When torrential rains and flash floods deluged parts of Côte d'Ivoire's economic capital, Abidjan,
an African Development Bank investment in weather data was critical in the disaster response efforts.
While heavy rainfall is not unusual for Abidjan from May to July, the sheer volume experienced recently caused significant damage. At its peak, water levels reached half the height of a commuter taxi vehicle, leaving the metropolis struggling to cope.
According to Daouda Konate, Côte d'Ivoire's Director of Meteorology at the national agency SODEXAM, some areas experienced the heaviest rains in decades.
"In the Abobo and Cocody neighborhoods near Abidjan, communities experienced the highest recorded rainfall levels over the last 45 years," said Konate.
Strengthened early warning systems, put in place in 2014, included the creation of an inter-ministerial and multi-sectoral Disaster Risk Management Platform, a group of about 50 representatives from various ministries and public bodies, districts and departments, the national assembly and the union of NGOs, tasked to lead emergency responses.
In 2018, the Bank also approved a grant of 480,000 euros through the ClimDev Fund to help the country rebuild its climate and weather information services, following a post-electoral crisis in 2010-2011, and to further strengthen Côte d'Ivoire's extreme weather preparedness capacity.
Côte d'Ivoire used the grant funding to acquire six automatic weather stations that collect rainfall data and forward it to SODEXAM, where experts use high-performance computers to process the data and produce real-time weather reports and flooding risk alert bulletins for distribution through the Platform.
Under the coordination of the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, the Platform uses data to develop models that help predict weather conditions in real time. So, as it became clear that a catastrophic event was approaching Abidjan, the Platform kicked into action with an email alert via various channels, including a mailing list of 200 journalists, and SODEXAM's social media accounts.
All alerts up to amber are issued through Government Information Broadcasts. When events reach an emergency level beyond amber, the Platform escalates the issue to the level of government, the only body empowered to issue a red alert and to implement the shutdown of services, including transport.
Konate, in his capacity as President of the World Meteorological Organization's Regional Association for Africa, has a vision to build the region's capacity in data modelling and to move away from its dependence on models designed for Europe. Reaching that goal needs more investment in the antennas that collect and analyze data for Africa to produce context-specific weather predictions.