Disaster Management in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policies, Institutions and Processes

Cover of Disaster Management in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policies, Institutions and Processes


Table of contents

(12 chapters)


Pages i-xx
Content available

Part I: A Review of Disaster Management Concepts and Policy Processes


Though some disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) abstractions and core concepts may appear transparently obvious to some readers, others might not easily grasp the complexities embedded in them. This chapter focusses on the main arguments connected to DRRM. It unravels some of the complexities that abound in the framing of key disaster risk reduction concepts in literature. This chapter is divided into three parts. The first part focusses on understanding the dynamics of disasters. This part revisits definitions of disasters in literature, how they have been conceptualised in academia and what makes them different from other related concepts such as hazards, crisis, vulnerabilities and emergencies. Furthermore, considering that some impacts of disasters are more obvious than others, it examines some of the less conspicuous relationships between disasters and other phenomena. The second part examines the concept of DRRM in existing literature, highlighting the importance of resilience in DRRM and revisiting key methodological approaches in building resilience among communities. The third part places the concept of DRRM within the African context. It demonstrates the delicate aspects embedded in successful DRRM in Africa amid institutional development and policy issues. This part concludes with the identification of key knowledge gaps in DRRM in Africa. These knowledge gaps identified in the wider literature are used to justify why the chapters in this book and the context covered (sub-Saharan Africa) are of utmost importance in DRRM.


Surging natural disasters globally has precipitated renewed interests in disaster risk management. Though several global and regional disaster risk management policy frameworks have been put in place, it is necessary to evaluate their successes and capacities to deliver. This chapter reviews key disaster management frameworks, particularly the Yokohama Strategy, the Hyogo Framework for Action and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It examines the extent to which these policies shaped Africa’s regional disaster risk management processes, with an emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Through documentary analysis and scientific literature review, this chapter identifies key parameters that shaped SSA’s disaster risk reduction (DRR) processes and their implications for DRR policy instruments and impact studies. The analysis reveals a number of findings. First, the roll-out process of global disaster reduction and management policy processes and instruments is yet to optimally impact SSA, in terms of effective disaster management. Second, a more comprehensive understanding of the magnitude and severity of natural disasters could contribute to stem the damages linked to their occurrence. This is yet to be achieved. Third, paradigm shifts towards fully appreciating underlying disaster risk factors and manifestations could potentially support the practical drift from disaster coping and management towards risk identification, reduction and resilience building in SSA. Finally, instruments that prioritise capacity building (such as extension services training, research and development, information and communication), organisational governance, sustainable financing and technology, still relatively weak in SSA, should be stepped up to promote DRR capacities and strategies.


Surging global natural disasters provide incentive for risk-reducing policies and strategies. In this light, the African Union (AU) engaged a multi-stakeholder policy formulation process between 2002 and 2006, to develop a continent-wide disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategy. Drawing from secondary data, this chapter assesses the process and applies qualitative analysis instruments to critically assess the AU’s disaster policy. Linkages to the 2005 international Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) are also highlighted. The analysis reveals that Africa’s policy formulation process was belated for over a decade, with respect to international expectations. The formulation process was however largely African owned and led, culminating in a strategy document that reflected African contextual reality at the time, and aligned well with HFA fundamental goals. The applied multi-stakeholder approach enhanced a spirit of participation across levels and was central to the largely successful policy formulation process. However, targeted policy outcomes were not explicit, and poorly formulated indicators marred short- and long-term policy evaluation. Based on these results, we conclude that the African-wide DRR policy formulation processes were belated but participatory, systematic and very successful. Belated policy formulation reflects an initial inertia on the African continent, justified by past negative policy experiences and the desire to succeed. A replication of this policy formulation approach in Africa is recommended, albeit exercising more caution on policy timing, the elaboration of better monitoring and evaluation instruments and criteria. Participation should further embrace modern, risk-free (anti-COVID-19-friendly) information and communication technologies.


Cameroon’s contemporary legislative and institutional frameworks for disaster risk management (DRM) encapsulate the concept of Civil Protection (CP). Diverse disaster risk profile and high incidence/frequency of co-occurring natural and human-induced hazards are intimately linked to increasing vulnerability and fragile economy, transforming hazards into emergencies, crises and disasters, with dire livelihood consequences. To curb growing disaster risks, the Cameroon government instituted basic legislative and institutional frameworks for DRM, through top-down hierarchical, and ex post decision-making processes. Existing frameworks combine multi-hazard, multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary/agency approaches. Inertia, limited foresight and proactiveness, innovation capacity and limited stakeholder involvement have rendered DRM ineffective. Existing DRM instruments are vague and not explicit. DRM lags behind a rapidly evolving disaster risk profile, and implementation is scattered across ministries/agencies, rendering cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination difficult. Although Cameroon is a signatory to many international disaster risk reduction (DRR)/DRM frameworks, and frequently participates in international DRR/DRM events, implementation of international agreements leaves much to be desired. The Directorate of Civil Protection – Cameroon’s sole legislative DRM institution is marred by bureaucracy, centralisation and insufficient power to perform. There is an urgent need to overhaul existing legislation and institutional frameworks for effective DRM in Cameroon.


