The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Buti Manamela, has urged the Earth observations community globally to ensure citizens feel the impact and relevance of Earth observations (EO).
The Deputy Minister was speaking today during the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Ministerial Summit in Canberra, Australia, as part of GEO Week 2019. South Africa is GEO co-chair and regional representative for Africa alongside the United States and China.
The Deputy Minister is leading the South African delegation at the summit, which is focused on promoting open data and knowledge, industry development and public-private partnerships, informed decision-making through the use of EO information products, and cooperation for the achievement of the objectives of global treaties such as the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
South Africa is using its participation in the event to identify opportunities for local industries interested in doing EO business in the African region. Government will reap the benefits of this support through tax returns, job creation and access to global EO technologies, among other things.
Various industry reports show space downstream applications generated approximately R165 billion in 2018, and they are expected to grow in the region of 14,9% annually. With the growing uptake of EO products in the continent, South Africa is working on building an environment that will ensure that the country captures a sizeable global market share.
This can be done by forging partnerships with global space leaders, making sure the South African industry has access to data, developing the required skills, and showcasing indigenous space-based information products and capabilities.
Deputy Minister Manamela said GEO's Global Agriculture Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative was one example of community-centred collaboration in the GEO work programme.
"GEOGLAM has ensured that trusted, accurate and useful data is made available to users and decision-makers. Monthly GEOGLAM Crop Monitor reports are useful for governments, the agricultural sector, insurance providers and other national and regional stakeholders, providing timely and actionable insights on crop information," said the Deputy Minister.
The Deputy Minister cited the positive impact of Crop Monitor on Uganda, which has made remarkable efforts to apply EO data to the development of early warnings for crop failure and to inform disaster risk financing strategies. Integrating EO into several government ministries, Uganda is setting an example in using Earth observations for better policymaking.
He also expressed appreciation at the efforts of AfriGEO, spearheaded by South Africa and hosted at the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development in Kenya.
"We are, as a continent, starting to see the value in EO data and coordination of EO activities. South Africa will contribute to AfriGEO through its many initiatives. This will include the extension of the National Oceans and Coastal Information Management System, which is currently at the centre of our efforts to grow the oceans economy's contribution to our GDP," he said.
He added that, after the successful launch of the ZACube2 satellite last December, South Africa was now able to provide enhanced ocean traffic data. The country was also in the process of establishing a regional node for the Global Observation System for Mercury and Digital Earth South Africa, among others.
GEO is a voluntary global intergovernmental partnership founded on the principle that Earth observations are crucial for decision-making, planning and sustainable development, and for fulfilling the objectives outlined in global treaties such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Through its 108 member governments and 129 participating organisations, GEO has in the past 15 years made major progress in addressing a range of essential societal benefit areas to address global challenges, such as food security, disaster management, urban settlements and water resource management.
GEO Week started on Monday, 4 November, and will end on Saturday, 9 November. The week's activities include exhibitions, plenaries and executive meetings focusing on accelerating the delivery of GEO's 2020-2022 Work Programme and bring EO communities together to scale up the impact of EO at national, regional and global level.
Source: Department: Science and Technology