Madagascar was the first African nation to invest in tropical cyclone insurance with ARC Ltd and the US$10.7m pay out by ARC Ltd. following cyclone Batsirai helped island nation to rebuild.

The unusually protracted journey cyclone Freddy led across the Indian Ocean this past month was a stark reminder of the vulnerability African nations like Madagascar grapple with, in the face of hazards such as tropical cyclones that could worsen with climate change.

As the world watched Freddy travel a vast distance across the South Indian Ocean from the northwest coast of Australia to island nations thousands of miles away, Madagascar braced itself for another battering – just over a year after cyclone Batsirai wreaked havoc, one of four storms that hit the island nation that year.    

Moving across Madagascar last week, cyclone Freddy brought with it a storm surge of between one to two metres and 175km per hour winds, according to KinetiCast™, an online platform providing global insights on tropical cyclone hazards and impacts. KinetiCast™ is run by Kinetic Analysis Corporation, which created the tropical cyclone model for Africa’s premier institution for disaster risk financing on and for the African continent, African Risk Capacity Limited. The real-time-data it produces powers ARC Ltd.’s Tropical Cyclone Explorer and led to a pay out of US$10.7m to Madagascar last year to help the country recover from the effects of cyclone Batsirai.

Kinetic Analysis Corporation’s CEO, Richard Murnane, explains: “We use data generated by official agencies such as the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre and Meteo France La Réunion, among others, to generate a geospatial footprint of the hazards associated with a tropical cyclone – winds, waves, storm surge and rainfall – as well as its impact and damage in terms of populations affected and purchasing power parity losses.”

While cyclone Freddy brought less rain than feared, it flattened rice fields and fruit trees, damaged property, displayed 11,000 people and killed five people.

“In the case of cyclone Freddy, almost two million people in Madagascar were subjected to hurricane-strength winds and over 20,000 were in areas subject to storm surge,” Murnane adds.

Due to its geographical position, Madagascar has borne the brunt of the south-west Indian Ocean cyclone season which runs from November to April.  Last year, it brought several storms to the African island nation’s shores including the devastating cyclone Batsirai, tropical storm Ana, tropical storm Dumako and tropical storm Emnati.

Besides the loss of life, these storms bring flooding, wind damage, destruction to property and infrastructure, and landslides. Villages and towns are cut off, people displaced, schools destroyed, and access to clean drinking water, electricity and supplies severely hampered. In the case of Batsirai, some 121 people were killed and 75,000 displaced.

However, Madagascar is covered within ARC Ltd.’s parametric insurance risk-pooling facility – the first African country to have signed up for sovereign parametric cyclone insurance protection since the organisation launched its cyclone product in the second half of 2020. The country took out a policy, fully co-financed by KfW Development Bank and ADRiFi Multi-Donor Trust Fund.  

“Based on ARC Ltd.’s tropical cyclone model, we identified that more than six million people were exposed to cyclone Batsirai. Shortly after the cyclone, ARC Ltd. made a pay out of US$10.7m to enable the country to start rebuilding,” says Lesley Ndlovu, CEO ARC Ltd.

“Our parametric insurance triggers ensure rapid deployment so that assistance can reach those who need it most and lives can be saved. Unlike traditional insurance policies, intended to return the insured back into the position they were in prior to an insured event, parametric insurance covers the probability of a predefined event happening instead of indemnifying actual loss incurred.” 

Without parametric insurance, vulnerable nations such as Madagascar would be unable to respond swiftly and effectively, to help build back better. ARC Ltd. already has 35 African Union members that have access to its ARC Ltd. risk transfer services.

There are ongoing efforts to ensure that more countries sign up to support this mechanism and endorse it as Africa’s solution to the growing threats of natural disasters. 

Press Release issued on behalf of African Risk Capacity Limited

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