Priority research topics

Priority research topics

1. Emission of greenhouse gases

Africa contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission is the lowest and stands at 4% due to the low level of industrialization. Consequently, several African countries have considered themselves as being net carbon sinks and/or carbon neutral. However, extensive land-use change occurring in many tropical countries including deforestation and other forms of land degradation; emergence of more Mega Cities may raise significantly the greenhouse gas emission of the continent. There are relatively few studies estimating GHG emissions in the Sub-Saharan Africa, especially within the agricultural sector. Also, comparative studies across major land-use types are scarce. The majority of practices and techniques for adaptation to climate change that are now being advocated are largely based on knowledge generated in other parts of the world; whose estimate is heavily reliant on the lower tier IPCC methodologies. Measurements to validate the efficiency of some of practices being promoted in order to improve decision-making regarding climate change adaptation and mitigation are needed.

2. Predicting climate hazards and disasters through improved climate modelling

a. Climate Hazards and disaster risks assessment

Various parts of the continent are facing several hazards including climatological (drought, wildfire, heat waves), hydrological (flood and flash flood), meteorological (Tropical cyclones and hurricanes, heavy storms) and biological hazards among others – 29285-6). Drought is the most studied hazard across Africa. A large part of Africa is susceptible to drought, and as such several drought episodes have been registered, and have been reported to become more frequent, intense and widespread. Wildfires have been more localized particularly in the recent history in Zimbabwe and Lesotho. It is ignited naturally by lightning and peat; respectively. Heat waves have been caused by the warming over the past century. Increase in the incidence of extreme temperatures as well as longer heat waves have been observed in several parts of the continent. As temperatures are expected to continue rising in the future, heat waves are predicted to also become more frequent particularly in urban areas.

Understanding the drivers of droughts in Africa is key to understanding and predicting the drought characteristics (i.e., location, area coverage, intensity, and duration) and its propagation in both present- day and future climates. Previous studies on African droughts have often focused on understanding individual influence processes on drought by establishing statistical relationships between climate variables or indices.

Both riverine and flash floods are devastating. The increased frequency of heavy rainfall in different regions of the continent is likely to induce a lot of damage on infrastructure and crops, trigger landslides, and spread diseases. More multi-scale studies are needed to predict incidence and severity of the floods and propose their management.

Tornados are among the most severe and destructive of all-weather phenomena. Hailstorms are associated with thunderstorm activity caused by intense convection and occur in areas such as the South African Highveld, causing damage to property, crops and livestock. The forecasting of tornadoes and hailstorms is challenging as their effects are localized in the Indian Ocean islands and of relatively short duration (30 minutes), though they can penetrate as far as 1000 km inland. There are no warning systems for tornadoes and hailstorms anywhere in Africa currently, yet 12 cyclones are reported to occur annually making Madagascar, Comoros and Mozambique more vulnerable to this hazard. There is concern that Atlantic Ocean hurricanes could affect West African countries such as Senegal. Further research is needed to assess the risk.

b. Hazards which affect climate

Dust storms are also another form of hazard on the continent that is known to alter air quality, affecting animals, plants and the weather – Natural and Human-Induced Hazards and Disasters in Africa on JSTOR. The Sahel region is one of the largest sources of dust storms in the world. Summer dust storms are associated with convective rain-bearing storm systems, whereas winter dust storms are associated with the Harmattan winds. This hazard is associated with the lethal meningitis outbreaks that often hit the Sahel and Caribbean regions and it is believed to affect hurricane activity. Understanding the future pathway of this hazard and its likely effect on geo-chemical processes is key in prediction of future hurricanes.

c. Better climate prediction

(i) Improving prediction of extreme rainfall events by atmospheric models.

Numerical weather prediction models are an integral part of operational weather forecasting. Output from these models can assist with decision making to reduce the impacts of disasters from extreme rainfall events (like thunderstorms, mesoscale convective systems, tropical cyclones).

(ii) Improving climate change projections over Africa.

Application of climate change projection tools/products and innovation are increasingly becoming important for climate change impact studies and adaptation strategies in Africa. However, the reliability of the tools/products depends on the accuracy of the projections. The call for innovation grants invites proposals that aim to: 1) propose and develop new products; 2) improve existing products; 3) improve the reliability of climate ad weather projections that feed into those products; 4) enable a more inclusive and equitable use of those products, etc….

3. Assessment of impacts of climate change and adaptation practices using AI

Changes to temperature and precipitation have immediate implications for food production and security, water and energy availability among others across the continent. There is need to determine the efficiency of currently used adaptation practices on crop yields, and associated impacts on the environment.
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4. Climate smart agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is widely acknowledged and promoted approach for reorienting agricultural  development    under  climate change conditions ( It is a multi-dimensional approach targeting productivity, adaptation, and mitigation in the context of increasing scarcity of resources induced by demographic pressure and poor management, uncertainty surrounding climate impacts, and the spatio- temporal scales dependencies that may affect the efficiency of CSA adoption (Climate-Smart-Agriculture (

5. Climate smart cities development

It is anticipated that much of the urban development will come from the developing world by 2050. It is forecasted that African cities with more than five million inhabitants will rise from six million in 2015 to 17 million by 2030 and cities with over ten million people will increase from three to five, and these will include Cairo, Lagos, Kinshasa, Dar es Salaam and Luanda. Cities are increasingly feeling the effects of extreme weather (

6. Climate change, landscapes and renewable energy

Projected climate changes are likely to have profound effects on ecological processes in and functioning of landscapes. This will be manifested through change in land use/cover, ecosystem services, as well as the behaviour of humans ( There is need to understand the trajectory of decarbonisation of the landscape and develop more compatible energy systems for landscapes.

7. Climate change and water resources

Accurate and adequate monitoring of hydrological systems and water resources is still lacking in many parts of the continent compromising the possibility of meaningful planning of the increasing scarce resources (Addressing Climate Change in Long-Term Water Resources Planning and Management (

8. Climate change and biodiversity

Climate change is affecting plant and animal diversity and subsequently the eco-systemic services. Several studies have shown that the loss in biodiversity occurred in the past years due to human activities (agriculture, fishing, hunting, charcoal production etc). The loss of biodiversity has affected CO2 absorption and impact rainy seasons.

9. Gender

Gender inclusion in climate change is paramount and will generate significant gains for the agricultural sector and for society. This could raise total agricultural output and reduce the number of hungry people on the continent. There are good reasons to expect that women inclusion and gender equity generates dynamics that lend themselves to radical innovation, including in climate sciences and Artificial Intelligence.

10. Responsible Artificial Intelligence and climate science

 Society must provide responsible solutions to the likely impacts of climate change in different sectors. The use of Artificial Intelligence may, to a varying extent, contribute to climate change and may also, in various ways, contribute to the acceleration of mitigation and adaptation to climate change ( The ethical issues raised by the dual role that AI may play, and many other issues related to privacy and risk for bias call for consideration of four aspects in deploying AI. These include usefulness, freedom, justice and responsibility (Bostrom, 2011). Building capacity in responsible AI on the continent is key in knowledge generation, technological innovations and systems integration of AI and climate applications within highly-regulated sectors such as energy, transportation, agriculture, and heavy industry.