The fourth day of the GMES and Africa second continental forum kicked off with a presentation on “Accelerating African environmental and socioeconomic development through EO service communication” by the Managing Director of Space in Africa, Mr Temidayo Oniosun. He discussed the trend of African space news in the past 20 years. In addition, he noted a drastic increase in news reportage on African space in 2018, which he attributed to two things – GMES and Africa and Space in Africa.
Furthermore, Mr Oniosun pointed out the top space news sources before and after 2018. He discussed that Space in Africa had reported 69% of the African space news post-2018. Mr Oniosun also highlighted the distribution of GMES and Africa stories during the first phase of the programme over the past four years. Also, he believes it can get better with proper communication strategy. To this end, he noted that Space in Africa has been responsible for publishing 30% of all articles centred around GMES and Africa.
On his recommendation, Mr Oniosun opined that accelerating African environmental and socioeconomic development is through stakeholders investments. He, therefore, went on to discuss the several types of stakeholders, including consortium partners, private sector, members of civil societies, universities and research institutes and the end-user. He also noted the importance of sharing information regarding the activities within the consortia. Furthermore, he highlighted the importance of the several platforms used to reach and engage various stakeholders. According to him, to effectively communicate with all the stakeholders, the right communication tool must be employed.
Speaking on ways to translate products and services to viable economic solutions, Mr Oniosun noted the massive amount of investment coming into Africa’s start-up ecosystem. He pointed out that the top investment sectors in Africa required EO services, thus creating several investment opportunities for companies providing EO products/services. Also, he mentioned that synergy building is vital in the African space and satellite sector. He noted that the first step is for government institutions to understand that the private sector is not their competition. This is necessary because the private sector can develop economically viable solutions faster than government and research institutions. Lastly, he explained that marketing products/services for the private sector are helpful because it lifts the business burden off the institution’s head and affords them more time to focus on developing more products and services.
The next programme was a panel session that saw representatives from several consortia discuss their communication and engagement strategies, especially to the local communities and the end-users. These consortia include the IGAD Climate Protection and Applications Centre (ICPAC), Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS), the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), the University of Ghana, the Regional Centre For Mapping Of Resources For Development (RCMRD), the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL), Centre for Space Science and Technology Education (CSSTE), the Agence Gabonaise d’Etudes et d’Observations Spatiales (AGEOS).
Sives Govender, Research Group Leader, CSIR, mentioned that its communications methods might be outdated and archaic. Still, they are trying to develop a better communications strategy to ensure a better result in the next phase of the GMES and Africa Programme. Furthermore, Sives explained that the most apparent paradigm shift is that most of the scientists working on projects are now emerging from Africa, signalling the beginning of a knowledge-based EO industry in Africa. Also, he mentioned that CSIR and its partners had developed ways of ensuring that their products/services are communicated with the local communities to increase the adoption of EO services.
The Executive Director of SASSCAL, Dr Jane Olwoch, also spoke about the consortium’s offering to people and organisations within and outside the consortium. She explained that SASSCAL, the GMES and Africa Programme, had brought stability and diversity to their operations, detailing how the programme has received considerable funding from the African Union translating into solutions to combat climate change.
Dr Jane also discussed that during the first phase of the GMES and Africa Programme, the consortium had realised the importance of stakeholder involvement. She also highlighted the importance of outreach, awareness and engagement to the capacity building functions of the consortium. Furthermore, she noted that SASSCAL is working with five universities and has provided research funding for several masters and PhD students.
Commenting on the values of GMES and Africa programme on the local communities, the representative of CSE spoke of CSE’s institutional transformation through capacity building. She mentioned that the consortium had developed six new products; four of the projects are focused on the regional market, while the remaining two are developed for the national market. According to her, these products aim to solve several economic and environmental challenges. She highlighted another crucial aspect of CSE’s research, detailing that they are supported by credible data, allowing them to develop practical and effective solutions.
Furthermore, a representative of AGEOS discussed the contribution of GMES and Africa to Africa’s sustainable development goals. In addition, she noted that the regional integration compelled them to increase their quality and performance because they needed to get close to EU quality. Also, regarding partnership, the programme comprises various entities, so it has been a breeding ground where they have learned a great deal. For example, internet access remains a nightmare as a sizable number of Africans don’t have access to it. She also mentioned that AGEOS still has a lot of work to do, and they have subsequently partnered with universities to scale up.
Furthermore, a representative of OSS discussed the consortium’s contribution to realising the aim of the GMES and Africa – developing new and innovative EO technologies for Africa’s sustainable environments and socio-economic development. In addition, he highlighted the consortium’s four broad offerings, including strengthening capacity in terms of data and land observation, awareness-raising and communication. According to him, the end-users were involved during the first phase of the GMES and Africa. This was done by conducting national studies where several institutions were brought together to conduct research and develop solutions for several environmental challenges. In addition, these institutions collected numbers of indicators, collected data via various platforms, including Copernicus Sentinel imagery. Also, he explained that OSS had been involved in several projects centred on strengthening capacity on several fronts to increase the projects’ sustainability.
The subsequent panel discussion also saw several consortia representatives discussing their recommendations for the second phase of the GMES and Africa Programme.
CICOS representative, Mr Abubakar mentioned that CICOS, with the help of its institutional partners, have developed services and produced various products to enhance water navigation in Central Africa with the help of other institutional partners. Furthermore, Mr Abubakar explained that the development of applications and their implementation with stakeholders is also a paradigm shift. According to him, CICOS has conducted awareness and outreach programmes to help various organisations to integrate EO in decision-making processes. Also, CICOS has provided maintenance assistance for their estations and satellite receiving antennas. They have benefited from the programme by the consistent acquisition of satellite data they now share. Mr Abubakar proposes a national project monitoring committee to manage and ensure the sustainability of the projects.
ICPAC’s representative explained that the East African consortium had improved its offering by sharing actionable data and infrastructure with the end-users. Also, ICPAC has developed a warning system that has enabled people to swiftly identify areas requiring urgent action. In addition, their user base has also increased exponentially because of their new international media communications. According to him, media engagement has led to other kinds of engagement. However, their most significant shift was answering questions posed by the end-users, which has improved their customer base.
CSSTE’s representative gave a backdrop of the project’s origin. However, according to the CSSTE’s representative, the paradigm shift at CSSTE is implementing the project across Africa. Furthermore, he mentioned that the consortium’s capacity building programme has led to another paradigm shift, helping to increase Africa’s confidence in handling EO projects.
According to a representative from the University of Ghana (UoG), there was insufficient information to fishermen regarding weather safety and fish population. He explained how the UoG has provided early warnings regarding the state of the sea, increased the productivity of the fishermen and has helped to reduce illegal fishing. Furthermore, he discussed that the UoG has started characterising biological and ecological zones to identify unprotected areas that subsequently become protected and can be utilised for tourism purposes.
Mustapha has a strong relationship with written words and enjoys elaborating on minor details with a plethora of information.