World Bank and AfDB announce $600 million in support for hydrometeorology in Africa

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The World Bank in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Meteorological Organization has announced a US $600 million programme to improve hydrometeorological services in 15 West African countries.

The programme, Strengthening Climate Change and Disaster Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa, aims at improving meteorological services in Africa where most countries have poor infrastructure and lack modern technology for reliable and timely capture and transmission of meteorological information to the public.

In his opening remarks during a side event at the ongoing Climate Change conference in Paris, Jeremiah Lengoasa, Deputy Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, bemoaned the poor infrastructure and technological capacity of most meteorological departments in Africa.

“These services are key to strengthening resilience to climate change by providing early warning services... But the truth is that most meteorological services in the region are not able to provide the requisite information for decision-making, not because of their own making, but due to lack of infrastructure and modern technology to deliver reliable services,” said Lengoasa.

The programme aims to improve national meteorological services competence, regional competence and partnerships of various players in the meteorological services chain.

Lengoasa said it was unfortunate that some programmes are designed in the context of leaving a legacy rather than the consideration of partnerships, which is a key element to attracting investment and sustainability.

“A lot of initiatives are being done without partnerships but based on legacy,” Leongasa said.

“But this initiative is an investment initiative that, if well-coordinated, should achieve a step change.”

Speaking at the same function, AfDB Vice-President Aly Abou-Sabaa said the programme responds in a timely manner as Africa is already struggling with effects of climate change. He added that the intervention resonates well with the Clim-Dev initiative that the Bank is supporting to modernize both country and regional meteorological services in Africa.

“Most of you who have been following our side events know that the Bank has pledged doubling of its support to climate initiatives up to 40%. However, this will only happen if the countries involved also contribute some marching grants. This will help create a good sense of ownership of the programme,” Abou-Sabaa said.

Meanwhile, Laura Tuck, Vice-President of the World Bank Group, highlighted the serious challenges that the African continent faces due to climate change and the danger of millions of slipping back into poverty if measures to help them to adapt are not put in place.

“Africa has been experiencing a steady growth for the past decade, but this growth is under threat… As many as 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty due to climate change”, said Tuck, who highlighted the findings of a recent World Bank report entitled, “Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty.”

Tuck said serious investments are required in the meteorological services in Africa, adding that only 10 percent of the World Bank’s $500 million support to meteorological services globally, goes to Africa.

Echoing the importance of reliable weather services to climate change adaptation, French Minister of State for Development and Francophony Annick Girardin said it was hard to imagine a world without weather forecast information.

“Weather forecasts are the first step to climate change adaptation. Being without weather forecasts is in itself a serious vulnerability,” Girardin said.

“Prevention is only possible through reliable information. ECOWAS is the most vulnerable region of Africa to floods”, said Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS), Commissioner, Fatimata Dia Sow, during a high-level panel discussion, which included Aida Diongue Niang, Director of the National Agency for Civil Aviation and Meteorology in Senegal; Djibrilla Maiga, Director General of Mali Meteo; and Richard Jones, a Science Fellow at the United Kingdom’s Met Office; who all shared critical insights into the importance of reliable meteorological information for climate change and disaster resilience.

For its part, the ECOWAS hydromet programme is a timely intervention in a region where floods and drought are all too common.