Highlights Of The AfricaGIS Conference 2021 in Cote d’Ivoire

Dr Tidiane Ouattara of the GMES and Africa programme speaking during a session at the conference

The AfricaGIS Conference and Exhibition series 2021 was held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, from 22 to 26 November 2021. The Conference, a flagship geospatial information marketplace in Africa, holds every two years. It is organised by EIS-Africa, a pan African non-profit organisation. This year, EIS-Africa and the Bureau National d’Études Techniques et de Developpement (BNETD) co-hosted the conference.

The week-long gathering featured keynote speeches by leading scholars, technical sessions with reports of the latest research outcomes. Furthermore, it also featured plenary and parallel sessions of oral presentations. In addition, there were poster presentations on topics such as capacity building, geospatial policy, programmes and projects. Likewise, there will be exhibitions of the latest products and services in geospatial science and technology.

Session at the AfricaGIS 2021

There were various presentations regarding how different companies and entities utilised GIS technology. Mitrelli Geodata presented his company’s products concerning Africa’s rapid urbanisation. The presentation noted that the rapid urbanisation would lead to severe space pressure, leading to a massive increase in infrastructural needs. According to the presentation, one of the solutions lies in investment in geospatial solutions. 

ESRI Africa regional manager Matthew Prennels presented what ESRI does. He also discussed the future of GIS, including the Integrated Geospatial Information Network. This framework provides a basis and guides for developing, integrating and strengthening geospatial information management. ESRI also discussed its ArcGIS technology 

Furthermore, The Place presented on the global GIS market and Africa. According to their presentation, the global annual GEO market is worth USD 400 billion, and Africa only represents 3% of the worldwide GIS market. They aim to map the urban world in ultra-high resolution and make these maps more open, reliable and accessible to help improve lives, create economic opportunity, strengthen public services and better care for the environment.

Panel session at AfricaGIS 2021

The forum also included presentations by different GMES and Africa Consortia. SASSCAL discussed its Wetland Assessment and Monitoring Services in Southern Africa (WeMAST). Their project areas include 

  • The Cuvelai Basin;
  • The Okavango Basin;
  • The Zambezi Basin:
  • The Limpopo Basin. 

Through their capacity development programme, they have ten student publications in 14 peer-reviewed journals. The monitoring service leveraged sentinel 2 and 3 for wetland monitoring indices and landcover for its EO data. The service also utilised Landsat and sentinel for its data fusion. 

The GMES Central Africa Forests Monitoring – AGEOS Consortium also gave a presentation. Accordingly, its regional and economic priorities include 

  • Peace and security in Central Africa;
  • Infrastructures; and
  • Environment management.

Furthermore, its product and services include 

  • Deforestation alert system;
  • Land cover map; and
  • Forest cover map

The consortium has offered nine scholarships to nationals of Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, and Cameroon. Six of the beneficiaries are awaiting their project defences. The consortium has trained about 60 persons on the use of GIS and remote sensing tools.

GMES West African consortium – CSE presented on “Sustainable Wetlands Management for Enhancing Food Security and Ecosystem Resilience in West Africa (GDZHAO)”. The objective is to improve knowledge on West African wetlands from rational and sustainable management contributing to food security and resilience of socio-ecosystems through the provision of EO data derived products and services. The programme leverages the Sentinel 1 and 2 Copernicus Open Access Hub. In capacity development, the CSE has fully implemented five modules in the Digital Learning Platform (DLP). The CSE presentation also noted that it set up a research network on priorities and valorisation of research on wetlands in West Africa. There are also eight sessions on setting up a GDZHAO Community of Practice, with one training session in each member country. Forty-Six people have already benefited from the training sessions. The presentation also reported supporting eight persons via academic scholarships.

Session at AfricaGIS 2021

The CSSTE Consortium presented on Multi-scale Flood Monitoring and Assessment Services for West Africa. The programme’s objective includes establishing an updatable flood event database and providing DMOs with timely information before, during and after flood events. Their project sites include 

  • District of Abidjan; 
  • Oueme Basin (Benin);
  • Ogun-Osun Basin (Nigeria);
  • Black Volta (Ghana); and
  • Volta Basin (Burkina Faso).

The presentation includes discussions and illustrations on the following projects.

