Wednesday, March 6, 2019

2018 Market Assessment on Climate Services in Africa

The availability, diversity, sophistication and use of weather information is increasing rapidly within the public and private sectors globally. Availability is also coupled with increased demand from economic sectors looking to adapt to the widespread impacts of climate change. To address this, international private weather companies have begun to market tailored weather information products intensively and have generated considerable demand from private as well as government customers across a wide range of economic sectors, including agriculture, mining, forestry, construction and energy. 

Thriving commercial weather markets across the world have invariably been underpinned by National Hydrological and Meteorological Services (NHMSs) that provide consistently accurate primary data – about weather phenomena on the synoptic (large scale) and local scales – generated from their extensive observation networks. Such data can significantly improve the quality of weather information products being provided or developed by private companies for public and commercial use because the products are often solely derived from satellite observation data. The improved quality of products as a result of inclusion of primary weather information – particularly those describing local scale weather phenomena – is likely to give a private weather company a significant competitive advantage over other providers of weather information that do not incorporate such local data.  

On the other hand, NHMS' benefit from establishing win-win partnerships with private weather providers to access much needed sources through profit sharing agreements, by leveraging technology and in developing weather markets for improved weather products. The availability of improved weather products across all economic sectors can, for example, reduce loss of life and damage to infrastructure during extreme weather events, diversify the economy by creating new business opportunities, and consequently increase tax revenues for governments. In addition, enhanced capacities to NHMS' also ensures that reliable and timely weather information is not only available to those who can afford it, but rather is also made accessible to vulnerable populations.  

With this in mind, the UNDP CIRDA Programme commissioned a continental-scale market assessment to investigate how thriving commercial weather markets could be catalysed in the 11 African countries supported by the UNDP CIRDA programme, and how their NHMSs could maximise benefit they derive from such markets. This market study was published originally in 2016 and was updated in 2018 to gauge the impact of both the CIRDA Programme and national projects aimed at enhancing the access to climate information and early warning systems. 

Two main conclusions from both studies have emerged: firstly, that the NHMSs should collaborate rather than compete with private weather companies; and secondly, that the NHMSs should embark on a phased transition to derive benefits from the national commercial weather markets. Collaboration with the private sector is advisable because the skills, core business objectives, and comparative advantages of private weather companies compared with those of NHMSs are very different. Such companies are innovating rapidly, using state-of-the-art technologies, and generating demand for their products through intensive marketing targeting specific user groups. By contrast, NHMSs focus on providing public goods such as basic weather forecasts to the general public, an accurate national climate record, and early warnings of hazardous weather events; they consequently do not yet have the business skills required for developing and marketing cutting edge products. By providing accurate data and working closely with the private sector to improve the quality of climate and weather information products available in their countries, NHMSs can potentially share, through royalties or fixed fees, the revenues generated from products that incorporate their primary data. Such business deals are – as has already been demonstrated in some countries – likely to generate far greater income streams for the NHMSs than from the simple sale of primary weather data. 

This market assessment also found that NHMSs in countries supported by the UNDP CIRDA programme were in varying states of readiness for engaging with the private sector. The 2018 market assessment update revealed that considerable progress has been made following the years receiving CIRDA programme support. A general upwards trend was observed for all countries with regard to their readiness to engage with the private sector. An important next step for NHMSs will be to undertake in-depth national market assessments to identify suitable entry points into their respective commercial weather markets. 

Results from this updated market study are extremely relevant not only for the UNDP CIRDA partner countries by providing potential entry points to engage with the private sector, but also for climate adaptation practitioners looking to address a key barrier in promoting climate adaptation in economic vulnerable countries. By increasing the long term  sustainability of NHMS and improving access to climate information services, future adaptation projects will have the capacity to develop the tools needed to climate proof development thereby, protecting lives and livelihoods. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

UNDP from Relief to Recovery- Sierra Leone

As recovery rolls out one month after the emergency response to the 14 August landslide and floods, UNDP will continue to work with the Government of Sierra Leone to move towards sustainable and inclusive risk informed development.

UNDP has provided technical and practical support to the Office of National Security (ONS), donating valuable equipment that enabled first responders in the immediate rescue efforts of emergency coordination centers. The National Security Coordinator at the ONS, Mr. Ismail S T Tarawali commended UNDP for its timely support to ONS, and highlighted past and present work that has been valuable for the country, amongst the work highlighted is that in favor of strengthening the capacity of the Disaster Management Department in the ONS, through the UNDP supported and LDCF funded “Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems Project: “UNDP has always been a dependable partner in supporting technically and logistically over the years. In post-conflict times, national security times and our response to natural and manmade disasters.” UNDP along with the World Bank have been both designated as co-leads in national recovery efforts.

What now?  
UNDP in coordination with the World Bank aims to enhance disaster risk mitigation capacities in the event of future floods and landslides. As such, the World Bank and UNDP are currently supporting a review of Sierra Leone's national a hazard profile.

In addittion, UNDP is working with national authorities in supporting the development of a website and an online Climate Information, Disaster Management and Early Warning Systems (CIDMEWS) web portal. Once fully developed, access to real-time and improved climate information will be readily available, including early warnings to end-users and disaster-prone communities. The website and CIDMEWS web portal will be launched in the coming weeks, receiving active support from the UNDP CIRDA Programme.

UNDP is also providing support in strengthening the legal frameworks that reinforce early warning systems, as well as the establishment of public and private partnerships for the dissemination of climate information.

Furthermore, UNDP is enhancing the capacities of the Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency (SLMA) by facilitating a year long meteorological training to 8 SLMA staff members at the Regional Meteorological Research and Training Institute (World Meteorological Organization Training Centre) in Nigeria. This training will be focused at strengthening the technical capacity of the SLMA staff in weather forecasting and observations, as well as in data analysis and communication.

Moving Forward
UNDP will also  provide long-term technical assistance to the Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency (EPA-SL)- the government entity mandated to lead the development of an environmental risk assessment and hazard identification. This will be done by welcoming an urban risk reduction expert, a debris management specialist, and a short-term geo-technical landslide expert as additional support to the EPA-SL team. In addition, the UNDP Sierra Leone Country Office will also request the deployment of a GIS expert through a standby partner.

Under national leadership, a three-fold Risk Management and Recovery Action Plan will be developed to support Government and partners make evidence-based decisions for the immediate, medium and long-term issues around settlement planning and sustainable urbanizations, as well as outline approaches to address meteorological and environmental challenges, and leverage existing work around hazard assessment for risk-informed decision making nationally.

An original version of this article was drafted by the UNDP Sierra Leone Communications Team, appearing in the Sierra Leone UNDP website and can be found here