FOCUS-Africa 2024 Editorial


Roberta Boscolo, WMO

As the FOCUS-Africa project enters its final year, this message marks my last communication through this channel. It’s with a blend of emotions that I pen this closing editorial. I feel a profound sense of achievement; our efforts over the last three years have been substantial and transformative. The dedication of our consortium and every individual involved has propelled this project to exceed all expectations. This exceptional teamwork and the achievements we’ve realized have earned recognition from our funder, the European Commission, during routine evaluations. However, the upcoming conclusion of FOCUS-Africa brings a touch of melancholy, as I have cherished every moment of our collaboration and learned immensely from all participants. This journey has been remarkable, fuelled by Africa’s splendour and driven by the continent’s urgent need to bolster its climate resilience.

The WorkPackage 2 led by CSIR completed their work on user engagement for prioritizing development needs and identify realistic adaptation options. Such efforts emphasized that understanding the local social, economic, political, and cultural contexts for assessing climate risk and vulnerability, is essential for achieving impacts on increasing climate resilience. One of their final deliverables focused on the assessment of climate risks to the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus, emphasizing the growing issues of water scarcity, high population growth, and energy demand. The growing demands from high population growth, irrigation-dependent agriculture, and hydroelectric power stress the region’s water resources. These factors underscore the urgent need for improved water security to support agriculture, energy production, and industrial development. Additionally, despite potential for hydropower, challenges like energy access and affordability persist, with countries like Malawi seeing around 90% of households without electricity. Food security is also under threat, with limited water and energy resources impacting agricultural productivity and increasing costs. The report suggests that these climate risks provide an opportunity for systematic positive change through evidence-based climate adaptation strategies, aiming to secure a sustainable future for water, energy, and food systems in the region.

The WorkPackage 4 led by BSC also completed their work on developing methods and tools for: 1) improving the understanding of the seasonal predictability of the Essential Climate Variables (ECV) and indicators needed for the proposed climate services; 2)  improving the reliability of the forecasts through the application of bias correction approaches, including novel techniques such as ML (Machine Learning); 3) coordinating and assessing the added value of novel multi-model approaches at seasonal, decadal and climate projection scales from the recent public repositories available; 4) assessing the long-term influences of climate in the areas of the case studies; and 5) identifying the best downscaling methodologies to regionalize the information of GCMs to the studied areas.

For the application of multi-model and downscaling methodologies for seasonal forecasts, climate projections, and decadal predictions the study found that:

1. Seasonal Forecasts: using equal model weights generally yields the best skill across various African regions, though some models perform better in specific subregions.

2. Decadal Predictions: Multi-model approaches show equivalent or superior skill compared to individual models across different sub-regions. Bias-correction and downscaling are noted to enhance the applicability of data sets for operational forecasting, though they do not significantly improve prediction skill.

3. Climate Projections: there are significant benefits from bias-correction of GCM outputs using advanced methodologies, especially in representing the tails of distributions. Multi-model ensembles weighted equally proved effective, and projections show increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events.

The creation and validation of various climate indices, utilizing the most effective prediction and post-processing techniques (such as bias-correction, multi-model approaches, and downscaling) across different time scales was then detailed as well as customized to support specific case studies under Work Packages 5 and 6, which focus on developing tailored climate services and assessing their socio-economic value, respectively. Overall, the work conducted in WP4 has successfully integrated scientific and technical knowledge with practical insights from case studies. This approach has ensured the production of scientifically robust climate indices and indicators, which are also finely tuned to the specific needs of the end-users involved in the FOCUS-Africa project.

Great progress was also achieved by Workpackage 5 led by WEMC, in charge of developing end-user tailored climate services prototypes. The current focus is on the co-production of climate services. This phase follows the initial collation of outputs for developing prototypes and the co-design and co-development stages. The co-production process encompasses co-design, co-development, delivery, and co-evaluation, emphasizing continuous interaction with users and stakeholders, facilitating learning and avoiding duplication. There are two platforms under development: the Teal tool for historical climate data and seasonal forecasts, and a Shiny app for multi-annual forecasts, which have been actively co-evaluated with users, particularly during missions to Malawi and Tanzania in late 2023. The primary beneficiaries of these tools are the Tanzania Meteorological Authority and the Malawian Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, whose involvement is crucial for the sustainability and impact of these services.

While the Workpackage 6 led by LGI completed the ex-ante socio-economic impact assessment for Focus Africa’s eight climate services (CS) across five countries: South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Mauritius. The analysis includes four major impact categories: Inclusive Economic Growth; Food, Water, Energy Nexus; Governance, Innovation, Partnership & Capacity Building; and Sector Resilience to Climate Change. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to assess potential impacts of each CS at local and sectoral levels, considering how the services can enhance operational performance in their respective areas. The assessment emphasized the importance of continuing the co-design process with users, focusing on local needs and feedback to enhance service usability and applicability at broader regional and national levels.

Capacity building also should be prioritized among users to ensure effective use and sustainability of the climate services. The development of a financial model to support dissemination and maintenance costs of the climate services, along with an ex-post impact assessment to measure and validate the socio-economic impacts, are recommended.

Regarding capacity building, the Workpackage 7 led by ACMAD is organizing training sessions with representatives of the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in the SADC region. The training sessions are being delivered in three stages and structured according to the WMO competency framework for climate services which include (i) data and data management, (ii) climate data processing and derived products, (iii) climate model outputs and forecasts interpretation, (iv) climate services quality assurance and (v) climate services communication (User-Interface).

  • Stage 1 will be delivered online between 11 April and 30th June 2024 and will focus on providing Trainer of Trainees (ToT) fundamental knowledge on FOCUS Africa knowledge products and tools. The sessions are planned for up to a maximum of two/three hours per week.
  • Stage 2 will be an in-person training between 01 July and 06 July 2024 where ToT will interact with FOCUS Africa knowledge products and tools through practical demonstration and testing.
  • Stage 3 will be an in-person training during Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-29) and Climate Expert Meeting (CEM-30) in August 2024 and it will focus on practical application of the FOCUS Africa tools, and the results presented during the SARCOF-30 User Interface Platform (UIP).

FOCUS-Africa is scheduled to conclude its operations by the end of 2024, however, its final conference is set for June 2024 in Brussels. This event will be a collaborative celebration with sister projects CONFER and DOWN2Earth, highlighting the collective achievements of all three initiatives. The conference will serve as a platform to enhance visibility of the accomplishments, while also addressing the existing gaps in the comprehensive climate service value chain in Africa. During this gathering, FOCUS-Africa will present a policy brief, currently in development, to stakeholders in Brussels.

Although FOCUS-Africa will cease its activities at the end of 2024, the momentum for climate services in Africa will continue. The FOCUS-Africa consortium is committed to ensuring that the project’s legacy is carried forward through future initiatives and local institutions.

Stay tuned!