  • Flood risk maps of the five riverine study sites in West Africa;
  • Flood forecast and early warning system

The CICOS Consortium’s presentation began with addressing the issues and challenges faced in the sub-region. Some of them include population growth, deforestation, low stakeholder involvement, etc. The presentation also demonstrates the Congo Basin’s biodiversity. The presentation subsequently discusses the effects of climate change on the Basin. Some of the effects include silting of riverbeds, flow deficits, and temperature increase. 

RCMRD’s presentation was based on the lessons it had learned, some of which include:

  • Supporting awareness creation to policy and Decision Makers with the products and services of EO Data has been improving on the areas of planning for sustainable development;
  • Working with the stakeholders, mainly with the end-users, is for mutual benefit and has been playing an integral role in the protection and conservation of the environment;
  • Geoportal development and availing the products and giving services are found to be among the best approaches to support the data demanding EO and GEO communities; and
  • Organising and using events like Open Days, GIS Day, Earth Day, and Environment Day can be used to disseminate information, data, and products and get feedback.

The ICPAC Consortium also presented on Monitoring natural resources and food security in the East African Region. Their objective was to promote sustainable long-term management of natural resources in the East Africa region by providing decision and policymakers with information and tools needed for the implementation of sustainable environmental policies at regional and national levels. The Consortium also discussed its data hubs and how it improves data collection. 

Panel session at AfricaGIS 2021

The GMES and Africa Marine and Coastal Operations on Southern Africa (MARCO) also presented. MARCO has various operational services, including 

  • Ship traffic monitoring;
  • Aquaculture support;
  • Coral Bleaching;
  • Sea rescue;
  • Abalobi; and 
  • Water quality.

About 67 persons have benefited from MARCO’s training programmes from about 13 countries. 

The  L’Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS) Consortium presented on Earth Observation for the Sustainable Management of Water and Natural Resources in North Africa. The Consortium has three operational services, including 

  • Water abstractions monitoring service
  • Land degradation monitoring and assessment
  • Seasonal agriculture monitoring, Early warning and Assessment

The Consortium has had four training sessions for trainers, which have had over 200 beneficiaries. It has also trained 1400 users and 20 administrators. Furthermore, the University of Ghana Consortium also presented on its blue economy prospects, some of which include 

  • Becoming a significant source of Africa’s wealth and a catalyst for socio-economic transformation;
  • Marine spatial planning & ecosystem-based management;
  • Policy harmonisation; and
  • National, regional and international collaboration.
Participants at the AfricaGIS 2021

The presentation also identified various challenges, including increasing population pressure, habitat degradation and pollution and weak enforcement capacities. The University of Ghana consortium also renders various operational services, including fisheries, oceanographic and coastal services. The project has held three regional training workshops, which had over 56 participants from about 35 institutions. They have subsequently introduced over 350 professionals, lecturers and students to EO tools and Applications. 

Kenneth Adabie also presented on behalf of Maxar technologies. The presentation gave an overview of what the company does, its reach, customers and products. Furthermore, according to the presentation, Maxar owns and operates the world’s most sophisticated Earth-imaging satellite constellation, providing the foundation for Maxar’s capabilities in Earth Intelligence.

There were also academic presentations regarding various research topics. Craig Mahlasi presented near-real-time change detection in subtropical thickets. The study aimed to generate a transformation map that documents the changes in Alexandria biome between 2016 and 2019 and to perform continuous clearing detection. In addition, another academic presentation was on the use of high-resolution images from UAV for flood zone mapping. The study’s general objective was to map flood risk in Bonoumin Watershed using very high-resolution imagery.

A presenter at the AfricaGIS 2021

The United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GCIM) also presented a call to strengthen geospatial information systems and infrastructures. On the other hand, the European Space Agency (ESA) also presented. It consequently discussed its contributions to and partnerships with African countries, especially regarding Earth Observation. Airbus also presented its EO system, fleet, and capabilities. The presentation also demonstrated Airbus’ EO capabilities through various satellite images of famous locations.  

Following the conference’s launch in 1993, it has been instrumental in creating geospatial information and technological usage awareness in Africa. Furthermore, sequential editions focused on the narrative of the potential of geospatial data and the need to build capacity for this. The initiative’s success is evident because it has attracted an increasingly diverse group of experts and organisations whose participation has constantly brought significant value-adding elements to the discussions and proposals over time and with subsequent editions.

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