of Africa resides within 100 km of
a sea coast (Singh et al., 1999), rendering a significant number of people
vulnerable to rises in sea level as a result of climate change. Modeling the
effects of a 38-cm mean global sea-level rise in 2080, Nicholls et al.
(1999) estimate that the average annual number of people in Africa impacted
by flooding could increase from 1 million in 1990 to a worst case of 70 million
in 2080. Jallow et al. (1999) estimate that the capital of The Gambia,
Banjul, could disappear in 50-60 years through coastal erosion and sea-level
rise, putting more than 42,000 people at risk. El Raey et al. (1999)
discuss threats to coastal areas of Egypt from sea-level changes. East Africa
coastal settlements also are at risk from sea-level rise (Magadza, 2000).
There are three response strategies to rising sea level and its physical impacts:
retreat, adapt, or defend. Retreat can involve chaotic abandonment of property
and cultural investments, or it can be an ordered, planned program that minimizes
losses from rising sea level and maximizes the cost-effectiveness of the operation.
The operation also seeks to leave surrendered areas as aesthetic looking as
possible and to avoid abandoned structures that are an operational hazard to
other social and economic activities.
The capacity of individual states to undertake coastal defense work may be
limited. However, if such works are planned on a long-term time scale, it is
possible to develop such defenses well before the crisis occurs and thus to
spread the total capital costs over many years.
Because the problem of coastal management is regional, such a process would
- Regional integration among coastal-zone states
- Recognition by all governments in the region of regional vulnerability to
climate change impacts
- Political and institutional stability that allows intergenerational projects
to be sustained without interruption from political upheavals.