Geospatial Information Critical for Africa's Sustainable Development

1 December 2020

Addis Ababa — The Sixth Meeting of the Regional Committee

of the United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management in Africa (UN-GGIM: Africa) opened Tuesday with the Director of the African Centre for Statistics at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Oliver Chinganya, emphasizing the importance of solid, reliable and accurate 'place-based' information for informed decisions needed to tackle Africa's greatest challenges.

In official opening remarks to the virtual meeting, Mr. Chinganya said in the last couple of decades, UN-GGIM: Africa had set realistic approaches to ensure that systematic and comprehensive frameworks were put in place with related policies, resources and structures that make geospatial information technologies easily accessible to decision makers and the community in a coordinated way.

"We all know that to tackle some of the greatest challenges we face as a society today, due consideration should be placed on understanding more about our planet and its socio-economic patterns. Fundamental to this is increasing our understanding of 'place'. To do this and for those who are making important decisions on how to address these issues - solid, reliable and accurate 'place-based' information is needed," he said.

"I believe we have laid strong foundations in the past years. The foundations will help UN-GGIM: Africa to grow as a recognized thought leader on matters related to geospatial information. They will also help UN-GGIM: Africa to realize its vision."

Mr. Chinganya said the real challenge was to build on these foundations.

"To ensure that we continue to make progress, take concrete actions and deliver things that will make a real difference, we need to ensure that decisions are made based on a sound evidence base that is underpinned by accurate, reliable and maintained geospatial information," the ECA Director said.

He said the ECA as the Secretariat of UN-GGIM: Africa, in collaboration with the Executive Bureau, had organized this sixth meeting of UN-GGIM Africa to continue to build consensus as part of coordinating Africa's contribution to the global UN-GGIM.

"At the end of this meeting it is important for mechanisms to be put into place that ensure an effective engagement of member States to attain the goals and objectives of UN-GGIM: Africa," said Mr. Chinganya, adding of particular note was the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Geospatial information has proven to be very useful in allowing the public to get quick and easy access to information about how a dangerous disease is spatially close to them and learn about how it is affecting other parts of the world."

For his part, Oumar Ka, Chair of the UN-GGIM: Africa Executive Board, said amid the uncharted waters of the novel coronavirus crisis, there would be great challenges for the continent and the world at large to overcome.

"But through science and technology and reliable geospatial information for sustainable development policymaking we can emerge stronger," he said, adding creativity and innovation were critical going forward.

Representing the UN-GGIM Secretariat, Greg Scott said COVID-19 had changed the world as we know it and "we need to readjust and recalibrate using new technologies and capabilities. We need to look at the crisis as an opportunity for the geospatial community".

For his part, the African Union Commission's representative to the meeting, Meshack Kinyau, said geospatial information and technology will play an important role in how Africa recovers and builds back and forward better in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said there was great potential for Africa's mapping agencies to showcase their capabilities; create dashboards and apps for information and insights crucial for important decision making as the continent forges ahead.

UN-GGIM: Africa was established to coordinate African geospatial development and contribute to the wider global initiative. UN-GGIM: Africa supports ECA Member States to advance holistic visions that foster the effective use of geospatial products and resources in support of solving emerging global challenges and Africa's socio-economic sectors.

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