Flooding in urban areas across Africa is on the rise. The continent needs to implement risk-management techniques to ensure its cities are resilient to climate change and the devastation it can cause. This article explores possible ways Africa can build resilience against flooding in urban areas.
Across Africa the annual wet season sees our news reports and social media feeds “flooded” with images of commuters wading through rain and sewerage to get home, cars washed off roads and businesses and livelihoods floating on busy streets. Then, the cleanup begins, the news forgets, people rebuild and, before long, the process repeats.
But it shouldn’t be this way and if we don’t act now the situation will only get worse.
Take Lagos in Nigeria as an example: annual flooding in Lagos has risen in severity over recent years, as climate change progresses. In 2018 alone, flooding caused $4 billion worth of damage, costing around 4.1% of Lagos State’s GDP. The city struggles to manage and recover from these floods, which not only causes disruption to business and social activity but also threatens to eventually make the city unlivable.
Lagos is not alone. More than 70 urban areas face significant flood risks, with 171 million people in sub-Saharan Africa exposed to the dangers of flooding.
In 2019, over 1,000 people were displaced, with roads and bridges destroyed after several days of constant rain in Dar es Salaam. The same happened in 2017 and 2018. In August, at least seven people died after floodwater inundated Addis Ababa
While people will routinely think about taking out insurance for their cars and to cover their health needs, too often they don’t insure against risks like floods. In 2019, SwissRe estimated that 91% ($1 billion) of losses from climate risks in Africa were uninsured.
We need to better manage risk to make our cities more resilient to climate change and the devastation it can cause.
But where do we start? Using Lagos as an example, we combined data, interviews, and models to see how flood risk in the city could be better managed and identified five key takeaways for improvement.