Research and Projects
Geoscience Data Compilation Eastern and Sourthen Africa (GEODESA)
Prior to the start of the GEODESA project it was observed that “the accessibility of existing (geoscientific) data on the nature and the extent of the mineral resources of the region, as well as the capacity to study them, were extremely limited” (quote from the Financing Agreement, 1993). This constituted a major constraint to the development of the mineral sector and of the national and regional economies.
In 1994 the European Commission signed a Financing Agreement with 13 ACP States in the region to provide technical assistance, using the 7th European Development Fund (EDF). Under the agreement two parallel components of technical assistance were anticipated. One of these was a data-component, later to be called the GEODESA project (Geoscience data compilation in Eastern and Southern Africa), which was to address the accessibility of geo-data. The GEODESA project started in July 1996. The project’s main objective was to assist the Geological Survey Organizations (GSO’s) of a group of 13 countries in the region in managing and upgrading their existing geoscience data.
The governments of the 13 countries involved had already organized themselves in two different regional organizations related to the mineral sector: the Southern and Eastern African Mineral Centre, SEAMIC (based in Dar es Salaam but at that time still known as ESAMRDC), and SADC-MCU (based in Lusaka). Both these organizations were also included in the technical assistance to be delivered, and in fact regional co-operation was a key element in the project. GEODESA itself was based at SEAMIC in Dar es Salaam.
The consultants providing the assistance were TNO (Netherlands Institute of Applied Geoscience) and ITC (International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences) from the Netherlands. It is against this background that the AEGOS project was initiated to assist in the discovery, development and sustainable use of resources of geological origin such as minerals and non-energy raw materials, groundwater and geothermal energy that require knowledge based on data, information and expertise. The establishment and running of AEGOS is particularly a key issue in Africa, not only for development of the African countries, but also for the world’s future as provision of a standardized high quality data which would raise the chances of discovery of minerals to meet the demand of the world’s growing population in the continent. During the period 1996 – 2000 the project provided PC-based comprehensive technical hard-and software to the 15 institutions, organized training courses in the various aspects of geoscience data handling (at SEAMIC’s training facilities), and assisted the member States in cataloguing, standardizing, reprocessing and upgrading their existing geoscience data. The project also stimulated regional co-operation by organizing workshops and by supporting cross-border projects. Furthermore, capacity building and institutional strengthening for SEAMIC in Dar es Salaam was an important element. A Geo-Information department was established within SEAMIC, which will act as a regional “one-stop-shop” for services and information related to geoscience data. Such a regional exploration data unit is expected to cater for the member States government institutions (Ministries of Mines and Geological Surveys) as well as for the private industry in the region. Paramount in the efforts of the GEODESA project was the notion of “making the regions exploration data more easily accessible”. This contributes to creating an enabling environment with more optimal investment conditions for the private industry. Services offered on a commercial basis to the mining community include: GIS processing, training courses (related to geoscience data handling), meta-databases for exploration data, scanning and digitizing services, data-processing.
At the end of the four-year GEODESA project the main results were: (1) the establishment of a modern, well-equipped Geo-Information Department within the regional Mineral Centre (SEAMIC) in Dar es Salaam; (2) a re-vitalized SEAMIC, with a much better profile, both in the public and in the private sector, finding itself much closer to long-term sustainability; (3) standardized computer facilities and the capability to use them at the other 14 participating institutions in the region; (4) an inventory of the existing geological exploration data in the region, ordered in a GIS database, and available to anyone on CD-ROM; (5) computerized and upgraded national data-sets and maps in the individual national institutions; (6) a strong regional network of geoscientists and institutions, resulting from the training courses, workshops and cross-border projects managed by the project.
At the end of the project also a few shortcomings were noted. First of all, one of the planned activities (building a mineral occurrences database for SADC MCU) could not be executed because of a change of position within SADC on the desirability of such a database, and the reluctance from a few SADC countries to approve the initiative (even without supplying any of their own data). Secondly, regional thematic maps could not be produced for similar reasons. Thirdly, in a few cases, as a result of unforeseen delays, the time left within the national organizations to actually apply what was learned through the training courses, and make use of the provided computer systems was too short to process (computerize and standardize) all their existing data-sets.
On the positive side it should be noted, that the GEODESA project was able to deliver additional output in some areas beyond the Terms of Reference for the Consultant’s contract. Assistance was provided to SEAMIC with respect to income generation, promotion and public relations, quality control and advice relating to a re-definition of SEAMIC’s mission and development of new markets.
