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Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Africa the Beautiful

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

Yes it is, just check it out yourself and do come visit. Africa is so beautifully diverse and enchantingly alluring it draws you- a free people, so real.

Suguta Valley, Kenya
Suguta Valley, Kenya.

Nyamuragira Volcano Democratic Republic of Congo
Nyamuragira Volcano Democratic Republic of Congo.

Great Dyke, Zimbabwe.
Great Dyke, Zimbabwe.

Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Great Bitter Lake, Suez canal, Egypt.
Great Bitter Lake, Suez canal, Egypt.

Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania.
Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, Tanzania.

Namib Desert, Namibia
Namib Desert, Namibia

All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

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Keeping a Hand on the Pulse of Agriculture on the Continent

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 30, 2011

This post shows the use of satellite imagery to chronicle how natural and man-made events (floods, fires, and wasting droughts) contribute to the success and failure of the agricultural economy responsible for shaping and sustaining the livelihoods of millions of Africans. All images are from the NASA Earth Observatory.

Southern Africa flooding February 2011
Southern Africa flooding February 2011

Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011
Zambezi river flooding, Zambia and Namibia, February 2011

Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,
Vegetation Anomaly (percent)
Drought in East Africa, Image taken in January 2010,

Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.
Fires in Okavango delta, Botswana, October 2010.

Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.
Flooded Oueme river, Benin, October 2010.

Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.
Revived and Flooded Boteti River, Botswana., September 2010.

Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.
Bush burning, Angola and DRC, June 2010.

Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010
Flooded Pungue river, Mozambique, March 2010

Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.
Flooding in North-central Tanzania, January 2010.

Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.
Agricultural fires across West Africa, December 2009.

Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.
Fires in and around Mozambique, September 2009.

Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.
Flooding in West Africa, September 2009.

Posted in Africa, Drought, Earth observation, Flooding, Humanitarian emergencies, NASA, Satellites, Southern Africa, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Use of Technology for Elections and Civil Empowerment

Posted by Simon Adebola on March 6, 2011

There was much anxiety and anger in Nigeria recently concerning the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it was not going to be using the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, that it invested about 35 billion Naira in purchasing, for the upcoming April 2011 elections. The anger stems from the fact that it is believed that the use of electronic registration and voting could help minimize the risk of a fraudulent conduct of the upcoming elections. In addition, so much had been invested in these machines that it struck many as simply horrendous that the last voters registration exercise (with its faults) was the last that was going to be seen of these machines, or at least so it seemed. Well without seeking to speak in defence of the INEC, it is true that unless there is a firm legal basis for the use of these machines in the elections, it would be preposterous to assume that their use would be appropriate. Moreso, recent international experience has shown that e-voting is not without its challenges. Legal actions have been known to push for the overturning of extensive civil investments if there is a fault in their conduct or execution that suggests that they were not legal or constitutional in the first place. No institution would go ahead and use these machines to conduct elections and then be told that the voting should be annuled because it is not legal. About the continued use of the machines, there is no assurance that the current INEC leadership would be in power beyond this round of elections, so it is appropriate for them to comment about the upcoming elections and not any of the further potential uses of the machines. I believe they have not ruled out any of these potential future uses, but have only spoken on that which is immediate and pertinent to the country at this time.

This short piece is however aimed at picking on a few ideas to which the machines could be used. Some have suggested that they should be used for the voting process. They could also come in useful in the next national census exercise. There are also elections that would keep holding in different states and local governments, these machines would definitely be of use. In about 4 years, a new generation of voters would be eligible to exercise this civic responsibility and having such machines available would make their assimilation easy. Then what about the National ID card or was it not this same types of machines that were used the last time the ID registration took place in Nigeria? Then there is also the need to have accurate civil registration, vital statistics, and a comprehensive national demographic database. The lack of good quality data on demographic indices is a curse, I repeat, a curse. This condoned level of ignorance is sin. Okay, I rant so please bear with me.

