Cover of the WEF/DE Africa Report. Image: World Economic Forum.

A new report outlines the economic potential of Earth observation (EO) data for the African continent. The report "Unlocking the potential of Earth observation to address Africa’s critical challenges”, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in collaboration with Digital Earth Africa (DE Africa) on January 15, explores the prospective financial impact of DE Africa on the African economy.

The report predicts that the impact of DE Africa, a platform that prepares satellite data and imagery of the African continent in a decision-ready format for governments and industry, could surpass $2 billion per year by 2024. It mentions three key areas that will benefit from the information provided by DE Africa: the EO industry, the agricultural sector and the mining industry.

The EO industry in Africa is growing quickly. The report notes... read more

Publishing Date: 01/02/2021
GMES and Africa logo.

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and Africa programme, a joint initiative by the European Commission and the African Union Commission, has launched an online training platform to strengthen capacities in the use of Earth observation data and services for information decision-making. The new system follows the publication of the "GMES and Africa Training Strategy" in 2019.

The GMES and Africa programme aims at ensuring that Africa's human and institutional capacities in accessing, processing and utilizing Earth observation (EO) products and services are improved, and that information is communicated through the right channels to improve decision making throughout the continent. Structurd along the four pillars of Data and Infrastructures, Services, Training, and Communication and Awareness-raising, the programme's activities are... read more

Publishing Date: 11/11/2020
Field Work on Ogunpa flood plain Ibadan, Nigeria. Image: GMES.

Floods are among the most frequent natural hazards around the world, as well as in Africa, and can trigger devastating disasters among the most vulnerable communities. Climate change, and inadequate land-use/land-cover changes can exacerbate this situation and may erode hard-won gains in many developing countries. The first step to reduce the impacts of such floods is to understand the dynamics of floods throughout the floodplains more precisely.

To support an improved understanding of floods in West Africa, the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education (CSSTE) is leading the project entitled Multi-Scale Flood Monitoring and Assessment Services for West Africa (MiFMASS) that relies on Earth observation satellite data. The main objective of this project is to create a flood event database, which will include historical and real-time data for individual, company and government use across West Africa. 

MiFMASS is one of the actions under the Global Monitoring for... read more

Publishing Date: 10/08/2020
Water Resource Map. Image: IWMI

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Digital Earth Africa (DEA) have partnered to develop tools and applications that will support water resource management and water security in Africa. The applications will use remote-sensing and machine learning technologies and will produce measurements that can improve the understanding of Africa’s changing landscape and provide African governments, communities, and companies with insights, knowledge, and analysis to make more informed and strategic decisions.  

IWMI and DEA will first develop an application for water accounting that can produce timely and quality information to better understand water use and availability, water risks, water quality, water values and efficiency, water allocations across different sectors, and the downstream implications of new irrigation schemes. IWMI will also develop tools for flood and drought mapping and early warning systems and will work with different... read more

Publishing Date: 11/05/2020
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
NDVI Anomaly. Image: NASA

SERVIR, a joint program between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has partnered with relief organizations and the United Nations, including the Desert Locust Information System of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to produce maps that could explain locust behavior. The maps provide useful information on environmental conditions, such as soil moisture and vegetation, that can influence locust life cycles. By identifying the potential conditions under which the locusts hatch and grow, these maps can help governments keep track of the locust swarms, create forecasts of where and how much longer locust outbreaks might occur, as well as prevent other locust infestations from happening.

SERVIR, whose aim is to use satellite images to improve environmental policies in developing nations, has developed a map that shows the average soil moisture over eastern Africa from 14 to 20 January 2020, when the locust invasion... read more

Publishing Date: 03/04/2020
Wetlands of Uganda from Copernicus Sentinel data. Image: ESA

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) GlobWetland Africa project has produced maps that demonstrate how satellite observations can be used for the effective use and management of wetlands in Africa. The project, created in collaboration with the African Team of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, provides national and international stakeholders with the necessary satellite-based methods and tools useful for the conservation and effective management of wetlands. 

The initiative provides a software platform built on the free and open-source QGIS geographic information system (GIS). The platform shows how optical and radar observations combining long-time data sets from different satellites can be used for studying wetland status and trends. For instance, the project shows how it is possible to map wetland habitat using a Random Forest (RF) classification of multi-spectral satellite imagery from Sentinel-2 and Landsat (TM, ETM, OLI). To identify wetland inventory... read more

Publishing Date: 20/02/2020
Participants at the 8th African Space Leadership Conference. Image: ESSTI.

