For the last decade, one can clearly recognize the increased occurrences and reporting of lightning related effects to both the industrial sector and the civil life in Africa. Most importantly, lightning causes human casualties.
Lightning can ignite fires, particularly in thatch, bringing down an entire building or a house to ashes. At a lower degree of damage, the lightning current may destroy essential electrical, electronic and communication equipment. One of the most significant losses that lightning may cause, as far as industries are concerned, is the downtime. A few hours of interruption to normal operation or the loss of important data stored in a computer may cause a company economic losses of several million dollars.
Global lightning occurrence maps, based on satellite data, show that many parts of the African continent have more lightning per square kilometer than nearly any other part of the world. However, until recently, the international community received little information on the severity of lightning accidents on the ‘Dark’ Continent. Perhaps because it was a televised game, the first major lightning accident in Africa, reported in 1998, was an incident where 11 players of a single football team were killed by lightning in the Eastern Province of Kasai in Democratic Republic of Congo (World: Africa “Lightning kills football team,” BBC News, 28th October 1998). The original news report (L’Avenir/Kinshasa) stated that more than 30 spectators had received severe burns whereas the players of the other team who were in the field with the victims came away unscathed. Although scientific papers have been written about the theoretical mechanisms of injury in this disaster, the actual details of the incident were never investigated as the region of incident was inaccessible due to civil unrest in Congo.
Historically, there have been several important lightning protection conferences that led to the formation of the African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics Network, supported in large part by NAM S&T (Centre for Science & Technology of Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries):
Despite the short life of ACLENet, it has made significant progress with national centres being formed, collaboration with meteorology services, award of a major grant Read More, work with governments on building codes, many exciting plans for graduate, primary and public education, and the ‘Lightning Kills! Save a Life in Africa’ program for providing lightning protection to schools.