Highlights Of The AfricaGIS Conference 2019 In Rwanda

Hundreds of industry leaders, academics and policymakers are gathered in Kigali for AfricaGIS Conference 2019, the largest conference of geospatial professionals and businesses on the continent.

Before the commencement of the main events, Digital Earth Africa and Esri partnered on pre-conferences workshops sessions that highlighted latest technology trends on imagery, where to access it and what you can achieve with it; how to use freely accessible data and tools to gain insights and bring different datasets together for better decision-making.

One of the sessions explored an example of conservation with a detailed run-through of the Protect Area Management, which is being applied globally to ensure that humans and wildlife coexist sustainably. There was also a session on Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) where participants learnt basic information on FOSS4G software.

The conference kicked off with a keynote speech by the Minister of ICT and Innovation of Rwanda, Paula Ingabire, who described the platform as an opportunity to make Africa a global powerhouse, given the importance of GIS in effective planning and decision making, and in the everyday lives of the people.

The Coordinator of GMES and Africa and Space Science Expert at the African Union Commission, Dr Tidiane Ouattara, addressed the conference theme, “Innovation in Geospatial Technologies for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals in Africa”. Dr Ouattara said the theme resonates with the aspirations of the African Agenda 2063 and dwelt on how Africa is facing the dynamics, challenges, and imperatives of technological innovation to uplift the living conditions of people on the continent.

The biennial conference is the largest geospatial science and technology gathering on the continent. This year’s edition features technical discussions exploring the role of innovation in geospatial information and its implications in addressing the seventeen targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Images sourced from participants’ Tweets

Other highlights of the conference were keynote addresses by  Esri’s general director for the Middle East and Africa, Sohail El Abd, who showed many examples of future development projects across Africa, and Dr Lee Schwartz, The Geographer, US Dept of State,  on the work done by his office to help meet SDGs in Africa. Prof. Kirsten Kurland from Carnegie Mellon University, also highlighted the role of Earth observation in enhancing transport mobility. 

Addressing participants at the Digital Earth Africa’s smart solution for sustainable development session, Dr Adam Lewis, the Managing Director of Digital Earth Africa said Digital Earth Africa will track changes in lands and coasts to better understand natural resources to inform decisions on Sustainable Development Goals.  In a workshop coordinated by the group, Dr Lewis explained how they are providing data to countries, who have expressed a need for better access and capacity for applying Earth Observation to development priorities.

The conference also featured an exhibition of different services offered by local and international companies related to GIS and remote sensing,  a dinner ceremony and workshops by various groups and organisations.

The five-day conference ends today. Giving her closing remarks, Ms Fatina Mukarubibi, Permanent Secretary of Rwanda’s Ministry of Environment, and Guest of Honour to the event, lauded the critical role of geospatial technology to facilitate Rwanda in its decision making in different sectors and thanked the organising committee for making the event a success.


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