Executive development

Henley training to strengthen meteorological leadership in face of climate crisis

As extreme weather continues to batter Africa, weather service organisations from around the world attended a ground-breaking training programme, hosted by Henley Africa in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the South African Weather Service (SAWS), to gain new skills and tools to lead in the face of climate change.

Heads of nearly 60 weather service organisations or National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) from across Africa and other parts of the world descended on Johannesburg at the end of October for a week-long, intensive leadership development initiative developed by Henley Africa.

The extraordinary gathering was part of an initiative to ensure that managers and leaders in this critical sector are better equipped to address the demands posed by climate change, severe weather, variable weather patterns and subsequent environmental disasters on the continent and beyond.

“As the catastrophic Libyan floods earlier this year show all too clearly, Africa's open wounds of widespread poverty, food insecurity, infrastructure degradation, and ongoing conflict mean it's the continent most vulnerable to the devastating effects of the shifting climate,” comments Henley Africa dean and director, Jon Foster-Pedley.

“We have to bolster our continent's capacity to deal with change,” he adds. “It's a mammoth task, and no one is going to do it for us. We will need really good leaders and managers at all levels to show the way. And business schools have a key role to play here to equip leaders to think and act differently.”

Accordingly, Henley Africa teamed up with the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to design the programme for managers and leaders in weather services organisations to strengthen leadership capacity and bolster informed decision making. Delegates from African nations, including Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Rwanda, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as countries from outside the continent including Barbados, Samoa, Maldives, Ecuador and Guyana attended.

“We are honoured that the WMO chose Henley Africa is its conduit of learning.” says Linda Buckley, Head of Learning Experience and Executive Education Director at Henley. “To us at Henley, we are excited to see learnings from the week translate into practice in delegates’ contexts to help build a safer continent and world for all,”

One of the aims of the programme is to support the United Nations’ Early Warnings for All initiative, which is aimed at ensuring every person on the planet is protected from dangerous weather, water or climate related events by way of an early warning system.

According to Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary General, between 1970 and 2021 Africa accounted for more than 35% of weather, climate and water-related fatalities. “Yet only 40% of the African population has access to early warning systems – the lowest rate of any region in the world.”

Speaking ahead of the programme, Ishaam Abader, SAWS chief executive officer and South Africa’s representative with the WMO, said that in the face of highly destructive and often deadly weather events, governments, the commercial and industrial sectors and, most importantly, communities are looking to NMHSs for forecasts that will inform their decision making.

“For this reason, we need to constantly capacitate ourselves to stay ahead of the curve. Doing so will put us on course to live up to the ideal of ensuring that everyone is protected from hazardous weather or climate events in the four-year timeline set for the Early Warnings for All initiative.”

The South African Weather Service, as an active and respected member of the WMO, was hosting the training programme with Henley for the second time, after the successful session that took place in 2019. Experienced Henley Africa facilitators Rashika Padarath, Samuel Njenga and François Améguidé were joined by Ezanne Swanepoel, author, business coach and CEO at the African Rainmaker Group, to present on topics including complex adaptative systems, purposeful leadership and evolving with agility in a changing world.

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Photo caption:  Henley faculty making the magic happen. From left: Samuel Njenga, Ezanne Swanepoel, Rashika Padarath, Linda Buckley, and François Améguidé

The WMO programme is part of several initiatives that Henley Business School is driving to advance bold climate leadership on the continent. Earlier this year, the school published a whitepaper: Climate action: an existential priority for African business schools, that has been a rallying call for African business schools to work together to understand the impact and extent of the problem and sow the seeds for provocation and change – and ultimately, hope – throughout the continent.

“As a bridge between the power players and society, business schools have a duty to advance widespread systems change and influence the adoption of relevant policies to drive action on the continent,” concludes Foster-Pedley.


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