First and foremost Nigerian engineers are capable of networking these machines and compiling a single secure database with all the data from these machines. Access to this database can be properly regulated and every action on the data fully recorded and logged for tracking purposes. This would ensure that they are not easily tampered with. Physical security of the machines and the data they are used in generating can be ensured through the building in of geotracking capability, backing up of the data, and other necessary physical measures to prevent their theft or misuse. When there is a single database for the collected data, it can be made accessible to the machines anywhere in the country for correlation and confirmation during voting. The kind of telecommunications infrastructure needed to do that may not exist all over Nigeria now, but it is hoped that by the next round of voter registration and elections such infrastructure would exist to permit the remote linking of these machines to a central database. Any government that cannot make broadband (be it fibre or wireless), 4G, or at least 3G available all over the country in four years should not have been voted-in in the first place. These uses would require a mix of hardware and software modifications, but it is clear that all it would take, having invested so much, is to take apart one of these machines, tinker with it, add the needed hardware, reprogram it with software as necessary, re-assemble the thing, and make it work to serve whatever purpose for which it is then intended for. This can then be duplicated for the other units. I hope that is legal. Whichever way, having invested 35 billon naira this time, the nation’s engineers should rise up to the challenge and build its own DDC machines.

Value needs to be placed on information as a source of empowerment, and as a social and civil vanguard. The use of technologies has become the cornerstone of the information age. Right before our eyes, the ability to generate, transmit, and share information is actively shaping social discourse. It is also giving room for a new social order and political determinism particularly among the younger generation, even where it was previously least expected. Information and access to it has bred a generation that can no longer be underestimated. What once amazed their parents was their versatility with fancy gadgets, but that has now steadily being transformed to raw power in calling for change, demanding for their rights, and reverting the socio-political order. The role of science and technology in shaping this rise of knowledge and power, is an indication for African engineers to take up the challenge to design and develop better software and hardware to enable the rapid uptake of technologies and information in this age. This is their unique role and charge. Educational systems have a major part to play in this needed technological revolution. All hands must be on deck!

Posted in Africa, Development, Innovation, Technology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Investing in Space is Profitable for Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2010

Any close follower of international space programs would have noticed the difference between British space sector activities and those of other countries like the United States, Russia, and China. The major difference has been that the British do not have a human space programme. This was abandoned some decades ago and efforts have been focused on space science, non human space exploration, and space engineering. Although the discussion is ongoing, including the discussion about the tardiness of the British in establishing a space agency, it is clear that the British government is not willing to commit billions in taxpayers’ money towards a human space exploration program. All well and good.

As mentioned earlier, the country has however distinguished itself in astronomy, the manufacture of space payloads and scientific instruments for straightforward and complex missions, and in the manufacture of small satellites at relatively low costs. This has seen the success of private bodies such as the Surrey Space Technologies Limited, Guildford headed by Sir Martin Sweeting and now part of the EADS Astrium NV. It has also witnessed the cross-fertilisation of skills between astronomers, particle physicists, and space engineers and scientists. The rise of Britain as a force in Earth Observation, and even geo-navigation, is also linked to this emphasis on non human space exploration. Then of course one has to mention the growth of space-based telecommunications including broadband internet. Britain exported space tourism to the United States, but further regulations may yet enable the growth of the space tourism industry in the UK. The space industry in the UK keeps growing, according to a recent study, and has proven resistant to economic recession over the last 3 years. The Oxford Economics Consultancy study puts the value at a turnover of 7.5 billion pounds with a 15% employment growth rate.

The success of the British model which up till recently was driven by the innovativeness and commitment of disparate entities from the academia, private sector, professional associations, and interest groups, demonstrates that the ‘bread debate’ is a hapless distraction that has limited growth in the space sector in many developing countries. The ‘bread debate’ suggests that investment in space activities may not be worthwhile if there are other challenges such as poverty, health, and basic infrastructure. There is no doubt, however, that any venture that grows the economy, creates jobs, and drives innovation would ultimately bear on these stated challenges of poverty, health, infrastructure etc. This shows why investment in space activities rather than limit growth in the countries that choose it, has actually boosted economic growth, and generated spin-offs that are enhancing livelihoods. The UK has proven that investment in space need not be solely capital-intensive ventures like human space flight, but that there are many other aspects that hold huge promise for economic prosperity. There is a need for developing countries to change their attitudes and catch up on lost developments. The world is not waiting.

There has been much talk about an African Space Agency, externally driven by ‘Sinophobia’ and European interests. The game is going to be long-drawn. There is however something to be learned from the example of the UK Space Agency. It has commissioned this study that has benchmarked the terrain and adjudged the economic value and potential for growth of the space sector in the UK. It has also clearly laid out a 20 year vision and strategy for growth as shown here. This is intended to be profitable, high tech, and environmentally friendly. It is by no means an inferiority complex-driven pursuit of fleeting national prestige, or an excuse for corrupt governments to enrich themselves, or a basis to trash out lame issues about geographical balance in international representations. Clarity, openness, transparency, foresight, and the common good should be some of the values that should drive a visionary policy that would pave the way for a successful African space program.

