Flooding in South Africa: Understanding Risk

Flooding is not a new phenomenon in South Africa, indeed there are areas that are well known for annual flooding of varying severity. These include the KwaZulu Natal coastline and the city of Ladysmith in the same province, which floods almost every year. In April 2022 one of the most significant floods in recent memory hit KwaZulu Natal, covered by one of JBA’s detailed event reports

According to a paper published in the South African Geographical Journal the April 2022 floods were likely “the most catastrophic natural disaster yet recorded in KZN” (Bang and Nash, 2023). In the months since the event, more floods followed in various parts of the country with Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and the Kruger Park all being affected.

The cost of flooding is high. In the April 2022 flood there were many lives lost with some people still unaccounted for today. Infrastructure, roads and livelihoods were all badly impacted. The KZN government estimated the cost of the damage of that event at the time was over R17bn (USD $0.9bn), (Times Live, 2022) but it is likely to be more than that.

The 2022 event came just three years after the flooding which affected Durban over Easter 2019, which led to at least 85 deaths and costs of over $100bn. (JBA Risk Management, 2022)

Within the South Africa insurance sector, the recent floods have served as a wake-up call. The reality of the levels of flood risk and the associated potential impact has elevated flood to a primary hazard. Flooding and how we might manage and mitigate risk is now a key focus.

In a recent podcast for South Africa’s Cover Magazine, New National’s Althaf Rajab explains the importance of understanding flood risk in South Africa and how New National intends to use JBA flood risk intelligence to underwrite both commercial and personal risk. It’s also making the data available to its brokers and underwriting agents, optimising the reach and effectiveness of this property-level flood risk insight. 

Today JBA works with several insurers and reinsurance brokers in South Africa to enable them to better understand and underwrite flood risk. JBA flood data allows you to view flood risk at any risk address – at property level - and understand how likely that property is to flood and to what sort of depth that might occur. The data is available in different formats for ease of use and integration, and you can consider current day view and climate change scenarios for a future view of risk to give you a more complete picture.

Most importantly JBA flood risk intelligence, in whichever format you want to use it, allows you to see which areas or properties are more susceptible to flooding, enabling more informed decision-making around risk pricing but also around preparedness, mitigation and resilience. If you would like to discuss flood risk maps, models and data available for South Africa, please get in touch.


Taylor & Francis, 2023. A new flood chronology for KwaZulu-Natal (1836–2022): the April 2022 Durban floods in historical context. [online]. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03736245.2023.2193758 [Accessed 04 July 2023]

TimesLIVE, 2022. R17bn — That’s the estimated cost of KZN floods damage. [online]. Available at: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2022-04-24-almost-r1-trillion-thats-what-it-will-cost-sa-to-rebuild-kzn/ [Accessed 04 July 2023]

JBA Risk Management, 2022. South Africa Kwazulu-Natal Floods: https://www.jbarisk.com/products-services/event-response/south-africa-kwazulu-natal-floods/