The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, has reminded African governments that they have the responsibility to sustainably exploit the abundant renewable and non-renewable resources for the benefit of their people.
“Africa is probably the most naturally endowed continent, yet the management of its resources for the collective prosperity of her people has eluded us up to date,” he stated.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng made these observations in a speech read on his behalf by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, Mr Lawrence Dakurah, at the Second AfriGEOSS Symposium in Sunyani.
AfriGEOSS is an initiative of the African community in the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) aimed at providing a coordination and collaboration network for the development and uptake of earth observation systems, data, information and knowledge which are critical to improving the socio-economic status of Africans.
It also sought to promote and build synergies with ongoing and planned earth observation initiatives at national, regional and international levels.
About 200 participants from Africa, Europe, USA, Canada and Asia participated in the symposium which was on the theme: “Delivering Earth Observations for Policy and Sustainable Societal Impact in Africa.”
Prof. Fimpong-Boateng observed that deforestation resulting from lumbering, poor agricultural practices, indiscriminate mining of sand, precious minerals and pollution of water were some of the endemic environmental issues experienced across Africa in response to market demand for those products.
According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment Report 2015, Africa’s natural forest had reduced from approximately 700 to 600 hectares between 1990 and 2016, he noted.
“This loss impacts all the ecosystem services provided by these natural areas affecting livelihood, not forgetting access to potable water,” Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said.
He added that the menace of illegal mining (galamsey) in Ghana, which had emerged as an issue of national concern, was a case in question.
Earth observation data
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng stated that Africa was no stranger to natural disasters ranging from floods, famine, drought and epidemics.
Effective early warning systems with information from meteorological satellites could help reduce the loss of lives during storms and floods, he advised.
He opined that since earth observation data aided in preparedness, disaster migration, response and recovery, the absence of such critical data affected the ability of African countries to ensure that their settlements were resilient to disasters.
For his part, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), Professor Harrison Dapaah, expressed the hope that initiatives GEO to focus on strengthening the use of earth observations and delivering the Global Earth Observing Systems (GEOSS) to Africa would leverage the expected impact.
“I am confident that we will take full advantage of the symposium to develop ourselves, network and disseminate knowledge and information among ourselves,” he said, and called for the translation of outcomes into transformational and pragmatic solutions for existing emerging problems on the African continent.