sub-Saharan Africa

GEM in Africa - a progress report

In collaboration with local experts, institutions and stakeholders and with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the GEM Foundation started the Sub-Saharan Africa Hazard and Risk Assessment (SSAHARA) project in October 2014. With the main objective of building capacity for earthquake risk assessment and management in the region, this project has already produced relevant results for eight countries of Eastern Africa and Ghana.

Training and Capacity develompent

While all the activities are being implemented in collaboration with experts, institutions and stakeholders in the region, three Regional Junior Scientists, one for each of the component of the analysis, have also been hired by GEM as a key component of the local ownership and capacity development aspects of the project’s implementation.
GEM has been liaising with the GFDRR team of the World Bank on the incorporation of a GEM’s Regional Training on Risk Assessment in Africa as an integral part of the their Understanding Risk & Finance Conference in Addis Ababa on November 17-20, 2015. 20 participants from eight African countries and a regional organization have been nominated by their Governments to attend and in 2016, GEM will organize a second workshop to provide hands-on training on tools for risk assessment and present the final results of the SSAHARA project.

This project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of GEM and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Understanding earthquake risk in Sub-Saharan Africa


The overall objective of this component is the collaborative preparation of a Regional Hazard Model along the East African Rift in partnership with Africa Array. The model preparation is entering into its final stages. An updated strain rate model for the East African Rift has been released as a result of a collaboration between US and African scientists, and it will be used for building one of the source models. The next step will be integrating this information into the hazard model building process, for a final release scheduled for March 2016.

Fig.1 A. Input GPS data and modeled velocities. B. Strain rate tensor field. Red = extension, black = compression. C. The second invariant of the strain rate tensor. D. The trace of the strain rate tensor.


For this component, the overall objectives are the collaborative preparation of the Regional Risk Model for Sub-Saharan Africa and city scenario analysis for Addis Ababa. Exposure models and physical vulnerability functions have been developed for the most common buildings classes found in Eastern Sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, and Rwanda). These models facilitate the understanding of the susceptibility of the different building types to suffer damage due to earthquakes. Moreover, they are a key component to evaluate earthquake risk at regional, national and subnational levels. The country of Ghana has also been incorporated in the project to allow understanding the physical and socio-economic characteristics of a West-African country with a population of more than 25 million people.

Fig 3 Distribution of dwellings in Ethiopia (CR=reinforced concrete, MUR=unreinforced masonry, EU=unreinforced earthen, W=wood, UNK=unknown)

Social Vulnerability

A regional database of socio economic indicators is being developed as part of an effort to assess the social vulnerability (i.e. characteristics within social systems that create the potential for loss) of populations. Data was collected in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Burundi and DRC, covering a range of social and economic vulnerabilities, drawing on demographic, economic, health and infrastructure data.

Fig 4 Socioeconomic vulnerabilities affect the impact of natural events on a community and its capacity to recover