Due to its geographical position, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region runs a high risk of volatile weather. Such weather patterns can affect key industries such as agriculture and power generation, jeopardising the socioeconomic security of the region’s 272 million people. Therefore, meteorology and its associated infrastructure is a priority for SADC – not just for its partnership with the World Meteorological Organization, but for its own goals of Regional Integration and economic development.
In order to ensure that meteorology remains a priority for infrastructure development, SADC passed its Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology in 1996. Along with its policy on transportation and communications, this Protocol outlines SADC’s intentions for development of meteorology in the region.
The Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology
Chapter 12 of the Protocol concerns meteorology. In Article 12.2, the Protocol reminds Member States of SADC that they also belong to the World Meteorological Organization and, therefore, must strive to cooperate with one another on a harmonised policy framework for meteorology in the region. Specifically, Member States agree to improve existing meteorological infrastructure and to institute advancements as applicable, either through planning and development, acquiring equipment, or promoting systems interoperability.
Historically, meteorological infrastructure development in the SADC region has lacked both urgency and funding. Member States have traditionally diverted their scarce resources into other sectors with more immediate and visible effects, such as agriculture or industry. This approach needs to change, however, as weather and climate patterns have drastic effects on these other sectors and the region at large; the ability to collect and distribute meteorological data directly benefits growing seasons, water management, and disaster prevention, with real effects on people in the region.
Recognising that improvements to the region’s meteorological infrastructure are essential to the security of the region’s most important resources, SADC has prioritised specific projects for its development, set out in the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan.
The Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan
Released in 2012, SADC’s Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan outlines the projects and strategies SADC is implementing to improve infrastructure over the next 25 years. Noting that meteorological services in the region have been strained by poor observation networks, inadequate instruments and human resources, as well as weak telecommunications systems for transmitting weather information, the Meteorology Sector Plan component of the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan identifies areas in which upgrades to such infrastructure will have the greatest benefit, as follows:
- Regional Observation Networks – Strengthening the capacity of observation networks and monitoring stations will allow for more accurate weather prediction. Find out more about SADC Regional Observation Network.
- Global Telecommunications Systems – Disseminating weather and climate information through dedicated networks will ensure warning systems are effective. Find out more about SADC Meteorological Telecommunications System.
- Regional Climate Data Processing Centre - Providing climate information, prediction and climate services, early warning and related applications to support sustainable development in the SADC region. Find out more about the SADC Regional Climate Data Processing Centre.
Through improvements to these two components of meteorology infrastructure, SADC anticipates more accurate forecasting and enhanced awareness of potential weather hazards. This superior data will enable other sectors to plan accordingly for changes in weather and to mitigate those problems that do arise.