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African Space Round-Up

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 2, 2010

The African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) held its 8th International meeting last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The week long event held from the 25-29 October 2010. It explored themes around the applications of Earth Observation for Africa’s development agenda. More info here

The Group on Earth Observation would commence its seventh plenary session immediately followed by its ministerial summit, this week in Beijing, China. The events would hold respectively on the 3rd-4th and on the 5th of November 2010. Key issues about the GEO tasks and workplan would be discussed among others. GEO membership is currently made up of 84 member states and the European Commission. There are 21 African member states with Gabon being the most recent addition. The plenary and summit programme is available here

NASA sends terrabytes of data to African environmental scientists. Read more here

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Nigeria’s Climate Change Bill

Posted by Simon Adebola on November 2, 2010

A bill establishing a Climate Change Commission for Nigeria is said to be ready for Presidential assent. When in force, Nigeria would be the first African country with such legislation. The commission would be responsible for developing a national strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emission. This is important considering the risks of rising coastal waters, desert encroachment, and environmental pollution due to oil exploration and gas flaring.

“Other opportunities, as embedded in the bill, include undertaking the implementation and operation of the rules, institutions and procedures governing the national and international climate change regime as outlined in the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto protocol and the Marrakesh Accords, all of which Nigeria is a signatory to and has ratified.” (Alex Emeje: 234next.com)

It is hoped that the bill and the commission would lead to the development of appropriate policies that would serve the people and not just enrich a few. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring that the expected inflow of funding through the various facilities being deployed for climate adaptation, is not taken advantage of by corrupt individuals of which the nation is extremely sick and would love to eschew once and for all. It is also important that the various government arms and parastatals support the implementation of contained provisions. Further research needs to be conducted by local institutions to adequately assess climate risk on a local scale, and guide the institution of appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures. There is a major role for communication and advocacy here in enlightening the public to actual threats, and the need for the actions being taken by the government to protect its lands and peoples.

A link to the bill is here

Posted in Africa, Climate change | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

GRACE abounds!

Posted by Simon Adebola on July 1, 2010

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) are to continue their collaboration on the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission on till 2015. Full story here

Data from NASA's GRACE satellites helps gauge groundwater fluctuations in northwestern India and elsewhere. (National Geographic Society Website)

Image courtesy Trent Schindler and Matt Rodell, NASA

Results from this mission have proven invaluable in tracking the amount of underground water, ice, and global sea levels. This is of key essence in preparing for hazards related to water shortages, rising sea levels, and ocean currents. It is also important that scienctists and researchers on the African continent take advantage of such data to develop intelligent systems that would help guide the development of climate adaptation, disaster preparedness, and mitigation efforts. The role of international cooperation, capacity building, and financial support is very crucial here. Efforts should also be made to engage communities proactively, and empower them to cope with these foreseeable challenges.

More on GRACE here

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Disaster management, Drought, Earth observation, Global Security, India, NASA, Satellites, Science, Space science and technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Landscape Ecology: The Use of Space Imagery Off Namibia’s Coast

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 12, 2010

This article from the NASA Earth Observatory explains how the emission of hydrogen sulphide along the continental shelf off the Namibian coast can be viewed from space. It also shows the interactions between these emissions and other factors in the biosphere. The emissions follow a mix of ocean currents, geophysical dynamics, biological and chemical interplays. These however bear on the marine life in the vicinity of these emissions. Their effects, both positive and negative, are also felt far inland.

Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) captures hydrogen sulphide emissions along the Namibian coast (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Africa’s oceans hold huge potential for the continent. Its rich ecosystems with huge stores of biodiversity treasures all count as valuable knowledge resources for the continent. It remains to be seen however how much of the continent’s wide ocean expanse would be conservatively harnessed to bring economic benefits while preserving its unique heritage.

Click here to learn more on the use of earth observation in biodiversity and ecosystems.

More images and articles (click on the images):

NASA Image of Namibian Coast

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Dust Panic

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 12, 2010

Satellite images captured the flow of dust storms that were responsible for hazy conditions across parts of West and Central Africa in Mid March 2010. The image shown below shows the dust storms as they spread from the Red Sea right across the continent, and extend till the Atlantic Ocean.

