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Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

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 »

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 »

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:

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 »

Climate Change Effects in Nigeria

Posted by Simon Adebola on March 30, 2010

Heat, Dusty Weather Raise Health Concerns
By Tunde Akingbade

Last Monday, over 90 percent of all the flights at the nation’s airports were cancelled or delayed. There was a thick fog in the atmosphere. The visibility was poor. It was less than 500 metres and this posed danger for aircraft all over the region.

In a particular instance, a passenger aircraft that was to land in Nigeria’s airport ended up in Cotonou, Benin republic because of poor visibility, according to airport sources.

Haze in Nigeria (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

This reporter on his way to climate change engagements in Abuja was stuck at the airport.It was similar to an incident at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam on the way to India for a United Nations Climate Change conference sometime ago. Ironically, many climate change experts going for Climate conferences are being trapped the world over by erratic weather patterns. Incidences of meningitis have been on the increase in Nigeria for the past one-year as a result of excessive heat. This year has been unbearably hot in Nigeria and other countries in Sub Saharan Africa. In Nigeria the eleven frontline states in the north that have suffered from desert encroachment have been suffering from heat related ailments.

Early last year investigations revealed that over 200 people were killed by meningitis in Nigeria and Niger Republic in one week. There were outbreaks in 76 areas. There were 25,000 suspected cases and 1, 500 deaths in the first quarter of 2009. Although meningitis is a disease caused by an infection of the meanings, which is the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal chord, experts have found a correlation between the weather and this disease. It is generally known that the disease attacks more people during the dry season because of dust, wind and cold nights. There were indications in the past one month that many people were treated for acute pneumonia in some hospitals as a result of the erratic and unpredictable weather which has also confused farmers about planting seasons raising fear about food production and security.

Apart from the reign of diseases as a result of harsh weather conditions in Northern Nigeria agriculture has been affected as a result of erratic weather patterns. The dryness has led to dry waterbeds and movement of people and their pasture to the southern regions thus causing tension and conflicts between the original inhabitants and the new comers. Experts at the United Nations and other global bodies have found over the years that the world’s climate has changed.

In one of his treatise on Climate Change in Nigeria and Niger, Professor Emmanuel Oladipo, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Consultant and Nigeria/Niger Project, Niamey, confirmed that Climate change is a serious threat to efforts at poverty eradication, and sustainable development in Nigeria and Niger because the countries have large rural population directly depending on climate sensitive economic and development sectors (agriculture and fisheries).

Even in the southern states, medical experts hinted last week that cases of Tuberculosis have been on the increase.

Dr. Nath Ayo Macualay Medical Director, Macaulay Medical centre, Mushin, Lagos told The Guardian that apart from heat rashes that had been noticed amongst the populace within the period of intense heat, there has been an upsurge in Tuberculosis (TB) in the past one month.

Macaulay said that those who are at risk are those who were not immunized against TB. The Medical doctor said that when a tuberculosis patient spits on the ground, the TB virus can hang in the air for 42 days unlike other viruses such as gonorrhea that can die within one hour.

“If you breathe in the tuberculosis virus in the air through dust it very hazardous,” said Macaulay, adding that the “TB can be in the air because of a lot of dust”

Last Friday, the Federal government raised an alarm that tuberculosis is on the increase and that about one million Nigerians are afflicted by the disease.

Haze in Lagos (Photo: Femi Adebesin-Kuti)

Dr. Victor Fodeke, the Head/Designated National Authority (DNA) Special Climate Change Unit, Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja told The Guardian in Abuja last week that the sudden change in weather at this time of the year is a very serious problem.

According to him, this is the beginning of the worst thing to expect adding that this is evidence that greenhouse gases have altered the weather patterns of the world and Nigeria in particular. Dr. Victor Nkom, climate change expert/consultant to the Federal Ministry of Environment warned in Abuja that the dusty and hazy weather would trigger certain ailments amongst the populace who were not ready for the unusual weather.

Nkom said the dust in the atmosphere would trigger droplet infection because the dust will become the medium of propagating the various viruses and bacteria that are airborne.

Fodeke regretted that policy makers all over the world have underestimated the problem of climate change. He noted that a document written by Professor Charles H. Greene, of Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences entitled: “A Very Inconvenient Truth,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Oceanography this month concluded that the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 4th “assessment report underestimates the potential dangerous effects that man-made climate change will have on society.” Adding that “even if all man-made green house gas emission were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today’s concentration, by the end of this century the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policymakers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change.” In the document, Professor Green and other co authors D. James Baker of the William J. Clinton Foundation and Daniel H. Miller of the Roda Group, Berkeley, California, USA are of the opinion that “reducing greenhouse gas emissions alone is unlikely to mitigate the risks of dangerous climate change” adding that society should significantly expand research into geo-engineering solutions that remove and sequester greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. He concluded by adding that geo-engineering solutions must be in addition to, not replace, dramatic emission reductions if society is to avoid the most dangerous impacts from climate change.”

