Celebrating Africa Day in the context of complex natural disasters

This year’s commemoration of Africa Day has been unique and transformative in several ways. The topic highlights: Building resilient education systems for greater access to inclusive, lifelong, quality and relevant learning in Africa.

This has also coincided with the Agenda 2063 mantra, ‘The Africa we want’, although some would opt for ‘The Africa we need’. In past commemorations, emphasis has been placed on peace, security and elusive economic development, with little attention to disaster preparedness and climate resilient infrastructure.

Investing in climate resilient infrastructure is key for Africa, and education is a vital enabler to achieving a climate resilient community. This is important to reduce the increasing impacts of natural disasters on key infrastructure such as roads, schools, homes, bridges, water, sewage, power grids, railways and telecommunications, among others. In this sense, SDG 4 (quality education) is deeply rooted in this year’s theme, complemented by SDG 6 (drinking water and sanitation), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 11 (cities and sustainable communities), without forgetting the always popular criterion, SDG13 (climate action).

This year’s theme does not mean that Africa is not educated, but simply to emphasize that resilient and sustainable education is continuous and lifelong and is suitable for the 21st century. This is not just event-based education, but education judged by its quality, transformative and inclusive nature. SDG 4 (quality education) is the key to achieving many other sustainable development goals (SDGs), so it must be taken seriously. Of late, natural disasters have not only affected the quality of education and healthy well-being, but have also negatively impacted infrastructural development and human and economic development, leaving Africa behind in the packing order.

The problems posed by disasters are at the center of the planning trajectories of African governments. There is evidence of an increasing frequency of natural disasters that negatively impact infrastructure development in Africa, causing large-scale loss and damage to infrastructure and compromising livelihoods. While the frequency of disasters is accelerating on the African continent, knowledge, experience and resources appear to be on the defensive and declining. Therefore, the continent needs to transform, build resilient educational systems that are inclusive and allow it to fight disasters, protect and improve its obsolete or deficient infrastructure.

While the Horn of Africa and East Africa regions have been at the forefront of disasters such as floods, droughts and locust invasions, lately southern Africa is proving to be in the middle of the unfolding disasters. Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe fall victim annually, suffering great loss and damage in the process. Southern Africa is also reeling from El NiƱo-induced drought, exacerbating an already dire situation. West Africa suffers an equal share of these climate-induced disasters, while North Africa has been the worst affected and Libya has experienced flooding not seen in decades. All of these disasters combined contribute to enormous, large-scale loss and damage that cash-strapped African countries cannot finance. Therefore, it is already difficult for many disaster-hit African countries to recover and recover due to weaker and bleeding economies whose main pillar of strength is nothing more than propaganda as a desperate exercise in image building and control. It is therefore difficult to describe the success that Africa has recorded so far in the context of a toxic and largely irresponsible media, accompanied by the desperation of states to remain in power.

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It is the continent’s duty to build climate-resilient infrastructure, designed for climate-resilient cities and alleviating vulnerabilities, focusing on education and preparedness for sustainable disaster risk reduction, using context-specific tools and expertise. The continent has weak, poor and aging infrastructure, which requires remodeling, improvement and rehabilitation. Not many countries have efficient road networks in Africa, while some parts of the continent are not navigable due to poor roads or lack of bridges to link communities. There are poor telecommunications networks in many African countries that derail the continent’s ability to connect with the outside world and conduct business efficiently. Many African countries are hotspots for waterborne diseases due to poor, polluted and polluted water infrastructure. Many African countries continue to live in endless energy poverty due to erratic energy generation and the inability to transform towards renewable energy, reduce costs and improve sustainability. Therefore, the continent requires continuous training in disaster response, early warning messaging and emergency preparedness, including multifaceted public information education.

The sub-Saharan region needs to seriously invest in resilient and sustainable education to counter a new wave of disasters if it dreams of achieving some of the progress towards Agenda 2063.

In this regard, African countries need to improve their data management systems through greater use and adoption of information technology. Technology transfer has been the weak point in Africa’s quest to improve its communication infrastructure and disaster mitigation knowledge. The continent’s research output is lower compared to other continents. Serdeczny (2021) noted that the majority of loss and damage research practiced in developed countries is about 70%, while developing countries account for about 30%. The research footprint in Africa is within the 30% threshold and is almost 2%. The language used to communicate information about climate change in general needs to be decolonized to adapt and appeal to the needs of developing countries. Today, global disaster risk reduction, disaster risk management practices and activities are informed and guided by the Hyogo Framework for Action, including the Sendai Framework, but all of these frameworks appear unclear in regarding loss and damage.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (1970-2019), Atlas of Mortality and Economic Loss Due to Extreme Weather, Climate and Water Events, Africa recorded 1,695 disasters resulting in the loss of 71,747 lives, along with economic losses amounting to $5 billion. . The African continent has accounted for around 15% of global extreme weather events and water-related disasters, causing around 35% of associated casualties, including at least 1% of global economic losses. world.

In this regard, African countries must improve their research results to facilitate the understanding of how information systems are used in disaster risk management. African governments need to utilize experts and specialists in the field of disaster risk management for sustainable quality education and informed participation. This is important because the untrained and uninitiated in the field of disaster management and infrastructure development often feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the complex community of practice driven by data and technology, leading to poor solutions. African governments need to increase practical knowledge of science and technology with the aim of improving quality of life by mitigating the continued death and destruction caused by natural disasters.

Finally, the idea is not to sound negative about the success stories of the African continent, but compared to the rest of the world, the truth must be told: the continent is lagging behind in infrastructure development and building resilience, research and innovation . Furthermore, Africa needs to realize some of its achievements towards Agenda 2063, the Africa we want. To achieve what it wants, needs, desires or covets, the continent must seriously transform and build resilience.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in a personal capacity and can be contacted at: [email protected].


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