The Achievements and Prospects of Earth Observation in Africa

Building on the results obtained by PUMA, AMESD and MESA, EUMETSAT contributes to the GMES Africa and SAWIDRA continent-wide projects

As a result of close cooperation between the European Commission, the African Regional Economic Communities, the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), the African Union Commission and EUMETSAT, a succession of projects has been undertaken to help African countries get better access to Earth observation data. The focus for the initial PUMA project was to provide access to satellite data for weather forecasting. The objective of the subsequent AMESD and MESA projects has been the provision of data for climate and environment monitoring. The GMES and Africa Support Programme is continuing this long-term cooperation, by setting up two services through African thematic, scientific and academic networks, in cooperation with European partners.  In parallel, the SAWIDRA project aims to strengthen the core capacities of the specialised national and Regional Climate Centres (RCCs) to meet the needs of disaster risk management agencies, notably through exploiting sounder data from meteorological polar-orbiting satellites.

Preparation for Use of MSG in Africa (Puma)

The Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) satellites were the catalyst for the Preparation for Use of MSG in Africa (PUMA) project, an international collaborative venture which provides the continent’s National Meteorological and Hydrological Services with operational access to state-of-the-art satellite data, products and technology. The project spanned 2001-2006 and received funding of EUR 11.4 million from the European Commission through the European Development Fund.

PUMA has created a pan-African network involving 53 countries and five regional centres and equipped them with the infrastructure, training and support required for receiving the latest space-based meteorological and environmental data, images and products from EUMETSAT via the EUMETCast distribution system.

EUMETSAT supported PUMA’s Steering Committee Secretariat, as well as the Secretariat of the PUMA Task Team which provided support and guidance to PUMA’s partners. 

AFRICAN MONITORING OF THE ENVIRONMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (AMESD)

The African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) initiative took the Preparation for Use of MSG in Africa (PUMA) project a stage further by extending the operational use of Earth observation technologies and data to environment and climate monitoring applications. It was also the precursor of the extension of the GMES and Africa Initiative.

Launched in 2006, AMESD ran until mid-2013 and received funding of EUR 21 million from the European Commission through the European Development Fund.

The AMESD initiative's objective was to provide all African nations with the resources they need to manage their environment more effectively and ensure long-term sustainable development in the region. Most importantly, AMESD aimed to improve the lives and prospects of the 350 million disadvantaged people in Africa enduring poverty and hardship, whose livelihoods depend heavily on their environment.

EUMETSAT's role, as the organisation responsible for Europe's operational meteorological satellites, was fundamental to the successful implementation of AMESD. It encompassed the continuous supply of its satellite data and products free of charge via the EUMETCast dissemination system; providing AMESD with support in the maintenance and upgrading of receiving stations and equipment; continuing its training programmes for African National Meteorological and Hydrological Services personnel in close coordination with the AMESD training activities; providing managerial support to the committee in charge of supervising the project; and offering, through its biennial African User Forum, an opportunity for the African user community to meet, discuss and exchange information and ideas about AMESD and EUMETSAT data and products. 

MONITORING THE ENVIRONMENT AND SECURITY IN AFRICA (MESA)

The Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa programme (MESA) built on the results obtained in PUMA and AMESD and was a first contribution to the GMES and Africa Initiative. Launched in 2012, MESA ran until September 2017 and received funding of EUR 37 million from the European Development Fund.

MESA consolidated and widened the operational environmental services developed in AMESD, and put in place new services, notably Africa-wide climate services.

The purpose of the MESA project was: “to increase the information management, decision-making and planning capacity of African continental, regional and national institutions mandated for environment, climate, food security and related responsibilities by enhancing access to and exploitation of relevant Earth observation applications in Africa”.

EUMETSAT’s contribution to this project consisted of the provision of technical support for the maintenance of the reception stations; the use of EUMETCast for product dissemination; support to users through the EUMETSAT Help Desk; and contribution to the coordination and implementation of training activities.

Main outcomes of MESA were:

  • 2250 African experts trained at continental level;
  • 195 EUMETCast stations deployed or upgraded in 49 countries;
  • 130 African trainers trained;
  • 50 classroom training courses (including six training of trainers sessions);
  • 43 distance education courses conducted;
  • 18 environmental and climate services operational at regional level;
  • 12 south-south transfer of know-how and services between regional centres;
  • eight technical expert meetings and seven steering committee meetings;
  • five continental bulletins on the state of the environment in Africa for decision makers;
  • four training centres fully equipped;
  • two MESA forums and two policy dialogue workshops. 

