Speeches & Transcripts

Transforming Weather, Climate and Hydrological Services in Africa

June 2, 2015

Jamal Saghir, World Bank Group Senior Regional Adviser Launch of ‘Strengthening Climate and Disaster Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa initiative Geneva, Switzerland

As Prepared for Delivery

Dear Delegates, participants, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to start by thanking the   World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and African Development Bank, for coming together in  this partnership .  For our client countries and the World Bank Group his program will be pivotal to Africa’s growth, poverty reduction, climate and disaster resilience agendas.

I would like to start by asking a fundamental question: why hydromet services are important for Africa?

425 million people live in Africa’s drylands, and their population is set to grow by at least 50% by 2030. They are highly exposed to climate shocks; we cannot quantify the real cost to human beings, but the 2008 to 2011 drought cost Kenya alone losses of US$ 12 billion in dollar terms.  ODA in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa after the 2011 drought was US$ 4 billion, 10% of all aid to Africa.

Droughts won’t go away, but better warning systems, better knowledge of basic hydrology and weather patterns, will help plan for and reduce the costs of drought and build broader resilience.

Africa’s coastal cities are engines of growth but are highly vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. Just in the last three years, major floods have hit cities such as Maputo, Dakar, Lagos and Douala. Like droughts, floods won’t go away; indeed, along with periods of extreme heat, strong winds and coastal storms they are likely to become more frequent. But in our views,  hydromet services can help cities plan for expansion in less vulnerable areas and build drainage systems. And they can help reduce the burden of weather related diseases like malaria, cholera, meningitis, and heat stress. Malaria was a particular concern surrounding the 2014 floods in Douala, for example.

As you know, Africa faces a huge infrastructure deficit and in 2012 African leaders endorsed an infrastructure development plan for Africa.  Countries need transport and trade infrastructure, energy and electric power, water supply and water resource development, to  grow sustainably. It is estimated hydro-electric power potential, for example, at 80,000 MW, six times the present level of development.  Infrastructure investments are expensive and long term, so they need to incorporate climate risk analysis and climate change to be cost effective and resilient. This means hydromet services in turn need to  provide  historical data but  also forecast a range of likely future climate scenarios to help planners make the right decisions.

So Hydromet services support resilient  growth across a range of sectors. Farmers who know when it will rain can avoid having their fertilizer washed away, or move livestock to high ground before floods. Transport authorities can design roads for flash floods and municipalities can build drainage systems. Dam operators can reduce reservoir levels and peak flood size. Coastal communities can save lives and livelihoods against storm surge. And in the Sahel addressing weather based risks plays in key role in reducing the “fragility trap” that has contributed to loss of hope and conflict in too many countries.

But Let’s take a closer look at the state of hydromet services in Africa.

Hydromet services are inadequate in 80% of African countries. They are under-funded, have weak capacity, and their infrastructure has deteriorated. A recent WMO survey illustrated that 54% of surface and 71% of upper air weather stations in Africa did not report data. So they can’t generate local data or use information from regional and global weather centers, and, most importantly, they cannot deliver useful services to the population.  Although hydromet is a key public good, often the benefits are not clear to economic ministries because they cut across sectors. This triggers a vicious cycle of under-funding and under-performance.  And this is although studies show that investing in hydromet has high returns, with benefit cost ratios averaging between 5 and 7 to one.

There are ongoing programs for strengthening hydromet services. ClimDev-Africa Program, coordinated by AfDB under the leadership of the African Union, is supporting mostly regional organizations, and national programs are supported by a number of development partners, some with climate funding. AfDB is financing hydromet upgrading in Niger, for example. But many programs are small and short term.

The World Bank supports several programs, implemented by African countries and in  partnership with others. With finance from the Climate Investment Funds and the Nordic Fund we are supporting a US$ 21 million  hydromet program in Mozambique;  the UK Met office, the WMO and the South African Weather Service are providing technical support.  In Ethiopia, we are helping to  develop  an integrated program to improve hydromet, building on support from  the  EU,  African Development Bank, WMO, France, UK,  Japan and others,.   The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, supported by many of your countries, has supported investments and analytical work.  

Experience shows that the scope of modernization must be substantial in order to be transformative and self-sustaining.  While programs under way globally with World Bank support total US$ 500 million, investment needs to upgrade hydromet services in Africa alone are conservatively estimated at US$ 1 billion. Existing programs   need to be harmonized and scaled up lasting for impact. Modernizing infrastructure must go together with better institutions and regulations, improved services,  adequate budgets for operational costs and integration with regional and global centers.

Let me now to discuss the Framework Program wich is being proposed.

Today, WMO, the African Development Bank and the World Bank are launching a program for better hydromet services in Africa.  It offers a collaborative platform for development partners, where African countries are in the lead. Its objectives are to strengthen the capacity of African countries to improve weather, climate and hydrological services to citizens and to produce timely, accurate forecasts at all levels, contributing to climate resilience, economic development and disaster risk management.

The program invests in three main components:

  1. Upgrading and strengthening National Hydromet Systems including improved service delivery, capacity building, strategy and management reforms and modernization of infrastructure
  2. Modernizing Regional Centers including  cooperation between national and regional  institutions,  information sharing, upgrading infrastructure and modelling
  3. Integrating National, Regional and Global  systems and Knowledge and Advisory Services:  linking national institutions with regional and global centers  and improving access to  global products, supporting knowledge  for  strategic development, and  financing project preparation and management.


The Program:

  • leverages partnerships, remains flexible and fosters inter-agency coordination.
  • It is aligned with the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) and the Integrated African Strategy on Meteorology.
  • It champions better hydromet services as a public good for resilient development and poverty reduction, and for scaling up investment financing from development partners and operational financing from host governments.

The program learns from past experience and has a robust results framework.

Results at national level would include:

  • Hydromet services issue timely and actionable weather,  climate and hydrological information at national and local levels;
  • Hydromet services help reduce the impact of disaster and climate risks on lives, livelihoods and economic assets and improve the resilience of investments

Results at regional level would include:

  • Regional centers provide more reliable information, training and instrument calibration to national agencies;
  • There is improved international and cross-border collaboration, including on drought, severe weather and flood warnings.

We estimate the costs of this program to transform Hydromet Services in Sub-Saharan Africa at $ 550 - $600 million over an 8 year period, assuming a client-base of 15 countries and 4 regional centers.  80% of the resources would be for modernization of hydromet infrastructure, and 20 % for capacity building, advisory services and program coordination.

We need to be grounded in reality, while aiming at an ambitious, transformative program. So the program will roll out in a phased way, adapting to the pace of funding.  Financing would follow a framework approach, including development financing from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, bilateral and multi-lateral  agencies, GFDRR, climate financing,  multi-lateral trust funds, and  contributions from beneficiary governments

We know it will take a collective effort to make the partnership succeed. We issue an open call to development partners to join it and expand its development impact.

We count on the commitment from African countries, from governments, regional organizations, scientific community, technical agencies, civil society and the private sector to see the program address this gap in the sustainable growth agenda of Sub-Saharan Africa.

We thank you for your interest, and  hope to work with you over the coming months to  make the partnership operational, with a concrete work plan  by the end of this year and actions on the ground.

Thank You!