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Experts envisage geospatially enabled Africa

Accra, Ghana: The 7th Africa Geospatial Forum, being organised for the first time in the western African nation of Ghana, kicked off at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel with experts deliberating on various issues that plague the region and how geospatial technology can be an effective solution to tackle those challenges. The two-day conference, which has its theme as Geospatially Enabled Africa, is being jointly organised by Geospatial Media and Communications and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in Ghana.

Addressing the gathering during his inaugural address, Mike Hammah, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Land and Natural Resources, Ghana said that the rapidly increasing population in African nations has put huge pressure on the region’s small and ever shrinking natural resource base, which underlines the need for scientific surveying and plotting of geographic data as a major component to ensure planned physical development and a sustainable land use system.

Identifying some of the serious challenges being faced by African countries, such as fast diminishing natural resources, depleting forest cover and declining productivity, he said that geospatial technology plays a vital role in enabling governments to perform efficiently by offering reliable, accurate and relevant information when and where it is needed. He added that geospatial community is the backbone to a strong functioning of a government leading to enhanced performance and an increase in development.

The minister also said that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has been instrumental in propagating the application of geospatial technologies in various organisations in the country and is now prepared and determined to share knowledge and experience with the rest of the Africa.

Sherry Ayittey, Minister, Environment Science and Technology, Ghana

Earlier, Sherry Ayittey, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Environment Science and Technology, Ghana informed that the Ghana government has recently announced the launch of the Ghana Space Centre at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, which is a step to anchor and institutionalise research and development in geospatial technology and its use in Ghana. She said that governments around Africa have increasingly started to realise that without strong science, technological and innovation base and the adoption of newer technologies and procedures, Africa’s socio-economic development to achieve the overall growth of the region will be stalled. She informed that the government’s initiative to set up the Ghana Space Science and Technology centre means that the technology will be used in various disciplines such as groundwater exploration, forest surveillance, meteorology, weather forecast, resources inventory and environmental and disaster management.

Harnessing geospatial potential for better community
The first plenary of the day was titled ‘Harnessing Geospatial Potential for Better Community’. In his presentation titled ‘Geospatial Activities Within CSIR Ghana’, Dr. Abdulai Baba Salifu, Director General, CSIR, Ghana showed how geospatial technology can be used in various sectors such as agricultural development, infrastructure, water resources, forest resource management and socio-economic development. The presentation also showed how the development of land suitability models to evaluate the suitability of land areas in Ghana have been facilitated by geospatial technologies.

The presentation by Bryn Fosburgh, Vice President, Executive Committee Member, Trimble, highlighted the significance of geospatial technology across various domains and how these technologies are critical for the overall socio-economic development of the region.

Policies and standards for sustainable geospatial future
The second plenary on ‘Policies and Standards for Sustainable Geospatial Future’ saw presentations from Aida Opoku Mensah, Director – ICTs Science and Technology Division, UN ECA, Ethiopia; Dr. Isaac Mensa-Bonsu, Technical Advisor, National Development Planning Commission in Ghana and Iain MacInnes, Europe and Africa Regional Sales Manager, DigitalGlobe, UK. Each of the speakers highlighted how the sustainable development of the region depends on the design and implementation of appropriate policies and interventions.

The final session of the day saw a panel discussion on the ‘Prospects and Challenges of African Geospatial Industry’. It was an extremely informative and interactive session with the panellists deliberating on a lot of issues such as the lack of visionary leaders who can play a significant role in the promotion and propagation of geospatial technology in Africa and the lack of major private sector players.

Source: Our Correspondent