Dust storm across Africa (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

News reports across Nigeria, where there were hazy conditions in many parts of the country, attributed the dust storms to climate change. Other countries affected include Cameroon, Chad and Niger. African countries need to invest in advanced meteorological practices to better prepare and inform their citizenry, and to avoid panic and undue speculation when untoward weather events arise. Misinformation can take a toll on the economic livelihood of the nation.

Development of space capabilities and the use of space imagery and its derived value-added products can help enhance the knowledge-based economy that many African nations currently strive for. Indeed the rise of technological advantage as an integral part of economic intelligence lays the responsibility of integrating technology-based knowledge and forecasting into the practice of aspects of human endeavour like health, agriculture, transport, governance etc.

More dust scenes:
DUST OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA
SAHARAN DUST STORM

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Education, Health, Satellites, Science, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nigerian Meteorological Agency Addresses Hazy Conditions in the Country

Posted by Simon Adebola on March 30, 2010

An unusual hazy weather condition in parts of the country have been giving people serious cause for concern, but a senior official of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency [NIMET] says there is no need to press the panic button just yet, describing the situation as part of a change in the climate around the world.

For days now, the weather in most parts of the country has been hazy reducing visibility drastically and even disrupting flight operations in some cases.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has advised persons with respiratory problems to avoid prolong contact with dust.

Several passengers have been affected as flights at airports in Lagos and the northern states have either been cancelled or rescheduled to the poor weather condition.

An official of Aero Contractors who did not want his name in print said bad weather led to flight cancellations, a situation which also affected other airlines.

Chanchangi Airline Spokesman, Ibrahim Adamu, explained that foggy weather had affected the airline’s flights to Kaduna and Abuja on Friday but flights were operated on Saturday and Sunday.

He said flights were cancelled or rescheduled for safety reasons, and urged passengers to bear with the airline as the decision taken was for their own good. Hazy weather reduces visibility and makes it impossible for pilots to land or take off.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the NCAA has alerted airlines on the adverse weather conditions and has asked all airline operators and pilots to adhere strictly to aviation directives in order to ensure safety in the airspace.

The NCAA says it is monitoring the situation closely with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, but that passengers should expect flight cancellations.

Meanwhile, series of text messages have been spreading in the country over the changing weather, thereby giving growing concern over the climate change in the country.

One of these disturbing text messages which reads “Be careful from 20-28th of March, there is possibility of an ACIDIC RAIN. It rains normally but it may cause skin cancer it you expose yourself to it. So ALERT your dear ones. This information is from NASA in USA. DO Not Neglect. Please forward this to your friends, better be cautious than sorry”, has created fear and raised questions among people in the country due to the current haze and weather change.

The Deputy General Manager, directorate of weather forecasting services, Nigerian Meteorological Agency [NIMET], Mr Sampson Wilson has refuted the negative reports saying there is no cause for alarm. The haze in some parts of the country is just part of the climate change which has affected many countries all over the world.

It could be recalled that NIMET recently reported a foggy atmosphere which has led to deteriorating horizontal visibility across Nigeria, attributed to the dust haze emanating from the Sahara desert.

NIMET also alluded to the presence of a significant build up of surface pressure in the Sahara and Sahel region.
This resulted in the lifting of considerable quantity of dust particles into the atmosphere, transported southwards, causing reduction in horizontal visibility in the North North zone.

Cities where horizontal visibility has reduced to less than 800 metres include Maiduguri, Potiskum, Nguru, and Kano.
NIMET said it is “closely monitoring and keeping track of the current episode of the transportation of dust particles from the source regions into the country and the likely effects of the dust haze phenomenon.”

It added that further southward transportation of the dust particles will be slow, due to the prevailing light winds, while the dust particles are expected to stagnate over the affected areas as they slowly spread westwards and southwards to places such as Yola, Gombe, Bauchi, Jos, Kaduna, and Sokoto.

Other cities such as Abuja, Makurdi, Minna, and Ilorin in the North Central are expected to experience a slight increase in the concentration of dust particles, but with a mild effect on horizontal visibility.

The South will only experience a slight reduction in humidity due to the southward extension of the influence of the current dust haze, according to the NIMET.

Nigeria is a member of the Group on Earth Observation and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency is a member of the International Astronautical Federation.

This article was originally posted on channelstv.com on 22March 2010

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Epidemiology, Health | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »