IN FOCUS: Africa
Interview with Daouda Konate
Acting President of WMO RA-I (Africa)
Director of Meteorology - SODEXAM (Côte d'Ivoire)
Firstly, Daouda, it will be great to get a bit of a background on yourself and how you became the acting president of RA1.
I am a meteorologist and I worked in Niamey, Niger, for 20 years as a planner in meteorology. When I came back home, I was ECOWAS director and in my educational training I am a master in Physics, and I have a master’s in Economy and MBA in Business Administration.
How did you become the acting president? You must have showcased some really good work to become the acting president of RA1. How did that happen?
It happened when I was the vice president of RA1. This year, in February, I was nominated as acting president of RA1, after former president Amos Makarau retired from Met Services, and because I was vice president since 2015.
In terms of the continent in general, what do you think are the key challenges? I know there’s many weather and climate risks, and I know that there’s a lot of different climates across the continent, but in your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing RA1 in terms of climate in the future?
The main, big challenge that our continent must face is disaster reduction and how to reduce the impact of disasters. Secondly, we have to reinforce the capacity building of the NMHS. As you know, in Africa, the government has no awareness report so we need to have the capacity building to reinforce capacity and to face all the impacts of climate change in the continent. This is the second phase, this is the second challenge.
The third challenge is infrastructure. As you know, the infrastructure like met stations, weather station, are very important for early warning systems and most countries don’t have this. Infrastructure, reinforcement, capacity building and how to face the disaster risk reduction are, in my view, the three key challenges we face.
As acting president how do you see your role in assisting to build this capacity? How do you view your own responsibility and how do you assist with your position in assisting NHMSs?
As a president, the region and I have a strategic plan. We have an Africa strategic plan for NMHS which is written with WMO in the region, and the operational plan. At the last session of RA1, the decision was made to implement the operational plan of RA1. Besides this, we have the AMCOMET Conference and Ministerial Conference. Also, the Ministerial conference has written an implementation plan to reinforce with four key strategic plans. We have to implement all these strategic plans in the continent to face all these challenges.
How do you make sure that the met services in countries take your help and follow your plan? It must vary? Across Africa, there’s a lot of different capacities at the moment, but how do you try and align everybody’s goals so that everyone is working towards the plan?
Yes, this is a big challenge for us. Each country must implement the strategic plan. This is why with the support of the strategic plan of AMCOMET, we’ll need the support of governments in each country first. Secondly, to implement the strategic plan in these countries, we also need support from funding agencies. To release projects from the strategic plan and to find support from funding agencies to support the implementation of this plan is a very, very important issue for us.
The strategic plan of RA1 was built eight years ago. Until now we were not able to implement some actions because of lack of money and support. This is very important for infrastructure, capacity building, etc. Otherwise, we have, as you know, the GFCS and the National Framework of Climate Services can also ask to implement these actions.
So, for example, the conference happening next week, do you find that these types of events and these type of inter-governmental conferences have a big impact on making sure that everybody is working on the same plan and working in the same direction?
Yes. This conference has a big impact as all the members of ECOWAS work in the same direction. Our policy in the RA1 is to build a regional project. Funding agencies take a bigger view of West Africa and this programme is a way to have a unique view to face the challenges in the region, which is the main objective of the programme.
What are the positive impacts of having a good weather service on a country?
A good weather service will have a good impact because we ask the population and every government to take on disaster reduction first, to accompany and support economic sectors to face weather impacts. We can give information, say with climate services to economic sectors to build their resilience to climate impacts. Also, we can save lives also if weather services are strong. At least then, you can make forecasts, good early warning systems and good climate information to the economic sectors. This can improve the GDP of the country.
As you know, last June, in Abidjan we had floods and 20 people died as well as 2 billion in damages. This is really big. This is not good for the government as they could have put this money to build resilience for the population.
One of the challenges I’ve heard a lot of met directors tell me is that it’s difficult to communicate that message to the Ministry of Finance or their ministry in charge in order to receive funding. How would you combat that? Have you come across that challenge yourself?
Yes. We are willing to involve the finance ministries to resolve challenges. This is why in one axis of the strategic plan we need political support by the governments for the National Met Services. In Africa, we have lots of security issues. Until now, the weather and climate were not priorities of the government. We have education authority, poverty, security, etc., etc. And now we need to ask the government to invest in met services and disaster services, at the same level.
And are you hoping to become president full time in February?
Yes, I will apply. I want to apply because I want to work together with my colleagues to achieve our goals in Africa. I will apply in February and I hope my colleagues will elect me.
Daouda, is there anything else that you wanted to share with your colleagues around the world?
Yes. I think I will end with this. In Africa, there is a big problem with infrastructure and capacity building. This is the big, big problem for NMHS. We have asked the National Met Services in Africa to improve their actions and to improve the capacity in the continent to save lives. This is very important. We need some support. Africa needs to develop the NMHS because Africa is facing lots of impacts from climate change and the met services which are in charge of disaster risk reduction do not have the capacity to face these disasters. We need to reinforce our infrastructure, we need to reinforce the capacity building to face the disaster risk in the continent. This is my last view.