Published on Sustainable Cities

Africa Hydromet Forum: Improving climate and weather forecasting to build disaster resilience

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Photo: JC McIlwaine / UN Photo

There is no doubt that extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. In Africa alone, 90% of all disasters in recent decades have been driven by weather and climate.  While we cannot stop them from striking, we can tell people about them, managing the risk that they present – by advancing our work in hydromet.

Hydromet is the union of hydrology and meteorology, combining water, weather, and climate studies as a formidable force in a government’s ability to accurately understand, forecast, and communicate storms and hazards. This means that something as simple as an accurate weather forecast, or the monitoring of river levels could make the difference between a farmer losing his/her entire crop or a fisherman knowing when best to head out to sea.  

Because of the lack of high-quality hydromet services, countries suffer GDP losses every year from flooding, cyclones, and other storms. Madagascar and Nigeria, for example, each lost more than 1 percent of GDP in a single year from storms. 

However, instead of looking at potential future damages, we must look at how hydromet services can help cities and communities flourish with greater resilience today: 

  • Improved hydromet services enhance productivity and contribute to shared growth across a range of sectors, not least of which includes agriculture, transport, energy, urban planning, and health services. World Bank research has shown that investment in hydromet services has a scale of 1:7 return on investment.
  • Hydromet data are necessary for daily activities, from families to community groups to city officials. Businesses use long-term information to make effective climate-related decisions that affect their industries. Government agencies utilize hydromet services to effectively tackle climate issues and implement smart planning to boost productivity and protect vital infrastructure. Families can better manage jobs, travel, food storage, and other activities.
  • Hydromet services boost economic growth, and are a key component of sustainable development. 
Since cities are especially vulnerable to climate hazards, hydromet plays an important role in city planning. Rapid urbanization and a lack of formal planning can harm long-term growth of urban areas. Climate variability changes rain and flooding cycles, which hurt city planning. Managing urban flooding, for example, is assisted with high-quality hydromet services and information.

The World Bank has worked as a partner with other agencies, including the World Bank-supported Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR), to establish initiatives like the Africa Hydromet Program, a comprehensive venture that invests in hydromet modernization for climate resilience. Since its start in June 2015, the program has been working to modernize hydromet services in 15 countries and four regional climate centers. It seeks to then scale up assistance for hydromet modernization all across Sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond upgrading facilities, the Program also works to boost agency capacity, strengthen institutions, improve policy and last-mile service delivery, and better integration national, regional, and international hydromet services.
Africa Hydromet Forum
To build on the success of initiatives such as the Hydromet Program, the World Bank has come together with the African Union Commission, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and other partners to put together the first African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology –  Africa Hydromet Forum, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from September 12 to 15. The Forum unites African leaders in their quest to achieve climate and disaster resilience, from rapidly growing urban cores to savannah farmlands, as part of their countries’ journey towards sustainable development. Join the conversation on social media using hashtag #AfricaHydromet17.

This Forum is just one step in a larger effort to unify our approach to improved hydromet services. It cannot be overstated that even simple, daily usages of hydromet tools can boost economies and save lives.

I look forward to discussing how we can all come together in a concerted effort at the Forum.


Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez

Former Regional Director, Africa, Sustainable Development Practice Group

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