The dreadful tragedies of eight school children killed and 23 injured by lightning in one incident in Uganda on July 24 and the two school children killed in Kenya this week remind us of the thousands of people who are killed every year across Africa by lightning and other weather hazards. The African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics (ACLE) headquartered at Makerere University Business School was formed to decrease these tragedies by giving public safety and injury prevention education, mounting warning systems, providing graduate education to train lightning and weather experts for Africa, pressing for lightning protection in schools and other vital public buildings, training lightning protection specialists and a range of other activities. National Centres in countries across Africa act as partners in this effort utilizing their particular regional and local knowledge, personnel and talents.
In addition to loss of life, lightning and other weather hazards can cause damage to infrastructure, utility transmission, electronics, oil and gas installations and other equipment that is vital to day-to-day life as well as to the greater development of the economies of Africa. Beyond the immediate effect, there is ‘‘down-time’ and loss of productivity, cost of equipment replacement and repair, loss of data and records, and other retarding effects on economic activity. For individuals, families, and small businesses, it may include food spoilage, loss of employment time and profit.
ACLE proposes to participate in the Lake Victor Basin Commission call for projects by forming partnerships with weather detection companies, national and local meteorological programs, telecommunications programs and others to provide weather warnings to people living near and depending on Lake Victoria for their livelihood. In addition, ACLE proposes to work with media and educators to disseminate lightning safety information, collect data on injuries and to use the data to study the effectiveness of any interventions to determine ‘best practices’ that may be effective for other venues.
ACLE looks forward to contributing to the safety and wellbeing of the people of Africa, allowing them greater security in which to raise their families and pursue their work as well as to contribute to the growing prosperity of the African business and technological communities.
Prof. Emerita MaryAnn Cooper