The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) Support Programme is a joint programme co-financed by the European Commission and the African Union Commission. The Programme was designed to specifically respond to African needs concerning developing services for water, natural resources, marine and coastal areas, address the global needs to manage the environment, and ensure civil security.
Furthermore, the Programme, managed by the African Union Commission, adapts the Copernicus Programme data and services to solve localised problems within the African context and responds to African needs regarding services related to water, natural resources, and marine and coastal areas.
The GMES and Africa programme enables the implementation of the African Space Policy and Strategy, formulated to harness the continent’s capabilities in utilising space science and technology for economic growth and sustainable development. In addition, GMES and Africa Programme aims to improve African policy-makers, planners, scientists, business and private sector and citizens capacities 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.
Here is a status report on the pan-African initiative.
Training Programmes and Strategies
An essential pillar of the GMES and Africa programme is enhancing capacity building and training in Earth Observation (EO) competencies. The programme has conducted approximately 100 courses, imparting EO-related knowledge to 4,932 participants, encompassing users, trainers, and administrators. These efforts comprised 18,899 training days devoted to capacity development and skill-building sessions.
Moreover, GMES and Africa’s training strategy encompassed the strengthening of capabilities across 16 universities, six colleges, one primary school, and 53 startup enterprises. Additionally, GMES & Africa formulated a training strategy and roadmap to oversee its ongoing capacity-building programmes, serving as a guiding framework for training initiatives. Within the core principles of these strategies, several critical components stand out, including conducting courses through academic institutions, granting scholarships for Masters and PhD programmes to foster service development, integrating Earth Observation and emerging technologies like cloud computing, and promoting joint training and expertise exchange among these institutions.
To this end, the programme has provided 46 postgraduate courses to each consortium, comprising approximately 20 academic institutions, universities, and specialised centres. These courses are customised to cater to the unique needs of each consortium or region and categorised as technical programmes falling within the consortium’s domain in collaboration with pertinent institutions. These courses are consolidated into a comprehensive training catalogue structured around specific focus areas. Furthermore, the implementation of training, both at the regional and continental levels, adheres to the Training Strategy and is harmonised with the catalogue, with periodic evaluations and updates.
Moreover, the GMES & Africa programme has established an operational network of academia. This is in line with the programme’s Description of Action(DOA) and the recognition of the importance of academia in research, development and innovation. This established network comprises two groups encompassing 27 universities and specialised centres, with 15 being Francophone and 12 being Anglophone universities.
Additionally, the programme hosts a distance learning platform monitored by the African Union Commission (AUC), primarily focusing on nurturing skills and expertise in Earth Observation (EO) applications across Africa. The training platform is categorised into continental, consortia, and other specialised training courses, offering the option of French as the language of instruction.
To further aid the development of EO-based expertise for individuals unable to afford training, GMES and Africa boasts 46 scholarship holders within the consortium.
Ground station infrastructure
In 2021, twelve institutions were selected to receive the 12 GMES eStations to serve their needs for quality environmental information. These eStations have been equipped with software under the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) stewardship since 2009. This software empowers these institutions to efficiently process Earth observation data sourced from Eumetsat (EUMETCast) and subsequently disseminate this data through C-band broadcasts via the Eutelsat W8B satellite or over the Internet.
The 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 Programme. Furthermore, 48 operators have undergone training to effectively utilise the eStations for acquiring, processing, visualising, and analysing 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 European Copernicus programme mainly powers the satellite data 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.
Furthermore, in 2007, the African and European Commission agreed to deploy Copernicus on the African continent under the name “GMES and Africa”. The programme subsequently launched in 2017 and continues GMES and Africa’s precursors. The precursors include PUMA 2001-2005, AMESD 2007-2013, MESA 2013-2017. These programmes represent a long-standing collaboration between Africa and Europe in space and scientific technologies. GMES and Africa are responsible for maintaining 188 PUMA and MESA stations.
In addition, GMES and Africa operates ten geoportals across the continent dedicated to enabling relevant stakeholders to access, manage, and analyse Earth observation data. These EO geoportals provide a central location for users to access a wide range of Earth observations. Of the ten eportals, eight are located in North Africa, five in East Africa, four in West Africa, three in South Africa and two in Central Africa.
Thematic Areas of Application
GMES and Africa is divided into two phases. The first phase of GMES and Africa is a EUR 30 million (USD 34 million) joint European and African Union Programme focused on Water and Natural Resources Management and the continent’s marine and coastal areas. The phase was implemented in six European countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) and has a compass of 122 African institutions.
In addition, the programme is also 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 first phase of the GMES and Africa programme has 12 consortia, with at least two in each African region. These consortia are regional implementing centres for the GMES and Africa support programme, covering the Central, Eastern, Northern, Southern, Western, and Western Indian Ocean regions.
Its extensive experience and successful track record, particularly with projects like the African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) and the MESA project, are valuable assets for the GMES and Africa Programme. With 195 Eumetcast stations designed and deployed in Africa, 48 operators have received training to effectively utilise these eStations for acquiring, processing, and analysing environmental parameters from a variety of Earth Observation satellites, including SPOT/PROBAV, SEVIRI/MSG, TERRA-AQUA/MODIS, and Copernicus Sentinel 2 and 3. Moreover, within the purview of Water Resources Management services, eight consortia of 94 institutions in five African regions delivered 16 Water and Natural Resources applications. In parallel, four consortia operating in four African regions offered 15 Marine and Coastal applications within the Marine and Coastal Services domain.
The second phase commenced in January 2022 and will run till December 2025, with the European Commission dedicating a total investment of EUR 24,650,000 (equivalent to USD 28 million) to the GMES and Africa Phase Two project. This phase is further dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to amplify the achievements of the GMES and Africa Phase One project. Additionally, eight consortia were chosen for participation in GMES and Africa’s second phase to advance its goal of inclusiveness.
Communication, Sustainability and Technology Transfer
Pillars of the GMES & Africa Strategy
As part of its efforts to enhance its outreach and effectively convey progress updates throughout its various phases, GMES and Africa has harnessed a network of 61 information and dissemination platforms. Additionally, they have crafted and deployed 13 distinct communication strategies to ensure the comprehensive and efficient distribution of all promotional messages and information. This extensive effort has created over 32,500 communication and visibility tools, among which two mobile applications stand out. Furthermore, GMES and Africa has published over 1,950 articles and news releases.
Moreover, GMES and Africa’s commitment to engaging a diverse audience is evident in its organisation of over 156 local, regional, and continental events. These events have facilitated interactions with more than 650 private companies, startups, civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, freelancers, and individuals, all of whom have engaged with GMES and Africa’s Earth Observation applications.
Deborah loves reading and enjoys philosophical discussions.