Geospatial in Africa : Challenges and Opportunities

Geospatial in Africa : Challenges and Opportunities

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Louis Darko, Sambus Geospatial, Ghana
Louis Darko
General Manager, Sambus Geospatial, Ghana

Home to some of the fastest growing economies on the planet, Western Africa is rated amongst the most promising regions for the use and applicability of geospatial technology. Louis Darko, General Manager, Sambus Geospatial Limited, tells us about the challenges faced by the region, most potential geospatial verticals and more…

Tell us about Sambus Geospatial and its activities.

Sambus Geospatial Limited is a partner of Sambus Company Limited. We are a geospatial company that deals in and has exclusive representation of ESRI products in Gabon, Gambia, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana. Our head office is in Ghana while we have regional offices and distributors in some of the other western African nations. While the whole of western African region holds tremendous potential when it comes to the scope and applicability of geospatial technology, but two of our biggest markets when it comes to the application of geospatial technology are Ghana and Nigeria. Through our initiative in Nigeria, we have executed the Lagos State GIS Project which involved collection of geospatial data to be used across all organisations that fall under the state government in order to support better and more enhanced decision making.

Amongst our other major initiatives is our endeavour to make GIS software and its applications known and accessible to all, especially the youth.

What are your views on the geospatial market in Western Africa? Which, according to you, are the most potential countries for the use and applicability of geospatial technology in the region?

While all the countries within our operational areas in the West African sub-region hold tremendous potential when it comes to the scope and applicability of geospatial technology, but the geospatial market is much better and more mature in Ghana and Nigeria than some of the other countries. In Gambia and Liberia, for instance, the geospatial market is progressing steadily as exemplified in our recent work in Liberia, where as part of our capacity building initiatives, we trained the local people in the use of GIS technology. Similarly, we are building the geospatial market in Gambia by working with the cartography department of the country.

Generally, the Western Africa market has huge potential in GIS usage and implementation. One of our goals as a corporate entity is to create a user culture wherein GIS will be consumed by smaller organisations, and not solely the large government entities. Our goal is to ensure that stakeholders in the national and the private sector development invest in such technologies in order to support GIS applications.

What are the most potential verticals for use of geospatial technology in the region?

Geospatial technology has tremendous application in governments’ decision making process. Although the technology is not limited to these areas and also largely supports environmental planning and management, utilities and communications, construction, transportation, building and infrastructure industry, among others. We, at Sambus have the capacity to support our clients in leveraging on the use of GIS technology in their respective areas. For instance, a major project that we have undertaken recently is to support the local government office in Liberia and equip the cadastral unit there with the requisite skills required to remap the country.

What are the major challenges faced by users of geospatial technology in the region? What is being done to overcome those challenges?

The greatest challenge facing the further promotion and growth of geospatial technology in western Africa is our nascent internet infrastructure. Lack of complete and reliable data for carrying out projects is another challenge that needs to be overcome for the advancement of GIS technologies and applications usage. The perceived notion about high cost of geospatial software needs to be erased as the software provides the end user with enormous benefits that increases their return on investments.

To address these challenges in an effective way, there is a need to engage more opinion leaders, decision makers and politicians in the sub-region on the opportunities that geospatial technology presents towards national building, empowering industries and realising development goals. They can easily compare growth rates in these regions to that of the UAE, which has also embraced geospatial technology in each of its aspects. UAE's Vision 2021 and vision plans of various emirates in the country mandate implementation of the latest geospatial technologies for developmental activities.

What would be your message to the geospatial community in the region?

We are all well aware of the fact that geospatial technology ensures the considerable reduction of inefficiencies, redundancies, outdated or inaccessible data and numerous other factors which increase cost and diminish performance, it will be prudent that policy makers and governments across the region embrace the evolving technology to enhance decision making across all sectors and ensure overall growth and development.