Excerpts from the 13th AARSE International Conference

Between 24 – 28 October 2022, the 13th AARSE International Conference (AARSE 2022) was held in Kigali, Rwanda to focus on Earth observations and geospatial science to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The five-day event themed “Space and geospatial technologies for the Africa we want” was organised by the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) and the Institut d’Enseignement Supérieur de Ruhengeri (Ines-Ruhengeri) in partnership with Rwanda Space Agency and Space in Africa. Furthermore, the conference was sponsored by GMES and Africa, the Regional Centre For Mapping Of Resources For Development (RCMRD), Airbus, European Space Technology (ESA), Digital Earth Africa, and TOP5SAI with Space in Africa and Rwanda Space Agency 

AARSE 2022 was significant because it remains the most comprehensive continental Earth observation (EO) and geospatial science conference primarily designed for interactions between African and International EO experts, geospatial information and spatial data infrastructure administrators, policymakers, scientists, users, and others.

Attendees at the conference. Source: AARSE
Attendees at the conferences. Source: AARSE
Attendees at the conference. Source: AARSE

In addition, the conference brought together several Agency stakeholders, government representatives, academia, representatives of space agencies, and young professionals in an interactive forum that showcases current projects and innovations within the EO and geospatial science segment and provides an opportunity for linkages and collaboration within the African space ecosystem. The conference featured keynote speeches, interactive sessions, panel discussions, a hackathon, and unique networking opportunities throughout the five days. 

While describing the aim of the event, the Coordinator of GMES & Africa, Dr Ouattara Tidiane, noted that the AARSE conference is an essential tool to facilitate the growth of private sector involvement in the EO industry in Africa.

Dr Ouattara Tidiane giving his opening remarks

Furthermore, Dr Tidiane called on African scientists and academic researchers to collaborate and help build the necessary human capital resources to propel the continent’s space sector to greater heights. He also reiterated the importance of increasing the awareness of African governments and their institutions, the private sector about the benefits of developing, applying and utilising EO and geospatial applications products and services.

Dr Tidiane also mentioned that the AUC is collaborating with several institutions to improve the private sector development within the African space ecosystem. For instance, he noted that the AUC is partnering with Space in Africa and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to organise the second edition of the NewSpace Africa Conference, which promises to be a high-level conference gathering industry leaders, academia, national space agencies and other critical stakeholders to share insights and ideas for the growth and development of the African space industry. The conference will be held from 23-26 April 2023 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

In addition, Dr Tidiane discussed that the African Union and AARSE had been working together for the last six years to use the conference as an avenue to update on progress made regarding the implementation of the African Space Policy and strategy. Therefore, within the margins of the AARSE conference, GMES & Africa organised the following key events: 

  1. The Second Women in GMES & Africa Workshop

This workshop was designed to foster dialogue and networking between African women evolving in EO-related fields by gathering representatives of these women working in different segments of the industry. Also, it aimed at discussing the activity report since the first workshop, which was held in March 2022 at Cotonou, Benin and to subsequently define a roadmap for its activities in 2023 towards gender equality in education and career in the Earth observation fields in Africa.

Women in GMES and Africa. Source: AARSE
  1. The GMES & Africa Hackathon

Training and capacity development in EO and geospatial sciences is at the base of GMES, and Africa’s operation as the body is mandated to develop strategies to enhance regional and national capacities of African institutions and the private sector to generate and apply earth observation-based information for natural and water resources as well as marine and coastal applications.

To this end, GMES and Africa created a hackathon where participants could leverage EO data and products to create innovative solutions for managing natural resources, water and marine & coastal areas. During the hackathon, participants had the opportunity to form teams and interact with experts from GMES & Africa Network of Academia with support from the EO AFRICA R&D Facility to develop and submit projects under three thematic areas: agriculture monitoring, wetland monitoring and marine monitoring.

Here is the list of participants in the AARSE 2022 hackathon.

Names Country
Kouame Fulgence  Ivory Coast
Nema Ma-Lyse  Rwanda
Amulen Odu Justine  Uganda
Mbaye Modou Senegal
Kpobi Eli Korku  Ghana
Kwame Adu Agyekum  Ghana
Mazimwe Allan  Uganda
Jean-Felly Ngandu  DRC
Mezgebe Arisema  Rwanda
Manouan Cedric  Rwanda
Zantou Pamely Rwanda
Ndayisaba Emmanuel Rwanda
Hitimana Jean Pierre  Rwanda
Musanase Christine Rwanda
Bamurigire Peace   Rwanda
Zakariya Kone Ivory Coast
Atoba Audrey Cameroon
Marian Ngwatezeh Mantah Cameroon
Mutuku Risper Kenya
Odia Belinda Nigeria
Ngabikoumou Maleghi John Gabon
Samuel Mwangi  Kenya
Supiya Ruvimbo  Zimbabwe
Mawougnigan Koffi Valentin Togo

 

Hackathon participants. Source: AARSE
Hackathon participants. Source: AARSE
  1. The GMES & Africa Academia Network Conclave

An academic networking opportunity was provided to urge the academics to concretise their involvement in the programme by developing a clear roadmap detailing their plan of activities and preparing schemes on training, mentoring and internships. In addition, the networking opportunity was instrumental in analysing the report on the three annual training and underlining the lessons learnt.

  1. The GMES & Africa synergy and Cross-fertilisation Meeting

This event served as an exclusive platform to discuss the progress made during the GMES & Africa Phase 1, identify areas for collaboration, and develop the action plan for 2023. Furthermore, it helped to elevate discussions with partners, stakeholders and users on project impacts at the regional level to discuss possible cooperation and joint implementation of activities.  

  1. The Workshop on using GMES & Africa projects as a case to teach the African EO private sector on Entrepreneurship

This side event was essential to train and empower entrepreneurs to discuss their products and services and network to increase the private sector involvement in Africa’s EO industry.