Scientists from across Africa began a week-long meeting in Nairobi on Monday, 12 August 2019 to discuss the use of space technology to tackle climate change and other weather-related disasters on the continent.
The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) International Conference (RIC) has brought together delegates from across the continent to discuss and formulate ideas toward the utilisation of earth observation and geospatial technology in development and decision-making. The conference, organised by RCMRD, focuses on agriculture and food security, weather and climate, water and water-related disasters, land use, administration and management, and the creation of innovation hubs.
Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of Defense, in opening the meeting opined that the program will develop a continental service that will enable African nations to track changes across their countries in unprecedented detail.
“Data is transformative power that is capable of uplifting life by making the right decisions and controlling wastage and people must hunger for this data to transform countries quicker,” said Omamo.
She called on African countries to embrace the technology which, after all, is being offered freely.
Various leaders, who spoke at some points during the Conference, applauded the efforts of the organizers of the Conference and pledged their support to leverage Earth observation data and geospatial technologies in decision-making.
Dr William Samoei Ruto, Kenya’s Deputy President, in his speech said, “We want to be free from vulnerability of natural disasters and climate change that lay waste the hopes of nations and people. Our investment in the preconditions for socio-economic uplift of our people must be insured by evidence-based decision making.”
We want to be free from vulnerability of natural disasters and climate change that lay waste the hopes of nations and people. Our investment in the preconditions for socio-economic uplift of our people must be insured by evidence-based decision making. #RIC2019 pic.twitter.com/WQer7fNM5A
— William Samoei Ruto, PhD (@WilliamsRuto) August 13, 2019
The symposium also introduced the Digital Earth Africa programme, a continental-scale platform using satellite data for decision-ready information and insights of environmental conditions to drive decision-making. The core technology behind the programme comes from Australia, which implemented the first operational data cube, and will scale up the technology to the African continent by calling on the Geoscience Australia experience.
Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara, Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, said the initiative is a timely occasion that will go a long way to mitigate the effects of climate change.
William Kwasi Sabi, Ghana’s Deputy Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation, said that African countries will benefit from the big data by using the freely available information for routine decision-ready information and services.
On his part, Oliver Chinganya, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)’s African Centre for Statistics, said that the platform will offer inputs for deliberating and assisting in policy-making in Africa.
Geospatial technology is crucial for #Africa‘s #transformative #development agenda, says @ECA_OFFICIAL‘s Oliver Chinganya in a keynote address as continent marks #DigitalEarthAfricaDay. #SDGs #Data #EconomicDevelopment #Kenya
— ECA (@ECA_OFFICIAL) August 13, 2019
Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Already experiencing temperature increases, and with predictions that temperatures will rise further, Africa is facing a wide range of impacts, including increased drought and floods. In the near future, climate change will contribute to decreases in food production, floods and inundation of its coastal zones and deltas, spread of waterborne diseases and risk of malaria, and changes in natural ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.
“Given Africa’s size & geospatial context, we need information & data to drive strategic development. Geospatial applications are becoming driving force for Continental development. There is a competitive market for this data,”@OliverChinganya @ECA_OFFICIAL#DEAfricaDay#RIC2019
— Digital Earth Africa (@DEarthAfrica) August 12, 2019
Observing and monitoring Africa’s weather and climate is vital to understanding global trends. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, greater investment is needed in Africa’s meteorological and hydrological services and weather tracking stations, to ensure complete global coverage of weather and climate and to provide local data to plan for climate risks.
The RCMRD is an inter-governmental organisation formed in 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union to provide services in surveying, mapping, remote sensing, geographic information system and information and communication technology to its 20 members. Its mission is to promote sustainable development through generation, application and dissemination of Geo-Information and allied Information Communication Technology (ICT) services and products in its member States and beyond. RCMRD programmes are oriented towards sustainable applications in natural resource management, infrastructure and environmental management, utilising Geo-Information Technologies.
— Digital Earth Africa (@DEarthAfrica) August 12, 2019
Jerry Chiemeke is an editor, writer and mental health advocate. His works have appeared in Bellanaija, True Nollywood Stories, Music In Africa and The Guardian, among others. Jerry is the winner of the 2017 Ken Saro Wiwa Prize for Reviews. He is a Senior Editor at Space in Africa.