Dec 17, 2015

The European Union and Africa: a Copernicus partnership since 2007

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.

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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.

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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.

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