Why African continent needs to tackle disasters, climate change

Amb Josefa Leonel Correira Sacko,

… Africa suffers two disasters weekly, 8 deaths daily – AU

Disasters have continued to have great impact on the African continent triggered by hazards like droughts, floods, cyclone, epidemics as well as environmental degradation, leading to incessant loss of lives and properties.

While exposure to such hazards and vulnerability to disasters is increasing due to human activities which include urbanization and unsustainable land use, poverty and conflict are said to have aggravated the risks and reduced the coping capacities and resilience of communities across African countries.

Also,climate change, according to experts, has exacerbated the frequency and intensity of hydro-meteorological hazards such as thunderstorms, hailstorms, coastal storm surges, floods, drought, and heat waves among others.


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Though the African region has made progress in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) at country levels, much is left to be desired.

Recently, the ministers across Africa met at the Third Ordinary Session of the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment held at African Union Commission Headquarters in Addis Abba to draw up plans to address the challenges like food insecurity and the effects of climate change facing the continent.

Speaking at the session, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Amb Josefa Leonel Correira Sacko, said the African continent is the worse hit by climate change and is facing disasters.

“Disasters, particularly related to hydro-meteorological hazards, extreme climate and weather phenomena are increasing across Africa. On average, Africa suffers approximately two disasters per week, eight deaths per day,” she said.

While noting that the frequency and magnitude of disasters are increasing and Africa is part of the planet that is really affected, she said, “On the recent cyclone, we do not have the capacity to response even at the country levels because information came very late.”

Amb Sacko noted that based on this reality, plans are ongoing to establish a continental early warning and preparedness system at AUC as a way of improving analysis and early-warning capabilities of weak countries with the support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

“Disasters are going to intensify on the continent so early warning is a good mechanism for you to focus on what is going to happen and try to put response for people  against the catastrophe,” she said.

“NATO has a hub looking at the climate issue, and refugees and they invited me to go and talk about climate change and its consequences in Africa. As part of their mandate, they will help us build capacities and fix early warning and preparedness in AUC,” she said.

“They are ready and the process is to first build capacity of staff on DRR and by December they will come to put up the system and we will start building up capacities of our member states,” she added.

According to her, member countries will send their experts to come and learn and link the information directly to AUC.

Also, the South African minister of Agriculture, Land and Rural Development Thokozile Didiza said one of the issues that came out clear relates to climate change and its effects and in the ways countries performed, saying they also looked at the adaptation mechanisms that countries will have to put in place.

“Another issue is that of land tenure and security, particularly for women and land management, not just in terms of giving security to small farmers but also how to manage the natural resources so that they can prevent desertification and be able to reclaim land and resources,” she said

“Research on mitigation of climate change is very important; if you don’t invest in new technology you are not going to manage your home very well and won’t be competitive,” she stated.

The meeting, which is held every two years, is also to review the report of the last session to see the progress made on all the decisions reached and the implementation level by countries, and at the end put out a new working plan for the next two years.

The Head Environment, Climate Change, Water and Land Management at AU, Harsen Nyambe, disclosed that they presented a forestry framework which is a key document because the continent does not have a framework in that field adding that, “it is one of the instruments member states supported without reservation.”

“We have presented a strategy on environment, climate change and water management that also presented our vision in the next five years with key milestones that are expected to be delivered by 2023 based on the agenda 2063,” he said.

Another issue raised was the advocacy on the Malabo Declaration, including a commitment to a new monitoring and reporting system to ensure that the AU Heads of State and Government are accountable to their peers and citizenry in delivering results and impact for agricultural transformation.

“Conflicts, overexploitation of natural resources, social inequality, state fragility and poor governance are combining to reverse the gains of recent years, putting at risk the attainment of both the Malabo Declaration which is only six years away and the Sustainable Development Goals, said Amb Sacko.

She said she is doing advocacy in the parliament to explain Malabo and Maputo declarations, especially Maputo which proposed at least 10 per cent investment of budget for agriculture and one per cent in research.

“The 10 per cent is not just for agriculture, it is all about land degradation, forestry, climate change, adaptation and water issues because it cannot be given to just one; it means at least 10 percent in all hose areas,” she said.

Also, the Deputy Commissioner from the Ethiopian Environment, Forest and Climate Change Commission, Ms Frenesh Gobena, urged the ministers, experts and stakeholders to ensure that there were clear complementarities and linkages among the sectors represented to effectively implement the decisions of AU Heads of State and Government.


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