Evidence abounds on surging disasters, mainly as consequences of poor risk identification and management, which have historically accompanied disaster management in many African countries. Effective management of disaster risks, whether natural or man-made, is necessary for building resilience, enhancing mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and adaptation. As part of a broad-based risk management approach, Nigeria made frantic efforts to mitigate the effects of various disasters, by establishing relevant institutions and formulating policies. In spite of these efforts, implementation outcomes have not been adequately quantified and managed. This study reviews and assesses the policies and practices of disaster risk management (DRM) vis-á-vis institutional framework in Nigeria. It utilises available data and policy documents to review and analyse Nigeria’s institutional framework. Furthermore, the study carries out implicative scenario analysis based on the current institutional framework, to match the DRM trends. It also proffers recommendations on how best institutions could drive proper DRM in Nigeria. The strengths, opportunities, gaps and constraints associated with disaster and risk reduction in Nigeria are then highlighted.

Part II: Disaster Management Institutions, Policy and Processes: Empirical Evidence


Kenya is vulnerable to multiple natural hazards that lead to disasters resulting in human, economic, environmental and other losses. The promulgation and ratification of several disaster management (DM) policies, acts, conventions and the establishment of the National Disaster Management Policy Framework has placed Kenya at the international forefront. We critically analyse various Kenyan policy institutions and processes for disaster risk management (DRM), applying a mixed-methods approach. Content analysis was applied to qualitatively analyse Kenya’s DM policy and legislation documents, using Nvivo 11 Pro. Descriptive and econometric analyses were performed on empirical data from DRM key informants in Kenya using SPSS version 25.0. Only 11% of interviewees were aware of the National Disaster Policy Framework; 50% had read up to two national DM-related documents. National institutions exert highest influence in the policy formulation (78%), compared to local and international institutions (67% and 56%, respectively). Participation of local and national institutions in national DRM policy formulation was high (mean scores of 2.44/4 and 1.67/4, respectively). A weak correlation was observed between years of experience (r = 0.115, p = 0.768), and a positive but insignificant one between experience and participation in DRM policy formulation. Based on the aforementioned, we suggest that Kenya’s disaster risk reduction (DRR) implementation benefits from the high human capacity and high level of participation. However, the performance of frontline staff needs to be improved, especially regarding their knowledge of existing national DRM frameworks.


As South Africa (SA) increasingly becomes overwhelmed by natural disasters, understanding disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies, institutions, processes and practices and their effects on disaster risk management (DRM) are incumbent The study reviews and empirically analyses policies, institutional frameworks and processes for disaster management in SA. Content analysis is applied to review topical secondary data, while a structured questionnaire informed by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is used to collect quantitative data from a random sample of 228 disaster policy actors from five disaster-stricken metropolitan cities in five provinces in SA, namely North-West, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Empirical data were analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. Research findings reveal that SA is endowed with rich institutional policy and legal frameworks for DRM, based on the concepts of decentralisation and stakeholder participation. A positive and strong correlation between institutional framework, disaster risk identification and prioritisation, knowledge creation and management (KCM) as well as the disaster governance and DRM in SA (p = 0.000). Although the coefficient of KCM is not statistically significant, DRM behaviour was influenced at 87.2% by all four variables. Based on the recent disaster experiences and the above results, we advocate for DRR to be continuously prioritised at national and decentralised levels, to enhance effective preparedness, mitigation, disaster response and resilience building practices in SA.


In recent years, there have been calls on African countries to develop disaster governance system that recognises the complex nature of disaster events and reflects how their impact can prevent governments from achieving their development objectives. This chapter examines Ghana’s response to the calls by exhuming disaster management policies and the missing links in their implementation. This research was approached by comprehensively reviewing literature related to the subject. The review was supported by field-based interviews involving key stakeholders, some of whom are directly involved with disaster policy planning and implementation. The results show that even though there are several disaster management policies, they are fragmented and found within several institutions, a situation that has created some missing links in their implementation. For instance, poor collaboration and coordination among disaster management institutions hampered efforts towards disaster risk prevention, preparedness and mitigation which are viewed as cross-cutting themes in disaster management. Even more intriguing, critical stakeholders such as community groups who often play important roles in rescue and recovery operations and continue to render humanitarian services after official operations have ended are excluded from the everyday decision-making processes. Empirically, this chapter draws attention to how endogenous interventions that are deeply rooted in the culture of the people that could support well-crafted disaster legislations are often ignored. This chapter concludes that these missing links need to be addressed in order to make Ghana resilient to disaster.



Pages 267-274
Content available
Cover of Disaster Management in Sub-Saharan Africa: Policies, Institutions and Processes
Publication date