Africa has remarkable potential to deploy earth observation tools and technologies in support of the continent’s socio-economic development. The subject is at the centre of ongoing discussions by a broad spectrum of African scientists, businesses and policy makers meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
The biennial Forum of GMES and Africa brings together more than 200 delegates from Africa and Europe. Its focus this year, is fostering resilience and innovation in the continent through the utilization of earth observation systems. Africa can advance environmental management, agricultural productivity, food security and disaster risk reduction through earth observation, says the African Union Commissioner for Education, Science Technology and Innovation, H.E Prof. Mohammed Belhocine.
The AU Commissioner described thesepriorities as the cornerstone of the Agenda 2063 and the African Outer Space programme, which is designed to contribute to transformed, inclusive and sustainable economies.
Africa is nurturing a continental space programme for which GMES and Africa is an implementing pillar. One of the flagships of the Agenda 2063, the African Space Programme is anchored on a strategy for mobilizing space actors and building partnerships within and beyond the continent. It will be coordinated and implemented by the African Space Agency which is hosted by Egypt.
The Egyptian Minster of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Prof. Mohamed Ayman Ashour, believes that space technology, remote sensing and digitalization will be drivers of African economies and the achievement of significant socio-economic development. He applauded the decision by African governments to establish a continental space programme, and described this as a step in addressing some of the developmental challenges facing the continent.
The first Africa-wide earth observation programme, GMES and Africa covers the entire continent including Northern Africa. It is built on intercontinental partnership between the African Union and the European Union, to address common global priorities and challenges.
By its success in developing and providing earth observation services to communities, GMES and Africa is considered a reference point for Africa-Europe partnership.
Catherine Ghyhoot of the EU Commission’s Cooperation office recognizes earth observation as an instrument for understanding and addressing complex environmental, social, and economic issues that affect the Earth and its inhabitants. She underscored the EU’s commitment to continuing its collaboration with Africa on space, and cited digitalization and climate change as future priorities in Africa-Europe partnership.
The Forum is an avenue to deepen engagement among GMES and Africa stakeholders and publics. Through dialogue, idea sharing and networking, it popularizes earth observation products and applications. In its ongoing second implementation phase, GMES and Africa is focused on strengthening the sharing and utilization of information and available knowledge resources by user communities.
The Sharm El-Sheikh Forum is an opportunity to innovate and generate new techniques of harnessing earth observation technology for building resilience and uplifting lives in Africa.