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Developing Fundamental Geospatial Datasets in Africa

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the AAG collaborated with EIS-AFRICA to support users of geospatial data in various countries of Africa between 2008 and 2013. 


Geographic data and spatial information is an essential resource for policy makers and administrators in any country. Maps and data on factors such as elevation, drainage system, transportation, populated places, geographical place names, vegetation, natural hazards and administrative boundaries are termed ‘fundamental geospatial datasets’. Having accurate and up-to-date geospatial data is necessary for economic planning, resource management, social welfare, environmental protection, and emergency preparedness among other things.

In Africa, geo-information was recognized as critical in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and effective implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development objectives. Economic growth, peace and stability in many regions of Africa has spurred the need for better geospatial data for development planning.

Focus on East Africa

Between 2011 and 2013, the focus of the program was the Lake Victoria region of East Africa. The aim was to work with urban planners and environmental professionals to build their capacity for the use of satellite imagery and derived data in support of sustainable development projects.

Activities included: establishing the baseline GIS data set currently available for the region; making an inventory of data sets in the region; developing the means for data to be accessed and used by professionals and scientists; filling in gaps in the data through the use of high-resolution commercial imagery; demonstrating to decision-makers the utility of GIS analysis in supporting good governance and sustainable development; conducting workshops and training events; and involving university students in managing and using geospatial information systems.

Workshop highlights

The first workshop in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2011 brought together key international, regional, national, academic and local organizations, as well as the UN, to discuss the development of base urban planning maps for the Lake Victoria region, and improve the capacity of local planners to use GIS and remote sensing in their work. During training sessions, urban planners from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were provided with high‐resolution commercial satellite imagery of their local areas and shown how it could be used to address actual problems.

The second workshop at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda in June 2012 paired up urban planners with university students and trained them in use of geographic data for sustainable urban planning. They received training in satellite image interpretation and in the derivation of datasets to MGCP standards. See photos 

The final two workshops held at the National University of Rwanda in December 2012 and July 2013 gave students and urban planners access to high-resolution commercial imagery of their local districts and then provided training in GIS software and the use of handheld GPS units, as well as a demonstration of how mobile phone technology could be used for information gathering in the field. See photos of the first and second Rwanda workshops