Tunde Akingbade writes for the Guardian Newspapers in Nigeria. This report was culled from The Guardian (30-03-10)

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Drought, Earth observation, Epidemiology, Global Security, Health, Tuberculosis | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

African Resource Management Satellite (ARMC) Constellation

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 21, 2009

The African Resource Management Constellation (ARMC), a collaboration currently involving Nigeria, South Africa Kenya, and Algeria. Initially conceived around 2004, when it was named the African Resource and Environmental Management Satellite Constellation, the initiative was meant to develop a constellation of satellites to provide real time, unrestricted and affordable access to satellite data to support effective environmental and resource management in Africa. Three meetings held in May 2005 in Algeria, September 2005 in Stellenbosch, RSA, and November 2005 in Abuja, Nigeria, demonstrated the commitment and momentum at the early stages of the project. During this period, a steering committee was formed and a plan of action developed to move the process forward. Other workshops held in Algeria in 2006, Pretoria, RSA in 2007 and in Kenya in 2008. These with the international awareness generated by the initiative, all helped to lay a good foundation for its success. The space agreement on the African Resources Management Satellite Constellation (ARMC), which is a Memorandum of Understanding between the partners, was signed by the governments of the four countries on the 7th of December 2009 during the Third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development that held in Algiers, Algeria.

Signing of the ARMC Space Agreement, 7th December 2009 in Algiers, Algeria (Source: Algerian Space Agency)

As proposed, the constellation would help provide easy access to satellite data for end users in the following fields: disaster management, food security, public health, infrastructure, land use, and water resource management. It would thus support activities such as urban development, land use monitoring, and mapping for the surveillance of climate change effects. A constellation design was adopted that would have each satellite equipped with a 2.5m resolution panchromatic imager and a 5m resolution multispectral imager in 6 multispectral bands. Data from these identical satellites would be gotten through an integrated ground station. From the ground station, efforts would be made to ensure that the satellite data reach the end users all over the continent, as close to real time as possible.The program would also include capacity building initiatives and the development of low-cost multi-source ground receiving stations to aid the less privileged countries who can gain access through these stations to remote sensing and meteorological satellite data.

Algeria launched its first satellite, Alsat 1 in 2002 as part of the UK-led Disaster Management Constellation (DMC) programme. Nigeria launched its own first satellite in 2003 under the DMC programme. Both satellites were constructed by the Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, Guildford, United Kingdom. Nigeria, with Chinese support, also launched, the now failed, Nigcomsat-1 in May 2007. South Africa launched Africa’s first satellite (SunSat 1) built by the University of Stellenbosch, in February 1999. This last September it launched its second satellite, the Sumbandila Sat, aboard a Russian rocket. Although, Kenya inherited offshore launch facilities (San Marco launch platform) from the Italian space programme, it has no satellite of its own.

Posted in Africa, Climate change, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Humanitarian emergencies, Satellites, Science, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Third African Leadership Conference Launches Two Regional Space Partnerships

Posted by Simon Adebola on December 19, 2009

(This information is from the United Nations Information Service Vienna Press release available here. You can also subscribe to the UN SPIDER mailing list here)

VIENNA, 7 December (UN Information Service) – The third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development opened today, on 7 December 2009, in Algiers with a signing ceremony of two regional space partnerships. Hosted by the Algerian Space Agency and co-sponsored by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) the Conference will promote the use of space tools towards achieving Africa’s sustainable development.

To support African efforts in disaster management by means of space-based technologies, the Algerian Space Agency and UNOOSA signed a cooperation agreement to establish a regional support office for the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), a programme implemented by UNOOSA. Space tools have been vital in mitigating the loss of lives and property in times of disaster. In that context, the head of UNOOSA’s delegation, Niklas Hedman, told conference participants that “today a large number of global and regional mechanisms and initiatives exist to support Member States in implementing the use of space tools and solutions.” With regard to UN-SPIDER’s work in forming a network of regional support offices in Africa, he noted that “UN-SPIDER already has a productive working relationship with the Algerian Space Agency”, the most recent example of which was the provision of expert services by the Agency for a UN-SPIDER technical advisory mission to Burkina Faso.

Another regional space partnership was sealed today among the Governments of Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, who signed an agreement on African Resources Management satellite constellation, a regional initiative that aims to develop a network of satellites to make space technology more accessible to end-users in areas such as food security, environmental monitoring, land use, water management and public health. The Algerian Minister for Post and Information Technologies and Communication, Hamid Bessalah, described the all-African satellite constellation as “a great cooperation” between the four countries, which “will facilitate space data for African countries”.

The third African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development will continue its deliberations on increasing space benefits for Africa’s sustainable development until Wednesday, 9 December 2009.