A lot of momentum has been gained by the project, and it is highly recommended to the European Union (or other parties that might be in a position to provide assistance) not to completely abandon SEAMIC and its member States’ Geological Surveys at this stage. A relatively small additional investment would make sure that much more existing information could be ordered and computerized, and would increase the critical mass of skilled professional staff working at the GSO’s. SEAMIC as a regional science and technology centre and a hub for many in the region, should further develop its market, in the public as well as the private sector. The established network provides a good basis to do so. In the immediate future SEAMIC should try to obtain ISO9001 certification in order to be attractive to potential customers. It is recommended to the European Union to support these efforts for the next 18 months. While doing so, some more critical mass at the other institutions of the member States will also be created (through some more training at SEAMIC), and a more gradual change toward a really sustainable situation can be accommodated.
On the longer run a new model for international co-operation in science and technology is proposed. More elaborate twinning relationships between either SEAMIC, or the entire network of GSO’s (including SEAMIC) in the region on the one hand, and Geological Surveys in the North on the other could be established. We believe that the investigation of such possibilities is worthwhile for potential donor organizations. The model of longer lasting twinning relationships in the area of science and technology, combined with the regional approach (involving regional institutions such as SEAMIC) is likely to be a much more efficient vehicle for providing technical assistance than the dispersed and rather uncoordinated TA projects on a bilateral basis.
African-European Georesources Observation System (AEGOS)
It is a glaring fact that there are quite a few world class mineral deposits in Africa that are currently under development and others requiring further works such as feasibility study of the deposits, more detailed exploration…etc. Despite the very few world class mines development, quite a number of recent discoveries coupled with huge volumes of georesources data on Africa; are archived in European and African institutions. So far only a fraction of the potential mineral deposits of Africa has come to light due to very many factors, the important ones being lack of well processed and standardized geo-scientific data and technical well qualified expertise that are a prerequisite to accelerate exploration and speed up discovery.
To carry out the activities listed in the AEGOS project a consortium of 23 partners (see table below) from Europe and Africa co-coordinated by BRGM of France was formed to implement the project in different phases by signing a Charter of Partnership. Funding for the Project to finance the initial implementation from 2009-2011 was secured from a Support Action of the 7th European Union’s Research and Technology Development Framework Programme (FP7). The Project is entrusted to design and set up a pan-African spatial data infrastructure (SDI) of public, interoperable geological and geology-related data , suitable technological architecture as well as user-oriented services to foster and strengthen the sustainable use of georesources in Africa.
The necessary geoinformation such as maps as well as the development of a portal with services for discovering, viewing, querying and downloading data/metadata/information and an eShop for the dissemination of AEGOS generated products and services are envisaged to be put in place during the implementation of AEGOS phase II. For operating the self-sustaining infrastructure, AEGOS will have the necessary administrative, legal framework, marketing and human resources capacity to self finance its operations. Currently there are limitations by very many African institutions to independently run the AEGOS project. The creation of maps using GIS, skills in system administration and especially the development of Web applications and the production of reports are lacking due to trained manpower.
To fill the knowledge gap the necessary capacities of the African institutions will be strengthened by the 2nd phase of the AEGOS project through the EC technical assistance scheme to empower the African geoscientific organisations. This would assit Africans and their respective institutions to be capable of conducting all activities related to the operation of a geodata infrastructure. Studies so far conducted show that there are a number critical fields of specializations that need to be strengthened in African institutions and the knowledge levels improved or upgraded to efficiently and independently run the AEGOS infrastructures within the African institutions.
These specialized fields are the following: information technology; data management; data processing; end user service; and operational management The availability of adequate qualifications in the five fields mentioned above is the “starting point” for all partner institutions to cope with the AEGOS geodata infrastructure. All partners whose existing knowledge and skills are not to the required level shall be trained to reach the knowledge baseline of the project. The institutions that already have adequate skills will be provided with additional training on AEGOS-specific topics. The objective of these capacity building measures will ensure that all AEGOS partners will be capable of implementing and operating the AEGOS-SDI by themselves. Capacity building for the production, management, dissemination and use of geoinformation is therefore of immense importance to African institutions, requiring focused and concerted efforts towards strengthening national and regional capacities in Africa. As a strategy immediate actions to capacity strengthening are to be taken through the development of skilled manpower, standardization of geoinformation curricula and upgrading of the technical capacities of the institutions.