The resilience of West African coastal areas to the consequences of rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions in the sea is a major concern for public authorities in the sub-region. Already in April 1997, the Council of Ministers of the Environment of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), meeting in Cotonou, recalled the need to become more involved in the coordination and the search for financing of control actions against coastal erosion. This led to the completion in 1999-2000 of the study on the development of a Regional Coastal Erosion Control Program (PRLEC) which was adopted in 2007.

The development of the West African Coastline Master Plan (SDLAO) between 2009 and 2011, the second component of PRLEC, by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), covering eleven countries from Mauritania to Benin, constitutes a significant advance in the monitoring system and coastal risk management mechanisms. The meeting to return the results of the SDLAO to the ministers in charge of the environment in May 2011 in Dakar, established the establishment of the West African Littoral Observation Mission (MOLOA) which piloted, with the support of IUCN, updating the SDLAO between 2013 and 2016 (2016 assessment of the coastlines of West Africa).

In July 2018 in Abidjan, the 2016 balance sheet meeting recommended the transformation of the MOLOA into the West African Regional Observatory (ORLOA). The advent of the coastal zone management program, notably the West African Coastal Zone Resilience Investment Project (WACA-ResIP), launched in November 2018, comes to concretize this desire of the public authorities. Indeed, subcomponent 1.3 of this project, relating to the design and implementation of the ORLOA, is entrusted to the Ecological Monitoring Center (CSE) which has housed since 2013 the regional coordination cell of the MOLOA.

The process of setting up the ORLOA is an unprecedented undertaking, the fruit of cooperation between the World Bank, the FFEM, the UEMOA, the various partner countries, IUCN, the Abidjan Convention, the CSE and many other sub-regional institutions such as the PRCM and RAMPAO. In the implementation of the activities, the observatory will establish perfect collaboration with NGOs and other institutions at the local level but also with technical partners at national, regional and international level.