Ghana’s Minister for Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, has voiced serious concerns regarding the lack of effectiveness in implementing measures for early warning and disaster risk reduction in Africa. Speaking at the 19th Session of the World Meteorological Organization Congress in Geneva, she emphasized the urgent need for proactive action to protect African populations through the use of modern digital technology in early warning systems.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful highlighted that Africa has a much lower rate of early warning implementation compared to other regions, with approximately 60% of people on the continent lacking access to early warning systems to cope with extreme weather and climate change. Citing the WMO’s 2021 State of the Climate Report for Africa, she emphasized the heightened risk this poses to African communities and stressed that this situation should not be allowed to persist.
The minister called upon African leaders to take proactive measures to protect their people by leveraging modern digital technology in the early warning system. She pointed out that advancements in technology, such as satellite monitoring, have significantly improved the accuracy of weather predictions by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs). This enables authorities to provide more specific and localized warnings to individuals in areas affected by extreme weather events.
Mrs. Owusu-Ekuful further highlighted the integration of various technologies, including social media, apps, text messages, and push notifications, which facilitate targeted and timely communication during emergency situations. These technologies play a crucial role in enhancing the reach of authorities to individuals in need of immediate information and support.
“To mitigate the gaps in access to early warning and provide timely weather services, we must leverage these technologies,” she emphasized.
The minister cited the example of the Ghana Meteorological Agency’s “My Flood Risk Accra App,” which was launched in August 2021. The mobile application provides real-time flood and weather alerts for the capital city, enabling citizens to be informed about their exposure to flood risks and take early preparedness measures.
Despite global challenges posed by extreme weather conditions, Ghana and several other African countries continue to face significant obstacles in implementing an effective early warning system. Africa, in particular, is the second hardest-hit region by floods and other hydrometeorological phenomena, with an estimated 3.6 billion people living in highly vulnerable conditions due to climate variability and change.
Minister Owusu-Ekuful’s call for proactive measures and the utilization of modern digital technology in early warning systems underscores the importance of prioritizing disaster risk reduction efforts in Africa. By embracing technological advancements, African countries can enhance their capacity to provide timely and targeted information to their populations, ultimately minimizing the impact of extreme weather events and safeguarding lives and livelihoods.
The 19th Session of the World Meteorological Organization Congress will continue its discussions on improving global meteorological and hydrological services to address climate-related challenges.