The GMES and Africa Support Programme is a EUR 30 million (USD 34 million) joint Programme of the European Union and African Union. It was launched in Lisbon, Portugal, on 7 December 2007 during the 2nd EU-Africa Summit, but the programme’s full implementation started about ten years later. The European Commission and the African Union Commission jointly financed the programme. GMES & Africa is promoting the development of local capacities, institutional, human, and technical resources for access to and exploitation of Earth Observation-based services operationally for sustainable development in Africa. It uses and adapts the Copernicus Programme data and services in the African context and responds to African needs regarding services related to water, natural resources, and marine and coastal areas. In addition, the GMES and Africa programme address the global needs to manage the environment, mitigate climate change and ensure civil security.
Areas of implementation
The pan-African programme aims at improving the capacity of African policy makers, planners, scientists, businessmen and private citizens to design, implement, and monitor national, regional and continental policies, and to promote sustainable management of natural resources through the use of earth observation data and derived information. GMES & Africa phase one project was implemented in 45 African countries including Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, DRC, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The programme also involved 6 European countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, and United Kingdom), and has a compass of 122 institutions across Africa.
Part of what the first phase of GMES and Africa focused on is Water & Natural Resources. The programme was implemented through a competitive call process that awarded grants to consortia of institutions in the various regions of Africa, operating projects that deal with water and natural resources. Beyond maintaining Africa’s water and natural resources, GMES and Africa phase one also focused on the continent’s marine and coastal areas.
The GMES and Africa programme have 12 consortia in Africa, with at least two in each African region. These consortia serve as regional implementing centres for the GMES and Africa support programme. The programme has achieved various targets and goals during its first phase, and in light of this, GMES and Africa have recently launched phase two of the project.
The East Africa consortium of the project worked to inform and equip ministries and institutions with tools that combat land degradation, thereby addressing a significant problem confronting some populations. The Central Africa consortium tackled water resource management by delivering user-customized information on navigation, meteorological, hydrological, hydropower and drinking water production, agro-pastoral services, and forest management. It provided tailor-made solutions to government institutions by consolidating and improving existing observation systems, including in-situ and satellite data gathering systems, and estimating real (or near-real) time watershed levels and water availability for governments at different levels. For the West African region, a data bank for flood events and tools for ocean condition forecasts was established in July 2020 for use by governments, individuals and companies. While the data bank is still undergoing assessment, it will be made available to the public and aim to be a useful tool for Disaster Management Organizations, governments and international organizations in providing impactful support to affected areas in the event of a disaster.
In September 2019, the GMES & Africa program published a training strategy that would form the basis for EO and applications training. The plan lay a framework on how to utilize EO products and services for informed decision making. The AUC coordinates training and capacity development at the continental, regional, and national levels. By focusing on coordination and monitoring at these levels, the strategy serves as a tool to ensure that Africa consolidates relevant skills and knowledge needed in terms of capacities and ground infrastructure, before deploying full EO capabilities.
Training and capacity development
A primary aspect of the GMES and Africa programme is capacity building and training in EO capabilities. In this respect, the programme has provided training on about 100 courses on the continent, excluding training programmes organised by the regional consortia. North Africa has received the most training courses (41). A primary aspect of the GMES and Africa programme is capacity building and training in EO capabilities. In this respect, the programme has provided training on about 100 courses on the continent, excluding training programmes organised by the regional consortia. North Africa has received the most training courses (41). Accordingly, several persons have benefited from these training courses and sessions. The GMES and Africa programme has trained 4932 people. These beneficiaries typically include users, trainers, and administrators. Training of trainers is usually the first step to ensure a subsequent cascade of knowledge transfer. In total, almost 19,000 days were spent on training sessions and capacity development. This is as each region spent at least 3,000 days on training sessions. North Africa spent the most days on training, at 11,050 days.
These trainings were delivered by 30 institutions that sometimes collaborated on the delivery. They include Africa Earth Observation Services in Morocco, African Union Commission, CICOS-DRC, CRASTE-LF-Morocco, CRREBaC-DRC, CSE-Senegal, CSIR-South Africa, CSSTE-Nigeria, CURAT-Cote d’Ivoire, ECMWF-UK, EISPPS, ESA-Italy, EUMETSAT-Germany, GAFAG, GEO-MIK Consultants Africa-Uganda, ICPAC-Kenya, JRC-Italy, LOCATE IT-Kenya, Makerere University-Uganda, MERCATOR-France, MOI-Mauritius, NARSS-Egypt, OSS-Tunisia, PML-UK, RCMRD-Kenya, Regional Marine Center-Ghana, SASSCAL-Namibia, UNCCD, Université de Moudou-Chad, and UOG-Ghana
Ground station infrastructure
In 2021, twelve institutions were selected to receive the GMES eStation to serve their needs for quality environmental information. These eStations hosts the software developed and maintained by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) since 2009, which allows them to process Earth observation data from Eumetsat (EUMETCast) and broadcast in C-band by the Eutelsat W8B satellite or via the Internet. Its long experience and successful project references, particularly the African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) project and the MESA project, where 195 Eumetcast stations were designed and successfully deployed in Africa, are valuable assets for the GMES and Africa Program.
The eStations acquire, process, visualize and analyze environmental parameters derived from remote sensing data. Data are obtained from Earth Observation satellites, including SPOT/PROBAV, SEVIRI/MSG, TERRA-AQUA/MODIS and Copernicus Sentinel 2 and 3. Two types of data are collected for the GMES project, satellite data and ground data. The satellite data is mostly powered by the European Copernicus programme and is the backbone of the entire project. The institutions have access to Sentinel data through Data Hubs operated by the European Space Agency, Copernicus Data and Information Access Services, and Hub-to-Hub exchanges.
The EO Digital Learning Platform
GMES & Africa also launched its digital training platform focused on the development of skills and expertise in Earth Observation (EO) applications in Africa. The training platform, which currently has a total of 103 courses, is divided into four-course categories: Data & Infrastructure (46 courses), Service Design, Development & Delivery (39 courses), Earth Observation Services Communication (18 courses) and Management. Each category is further classified into continental, consortia, and other training courses, with an option for French, as the language of instruction. The platform is focused on the continental level. Consortia are developing independent Learning Management Systems to deliver training. However, they are expected to mirror and be linked to the continental platform.
GMES & Africa has been providing support to consortia for increased communications output and results. This includes technical ideation on the use and leveraging of strategic communications tools, techniques and platforms for maximum impact. The programme has been steadfast in the crystallization and promotion of African integration and the Pan-African brand among consortia, partners and communities of African users. This is evident both in the programme’s corporate branding and messaging. Through its Continental Forum, GMES & Africa has fostered an open and strong platform for stakeholder communication, engagement and networking.
The GMES and Africa Phase 2 has started in January 2022 and will end in December 2025. To this end, the kick-off ceremony will run from 28 February to 4 March 2022 in Cotonou, Benin Republic. The total investment of the European Commission to GMES and Africa phase 2 is EUR 24,650,000 (USD 28 million).
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