As the African space sector is growing rapidly, with Ethiopia being the latest country from the region to launch its first satellite, the number of initiatives to make use of space technologies in sustainable development is increasing. In November 2019, for instance, Egypt launched the African Development Satellite Project at a meeting with heads of space agencies from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Morocco and Botswana. Among others, the project aims to develop a space system able to monitor the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and their impact on the African continent. The African Resource Management Constellation (ARMC), which... read more

Publishing Date: 12/12/2019
UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference. Image: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Over 100 participants from more than 20 countries discussed the use of space technologies in meeting the challenges posed by floods, droughts and other disasters across Africa at an international conference that took place from 6 to 8 November in Bonn, Germany. The UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference "Space-based Solutions for Disaster Management in Africa: Challenges, Applications, Partnerships" brought together space agencies, national disaster management agencies, international, regional and non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector to discuss how space-based information can support disaster risk reduction, prevention and response on the continent. The event also featured a hands-on day during which participants had the opportunity to explore a wide range of GIS solutions in depth.

Presentations and photos from the event are available on the conference website.

The... read more

Publishing Date: 08/11/2019
Rice paddies in Rwanda. Image: A'Melody Lee / World Bank.

Release earlier this year at the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction 2019, the Africa Earthquake Model paints a complete picture of earthquake risk to the continent in terms of damage to buildings and direct human and economic losses. The model lays out the African portion of the Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Foundation global maps released in December 2018. 

The model is a comprehensive resource for risk assessment as it can be overlayed with optical and radar data from space-based platforms to find recent infrastructure development in high-risk areas across the continent.

The new model for the continent was developed in collaboration with various African public and private institutions, national governments and individual experts using the OpenQuake engine. OpenQuake ia GEM’s open-source software collaboratively developed for earthquake hazard and risk... read more

Publishing Date: 14/10/2019
Open Building Dataset over Musoma, Tanzania. Image: Bing Maps.

On 19 September, Bing announced that the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda are the first African countries to have an open buildings dataset. As a result of a joint venture between Bing Maps, Microsoft Philanthropies and Humanitarian OpenStreetMaps (HOTOSM), 18 million building footprints have been established, of which 7 million in Uganda and 11 million in the United Republic of Tanzania. Datasets like these that are created with satellite data, can prove vital for disaster relief efforts, which are often obscured due to the lack of maps and therewith a lack of coordination in the area affected by the disaster.

The World Disasters report of 2018 by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) states that 2 billion people were affected by disasters in the last ten years. In 2017, 201 million people needed humanitarian assistance and 18 million people were displaced due to weather-related disasters. Many of these... read more

Publishing Date: 02/10/2019
The above map shows the distribution of women of reproductive age (ages 18-49) spread across Tanzania, drawn from a combination of census data and satellite imagery. Image: Facebook.

Facebook has published new population density maps covering most of the African continent and countries of the Asia-Pacific region in June 2019. Using artificial intelligence (AI), these maps help organizations to respond to natural disasters, and scientists to assess the impact of climate change and urbanization on people’s lives. As soon as almost the entire world population is covered by the project, population distribution in remote areas will be better determinable by humanitarian agencies. In that way, health workers will be able to better reach households and relief workers to better distribute aid. 

For its population density maps, Facebook used a combination of machine learning techniques, high resolution satellite imagery and population data; no Facebook data was used nor did the census and satellite data used contain any personal data. The satellite maps used were created using DigitalGlobe's commercially available satellite from the same type... read more

Publishing Date: 16/07/2019
A sandstorm over the Sahara desert seen by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from the International Space Station in 2014. Image: ESA/NASA.

The importance of using space technologies in the disaster management process has received growing global recognition in recent years. For example, the African Union outlined in its 2017 African Space Policy that among other things, space represents a unique opportunity for cooperation in using and sharing infrastructure and data to proactively respond to and manage natural hazards and disasters. In addition, the potential of new technologies and techniques, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data, to improve the use of space-based data is receiving increased attention.

With a specific focus on Africa, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its UN-SPIDER Bonn office, and the University of Bonn’s Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) are organizing the UN-SPIDER Bonn International Conference “Space-based Solutions... read more

Publishing Date: 18/06/2019
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
H.E. Gerhard Küntzle, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations (Vienna); UNOOSA Director Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo; and Prof. Klaus Greve from the Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) at the University of Bonn.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) signed a cooperation agreement with the University of Bonn, Germany, that paves the way for joint activities to support Member States in using space-based information in all phases of disaster management over the next five years.

