The Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, has expressed the country's readiness to participate in any initiative on the continent to build the capacities of professionals and institutions to develop decision support systems and relevant applications for the monitoring, management and evaluation of Africa's ecological systems.
Speaking at the opening of the seventh international conference of the African Association of Remote Sensing and the Environment (AARSE) in Accra yesterday, Alhaji Mahama said such applications were also necessary to enhance the effective management of natural resources on the continent for the benefit of present and future generations.
The four-day conference, which has attracted geophysicists, researchers, geo-information scientists, practitioners and allied service providers from all over Africa, Europe, the United States of America, among others, is to increase the awareness of African scientists and institutions, the private sector and society at large of the benefits of developing, applying and utilising the products and services of geo-information and space technology in the sustainable management of Africa's natural resources and the environment.
It is also to expose the potential applications of these technologies for poverty alleviation, one of the major problems in Africa.
Alhaji Mahama called for the development of a fast track technological capacity to develop space-based monitoring and evaluation systems for disaster management, strategic environmental assessment of the continent's plans, policies and programmes for enhancing economic and social development initiatives.
“We need to think of innovative ways to bridge the geo-spatial science-policy gap in Africa,” he said, adding that “our universities and tertiary institutions could serve as centres of excellence for building the needed critical mass of expertise for earth-observation based applications development, spatial modelling and policy-relevant product generation for resource management”.
The Vice-President described the objective of the conference as laudable and all-encompassing, given the dearth of national geo-information systems in Africa for monitoring Africa's ecosystems on a sustainable basis.
He said although space-based technologies for gathering timely and high resolution earth observation data for environmental assessment had become a reality in recent times, Africa was yet to benefit fully from the advantages that those technologies provided.
Alhaji Mahama said sustainable development of the human and institutional capacities in the use of geo-information for environment and natural resource management and facilitating access to such space-based data sets would provide the necessary impetus for the acceptability of such useful tools by African policy makers.
That, he said, would be part of an effort to transform governance in Africa through the use of geo-based decision-aided tools for policy transformation.
“African countries have a tremendous need for geo-information tools in promoting the efficient use of resources for sustaining sound development planning, in addressing our environmental challenges and in the implementation of our development agenda,” he said.
According to the Vice-President, those tools were essential for good governance-driven sustainable development which, to a great extent, depended on the availability of reliable up-to-date spatial database.
The Director of the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geo-Information Services (CERGIS) at the University of Ghana, Legon, and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the conference, Mr Foster Mensah, expressed the hope that participants would work hard to address the various gaps in the development process on the continent through the use of geo-information systems.
Dr Giovanni Rum of the Geo Secretariat showcased a wide range of activities and products from the secretariat and urged members to apply them at all times.
Story by Abdul Aziz & Charles Benoni Okine