Livelihoods and economic activities in Southern Africa depend heavily on weather and climate. Therefore, reliable and accurate meteorological services are critical to socio-economic development and protection of life, property, and the environment in the region.
SADC is committed to gathering and communicating meteorological data that are accurate, specific, timely, and user-friendly. To strengthen regional meteorological systems, SADC established the Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology in 1996, which sets out a policy framework for sustainable maintenance and financial support for the region’s meteorological services.
In signing the Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology, Member States of SADC acknowledge their membership in the World Meteorological Organization. As such, Member States agree to provide legal frameworks and financial support for meteorological services, focusing on reliable data collection, data processing, and data communications systems in the region. The Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology also calls for the establishment of the Regional Meteorological Support Network to facilitate exchange of meteorological information generated by national meteorological centres.
An efficient meteorological system requires collection equipment, a plan for maintaining that equipment, and capacity to interpret the data collected. In 2012, SADC released the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, which establishes plans for development of the meteorological system through to 2037.
The Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan emphasises the importance of providing timely early warning information related to adverse weather and climate variability. It also highlights the need for a harmonised regional framework to provide climate forecasting information that helps mitigate impacts from droughts, floods, and cyclones.
The Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan also highlights the following methods of addressing areas of weakness in the meteorological system in the region:
- Strengthening the meteorological observation network infrastructure;
- Modernising meteorological telecommunications and communication systems to improve rapid data collection, management, processing, exchange and dissemination of data and information;
- Improving technical capacities in terms of resources and expertise;
- Strengthening the institutional capacity of the National Meteorological Services to provide relevant, reliable, timely, and tailored products for users of climate and weather services; and
- Strengthening the capacities of the regional climate and meteorological institutions to function as efficient regional coordination, development, service, and dissemination centres.
At present, a number of projects are underway. Along with current plans to improve the Regional Observation Network and to incorporate an internationally recognised Global Telecommunications System, the SADC Meteorology Project – funded by the Government of Finland - is expected to improve observation systems infrastructure, Member State institutional capacity, and regional disaster mitigation and early warning services.