Natural and man-made disasters lead to loss of lives and property, displace people from their homes and destroy livelihoods, and threaten to jeopardize sustainable development efforts worldwide. Through its spatial and temporal coverage, satellite-based information provides crucial insights about disaster risks and emergency situations.

Under the title "Spaceborne Earth Observation Applications for Emergency Response and Disaster Risk Reduction (SPEAR)", the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), a programme implemented by UNOOSA, and the Centre for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) at the University of Bonn... read more

Publishing Date: 18/06/2019
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Image of South Africa acquired on 19 June 2010 by ESA's Envisat satellite. Image: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, through its UN-SPIDER programme, has activated the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" on behalf of the National Disaster Management Centre (NDC) of South Africa for the recent floods and mudslides in the country. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) is acting as project manager for this activation.

Heavy rainfall has been affecting eastern South Africa over the past few days, causing floods and landslides in Durban and the surrounding KwaZulu-Natal province. According to media reports, around 70 people have been killed and some 1,000 displaced. Buildings were severely damaged as flood waters washed through areas at high speed, closing two universities, schools and wider business... read more

Publishing Date: 26/04/2019
Sentinel-2 image shows burnscars near Cape Town, South Africa. The false-colour image shows burnt areas in dark greys and browns, and areas covered with vegetation in red.Image: ESA/ CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Using imagery of the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite, researchers from Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany have discovered that more areas in Sub-Saharan Africa are affected by wildfire than previously estimated. In their open-access paper, published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment, the researchers delineate how they created the first detailed continental map of burnt areas caused by wildfires for 2016.

Specific satellites, such as Sentinel-2, are used to detect disasters like wildfires and map their spreading in order to support relief efforts. Afterwards, the satellites images are used to monitor the traces the fires left behind, especially in remote regions.

Sub-Saharan Africa was picked because... read more

Publishing Date: 18/02/2019
African farmers harvesting the crop in South Sudan. Image: FAO/South Sudan.

The Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), developed by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International development charity (CABI), combines temperature and weather data provided by satellites with computer models to predict when pest outbreaks are most likely to occur, giving farmers time to prepare.

Farmers are currently notified of pest forecasts through an existing network of so-called "Plant Doctors" and receive WhatsApp messages with weekly warnings at county level during the growing season.

How does it work?

Satellites scanning the Earth can provide accurate land temperature information, which is one of the... read more

Publishing Date: 23/01/2019

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), conducted an International Expert Meeting on 12 November at the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany. “Towards Big (Space) Data in Support of Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response in Africa” aimed at contributing to an increased use of big data approaches and satellite technologies in African countries to respond to challenges posed by natural hazards.

The meeting was organized together with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and in cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The Center for Remote Sensing of Land Surfaces (ZFL) at the University of Bonn, a UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office, also provided support to the meeting.

Presentations delivered at the expert meeting are available on the... read more

Publishing Date: 12/11/2018
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Copernicus is the European Union's Earth Observation Programme, looking at the Earth and its environment. It offers information services based on satellite Earth Observation and in situ (non-space) data. Image: Copernicus

The African Union (AU) Commission signed a Cooperation Arrangement with the European Commission (EC) in Brussels on 12 June 2018 to facilitate AU’s access to Earth observation data from the Sentinel satellites of the Copernicus Programme.

Under the agreement, the AU Commission, African public users and African disaster management agencies will be able to access the data gathered by the Copernicus programme using high bandwidth terrestrial network connections from data hub to data hub so as to foster the exchange of Earth observation data between Europe and Africa. This data can be used to develop tools to monitor the environment, crops, water bodies and coastal ecosystems, as well as for disaster management.

As part of the deal, signed at the premises of the European Commission Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (DC-GROWTH), African scientists and institutions will... read more

Publishing Date: 02/08/2018

For a long time, Zambia has been affected by extreme weather conditions that have adversely affected the livelihood of smallholder farmers, especially women, who constitute 78 % of the agricultural labor force. To strengthen the capacity of national and sub-national entities in monitoring the climate, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the Zambian government through the Zambian Meteorological Department (ZMD), is implementing the project “Strengthening Climate Information and Early Warning Systems in Zambia to support climate resilient development”.

The project, which was launched in 2014, aims to improve climate monitoring capabilities, early warning systems and available information for responding to climate shocks and planning adaptation to climate change in Zambia. Besides minimising the impact of adverse weather on crops, it seeks to boost agricultural productivity.... read more

Publishing Date: 30/10/2017

Through the use of satellite data, two projects in Malaysia, Ethiopia and Kenya aim to generate new information for key decision makers. The objective of the projects is to intervene as early as possible to protect people and the environment.