For more information, please visit the MESA website.

GMES and Africa

The GMES and Africa (G&A) initiative started in 2006, triggered by the Maputo Declaration, and in 2007 became the cooperation framework on Earth observation under the Joint EU-Africa Strategy. To support the G&A initiative, funds were earmarked under the new EU “Pan-African Programme”, part of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020.

Based on the outcomes of a formulation study and on consultations with main stakeholders, the European Commission adopted the “Action Document for the GMES and Africa Support Programme”  in November 2015, committing a budget of EUR 26.5 million for the first phase.

The GMES and Africa Support Programme focuses on two main services:

  • the monitoring and management of marine and coastal environments (“marine service”);
  • the management of water resources and natural resources (“land service”).

These two services will be implemented through several regional grants, which are expected to be signed by the AUC in the first quarter of 2018. In addition to the activities funded by the grant, the AUC will also implement activities related to infrastructure and training.

EUMETSAT contribution

EUMETSAT will contribute to the GMES and Africa Support Programme based on an implementing arrangement signed between AUC and EUMETSAT. Areas of contribution are listed below.

  1. Provision of EUMETSAT data and products without charge to the national and regional institutions involved in the GMES and Africa Support Programme, subject to each institution being covered by a relevant agreement with EUMETSAT.
  2. Support to the GMES and Africa Support Programme activities related to the maintenance of the EUMETCast station infrastructure deployed in MESA and used by the GMES and Africa Support Programme, and the installation of new EUMETCast stations to support the new GMES and Africa Support Programme components.
  3. Support to the dissemination of data and products through EUMETCast.
  4. Establishment and operation of a first-line support Help-Desk for the GMES and Africa Support Programme-related institutions for their enquiries relating to EUMETSAT data and EUMETCast.
  5. Support to the planning and definition of GMES and Africa Support Programme activities related to training, ensuring coordination with the training implemented by EUMETSAT.
  6. Support to the regional grant activities related to the two GMES and Africa Support Programme services (marine and land).

In parallel, EUMETSAT will continue the dissemination via EUMETCast Africa of Sentinel-3 level 2 marine products.  

SAWIDRA (RARS Africa)

The main purpose of the Satellite and Weather Information for Disaster Resilience in Afirca (SAWIDRA) projects are to improve the capacity of the Regional Climate Centres (RCCs) to meet the needs of disaster risk management agencies. These projects are funded by the African Development Bank as part of the intra-ACP Programme: “Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in Sub-Saharan African Regions, Countries and Communities”. This overall programme includes five result areas and is implemented by the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank.

Result area three of the programme foresees that, “Core capacities of the specialised national and Regional Climate Centres (RCCs) are improved to meet the needs of DRM agencies and socio-economic sectors for effective use of weather and climate services and community-focused and real-time early warning systems”. It has a budget of EUR 20 million and is implemented through the AfDB’s ClimDev Africa Special Fund (CDSF). The AfDB and the EC signed a “Contribution Agreement” in July 2014 to that effect. The AfDB subsequently put in place five SAWIDRA projects:

SAWIDRA – Continental (implemented by ACMAD)

  • The installation of four RARS stations to ensure coverage of Africa and real-time access to satellite meteorological information relevant to disaster risk reduction.
  • Enhancement of the regional numerical weather prediction capacities at ACMAD, including assimilation of in-situ and satellite data.
  • Related training activities.

The main purpose of RARS Africa is for Africa to develop, implement and operate an African component of RARS. Preliminary analysis indicated that four stations would be sufficient to constitute an initial African RARS component, taking into account existing stations of the EARS network.

SAWIDRA – Regional for Western Africa (implemented by AGRHYMET), East Africa (by ICPAC) and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean (by SADC-CSC) 

  • Enhancing the capacities of sub-Saharan African NMHS to receive NWP model outputs (or alternatively to run NWP models at national scale) in order to raise relevant warnings of extreme weather events to their disaster risk management agencies.
  • Training activities related to all the points above.
  • Supporting the Regional Climate Outlook Forum (RCOF), while integrating a strong disaster risk reduction dimension.

SAWIDRA – Regional for Central Africa

The project will support the newly created Economic Commission of Central African States (ECCAS) Regional Climate Centre for Central Africa CAPC-AC (located in Douala, Cameroon) for the improvement of services delivered by NMHS to disaster risk management agencies in the regions, as well as supporting the Regional Climate Outlook Forum.

These projects started in 2017 and are expected to be completed by the end of 2019. 

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