The European Union and Africa: a Copernicus partnership since 2007

Russia to launch 2nd remote sensing satellite for Egypt
2nd Nov 2015
Satellite Brings Aircraft Surveillance to Africa
13th Jan 2016

Source: European Commission: Article: Copernicus Newsletter

The GMES & Africa initiative was established in order to promote cooperation between the European Union and the African Union, to strengthen coordination amongst Earth Observation initiatives, and to facilitate the development of Space-based technologies on the African continent. In October 2015, the Development Cooperation Instrument committee of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) approved funding support from the Pan-African programme related to this initiative. Three priority topics will be addressed during the initial implementation phase of the initiative (2016 – 2020): long term management of natural resources, marine and coastal areas monitoring and water resources management.

The GMES & Africa initiative was established in 2007 as a firm commitment to cooperative action between Europe and Africa towards the development and implementation of Earth Observation (EO) applications tailored to African requirements. A specific roadmap was developed which applied the programmatic approach of the EU’s Copernicus programme (known as GMES at the time) to the African continent. The GMES & Africa initiative takes place in the wider context of the Africa-EU partnership, aimed at the sustainable development of the African regions and scientific cooperation between Europe and Africa.

The GMES & Africa partnership approach arose as a result of the consensus reached at the Lisbon Summit in December 2007, as part of the 8th Joint Africa-EU Strategy Partnership on Science, Information Society and Space. The Lisbon declaration on GMES & Africa laid out the actions to be undertaken in order to formulate the GMES & Africa Action Plan (GAAP). GMES & Africa will strengthen Africa’s capacities and its ownership of EO activities, acknowledging the importance of past and present African programmes and recognising the need to coordinate actions so as to avoid duplication, increase synergies and enhance complementarities.

After extensive consultations over several years, the African and European experts involved in this initiative defined nine thematic areas for the GMES & Africa information services: i) infrastructure and territorial development, ii) long term management of natural resources, iii) marine and coastal areas, iv) water resources management, v) impact of climate variability change, vi) natural disasters, vii) food security and rural development, viii) conflicts and political crises, ix) health management issues. In addition, five cross-cutting issues were identified: governance, infrastructure, capacity building, financial and monitoring & evaluation.

Nine GMES & Africa information services defined after extensive consultations. The three topics marked in orange will be implemented during the first phase (2016-2020) under the auspices of the Pan-African Programme of the EC’s DG DEVCO.

The GMES & Africa coordination team, comprised of experts from the African Union Commission (AUC), the European Commission, African and European Member States, regional organisations, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the European Space Agency (ESA), selected three of the above-mentioned topics as priority areas to be addressed during the initial implementation phase of the initiative: long-term management of natural resources, water resources management and monitoring of marine and coastal environment.

In October 2015, the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) committee of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) backed this initiative, providing funding support from the Pan-African programme (EU financial instrument for the development of the cooperation strategy between the European Union and the African Union).

Presently, African organisations are submitting concept notes – expression of interest – to a call issued by the African Union Commission for the implementation of services in the three priority areas.

GMES & Africa will be coordinated by the AUC through a dedicated secretariat to be established (and mandated) once the African Space Policy and Strategy will have been adopted by the African Heads of State at their summit scheduled for February 2016.

Reinforcing links in Earth Observation: 6th EU-Africa Space Troika

The EU-Africa Space Troika is a forum that was set up in 2011, bringing together representatives of the Africa Union Commission Departments and European Commission Directorates involved in Space matters in order to advance cooperation in Space and in monitoring the implementation of projects.

The forum also aims at enabling Africa to exploit its Space resources and to coordinate synergies amongst Space initiatives on the continent, so that Space systematically contributes to Africa’s sustainable development efforts.

The 6th EU-Africa Space Troika, organised in Brussels on April 20th 2015, was dedicated to Earth Observation matters, and particularly to GMES & Africa. The forum called for the application of approaches developed in the context of the Copernicus programme for the implementation of GMES & Africa: taking advantage of free, full and open access to Space data, focusing on services which are already operational, and involving the private sector in service development.

The African private sector involved in remote sensing and geospatial technology has grown immensely over the past 20 years. A better understanding of this sectors’ expertise and capabilities is, however, needed in order to assess its health and state and to better harness its potential.  To this end, the EC’s DG GROW (Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) is initiating the creation of a “yellow pages” inventory of African private sector actors in this field who could potentially contribute to the GMES & Africa initiative. This tool will enable to play an important role by the African private sector companies during the development and provision of information services in the context of GMES & Africa, and facilitate joint ventures between European and African companies.

Original Article

Copernicus newsletter: December 2015