In Malaysia a project consortium together with the National Defence University of Malaysia (NDUM) and the University of Oxford will cooperate with local government agencies to combat flooding, oil pollution and illegal logging. The project wants to make it possible for evacuation plans and flood defences to be activated much faster with the help of satellite data. Additionally, it will generate satellite data that will support the authorities to swiftly recognize and track oil leaks from ships which are causing irreparable damage to Malaysia's... read more

Publishing Date: 30/10/2017
Training on Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite imagery use in Gabon

The 3rd Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) workshop - coordinated by the CEOS Working Group on Capacity Development and Data Democracy (WGCapD), supported by UNOOSA through its UN-SPIDER Programme, the European Commission (Copernicus Programme) and ESA, and hosted by Gabonese Space Agency (AGEOS) - took place in Libreville, Gabon, between 20 and 24 February. The aim of this and two previous such workshops is to build specific capacity and a good understanding of how to process and analyze SAR imagery for participants in West Africa, East Africa and SADC countries.

Other organizations that also made a significant contribution to the success of the Gabon workshop by providing SAR experts to conduct specific lectures and hands-on training are NASA, the German Aerospace Agency (DLR), the SAREDU initiative and the University of Marne-la-Vallee in France.

The main objective is to build SAR utilisation capacity in the region and inform of the various SAR satellite... read more

Publishing Date: 05/04/2017
Image courtesy of RCMRD
From 13-15 March 2017, staff from the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) was trained on stream flow forecasting methodologies entitled “Hydrological modeling using a multi-model approach”. The aim was to transfer the required skills to RCMRD staff  involved with SERVIR activities as a way to implement the stream flow forecast project. The project is a collaborative effort led by the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Arizona, NASA’s SERVIR program and the Intergrated Water Resources Management unit at UNESCO (ICIWaRM-UNESCO). The project is conducted in several African regions. The model uses the most recent satellite observations and near-term weather forecasts providing publicly available forecast within 7-10 days. According to Dr. Robinson Mugo, who is the SERVIR East and South Africa project manager, “this is a useful tool for predicting floods and droughts as well as monitoring the availability of water for food security... read more
Publishing Date: 21/03/2017
Image courtesy of CABI

An armyworm pest has been afflicting southern and eastern Africa since the beginning of this year. It has been observed in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique with Zimbabwe being the worst affected country so far. The moths of the armyworm are born survivors and they are able to migrate over huge distances. Experts predict that next affected countries will be Tanzania and Kenya.

In January 2017 the UK Space Agency awarded £6,38 million in funding over 5 years to the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) project in sub-Saharan Africa. The project is led by CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) and it aims to reduce crop losses caused by pests in 6 countries in the region. As a part of the project, a pest risk forecasting system based on Earth Observation and Plantwise data will be created, providing forecasts and early warnings for smallholder farmers and thus increasing their resilience to pests and improving their livelihoods... read more

Publishing Date: 15/03/2017
Image courtesy of FEWS

Kenya’s president has declared the worsening drought in the country a national disaster.

According to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) the drought has been worsening in most Kenyan counties, now affecting nearly half the country. Forage conditions are drier than usual because of lower than usual rainfall conditions and also the extended dry period between the short and long rains in 2016. The number of people in need of food has risen from 1.3 million to 2.7 million last year.

Low levels of rainfall affected the crop performance in certain parts of the country, especially around Lake Victoria and in parts of the western and central region. Maize, beans and sorghum yields have experienced a significant drop of nearly 50% and in some counties, maize is said to be near total failure. 

The drought has also left the livestock in danger, causing unusual patterns of livestock migration. According to FAO’s Joseph Matere, it is going to get worse this... read more

Publishing Date: 11/02/2017

The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have signed a memorandum of understanding in Nairobi, Kenya on 18 January 2017. Speaking at the ceremony, the Director General of the RCMRD, Dr. Hussein Farah, emphasized the importance of both institutions in climate resilience and adaptation mechanism in Eastern and Southern Africa. RCMRD serves as a hub for the SERVIR-Eastern and Southern Africa project. Through their agreement, the SERVIR project will support ICPAC’s work on rangeland early warning system, climate diagnostics and ground water mapping and management for 9 months. 

See more:

About SERVIR Project: ... read more

Publishing Date: 08/02/2017


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