* *** *

For further information, please contact:

Jamshid Gaziyev
Associate Programme Officer, UNOOSA
Telephone: (+43-699) 1459-7251
Email: jamshid.gaziyev@unoosa.org
Internet: http://www.unoosa.org

Posted in Africa, Development, Disaster management, Earth observation, Humanitarian emergencies, Satellites, Southern Africa, Space, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Quick Look at Satellite Oil Spill Monitoring

Posted by Simon Adebola on September 16, 2009

The dangers that petroleum oil spills pose to the environment and the health of marine life and humans has been well documented. This short post, a follow-up to the last one, shows how optical satellites can be used in monitoring the state of the environment and specifically, in this case, following an offshore oil spill. The images published by the NASA Earth Observatory showing the use of optical remote sensing satellites in the detection of oil spills in the Timor sea are a good example of how these earth observing satellites can be put to good use for this purpose. The images are available here and here. The use of radar remote sensing for the same purpose, as briefly mentioned in the last post, can be further seen in these images from RADARSAT and TERRASAR X

Oil Trading Nations (Source: Wikipedia)

Oil Trading Nations (Source: Wikipedia)

The number of African countries with investments in the petroleum sector is growing. Nigeria, Algeria, Libya and Angola are major oil producers while 18 African countries in all are in the oil producing league of nations. What does this imply? The responsible use and control of a nation’s resources lies in the hands of its government and people. Satellite monitoring of petroleum resources is thus an important part of the ‘toolbox’ for effective monitoring by countries that produce or even trade in oil. Most oil spills occur at the point of loading or off-loading of oil at ports and other transfer points (See the example of the Bonga deepwater oil spill below). This requires a system of laws and other regulatory mechanisms with sufficient power to monitor the uses and misuses of petroleum that could have a negative effect on the environment and human life. Technologies such as satellite imagery/remote sensing, geo-positioning equipments, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other applications have a crucial role to play in supporting these aims.

Bonga deepwater oil spill December 2011
Image: Oil slick covers 356 square miles off the coast of Nigeria. (Envisat SAR/SkyTruth).
Article by Brandon Kim on the oil spill from the Bonga deepwater facility on December 20 2011 off the coast of Nigeria.

See also Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted in Africa, Earth observation, Global Security, Health, Satellites, Science, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bakassi under Radar Surveillance

Posted by Simon Adebola on August 24, 2009

What were they actually pointing out?

The image shown below is from the TerraSAR-X image of the month series on the DLR website. The area shown is the Bakassi Peninsula on the border of Nigeria and Cameroon. The area has been a cause of much dispute between the two neighbours. Much of this has been traced to the fact that the area is said to be oil-rich. The choice of petroleum mining services is the purview of the concerned countries. This post would however examine the role of satellite radar remote sensing in the management of natural resources and especially petroleum in this case.

Mangroves, Bakassi Peninsula, Cameroun. (Source: DLR Portal)

Remote sensing involves the use of sensors that are not in direct physical contact with a substance in getting information about it. Satellite remote sensing involves using satellites to acquire data about features on the earth’s surface. This is accomplished by launching the satellites into orbit around the earth, and as they rotate, they could either detect and record natural physical emissions from the earth’s surface (passive remote sensing) or transmit their own waves to the earth and then record the reflections from the earth’s surface (active remote sensing). Optical sensors aboard satellites detect light and other electromagnetic waves as they are reflected and they help in producing much of the imagery that has been largely popularized by Google Earth and other Virtual globes. This however has its challenges, chief of which are the distortions that follow poor weather and atmospheric conditions including cloud cover, especially over tropical regions. They are also unable to produce clear images at night when the sun’s rays are not being reflected off the earth’s surface. Radar remote sensing on the other hand overcomes these chief challenges of optical remote sensing. Due to the fact that it relies on the transmission of its own waves, it does not rely on the earth’s natural emissions and thus can function actively during the night hours. It is also able to provide all-weather capability and penetrate cloud cover. These major advantages make radar remote sensing the choice option for a wide-range of monitoring, detection and investigative procedures that require a reliable source of satellite data over given areas. This includes its use in the petroleum prospecting industry for detecting slicks from oil seeps, both onshore and especially offshore, in order to point to likely sources of crude oil. It also helps in monitoring pipelines, effectively tracks oil spills, and other effects of environmental pollution due to petroleum activity.

After comparison of this optical image above from Google Maps with the earlier radar image from the TerraSAR-X satellite of the same area (both images are freely available), the unanswered question was what prompted the acquisition of this image? Images from radar satellites are usually 3-4 times more expensive than their optical counterparts of the same spatial resolution. Was it the economic potential of the shrimps and fishes in the waters around the peninsula? Was it the biodiversity and ecological importance of the mangrove habitats, of which that region remains an example of a rapidly disappearing biological and environmental heritage due to human reclamation of mangrove forests and pollution? Could it be the military sensitivity of the region? Or could it just be the crude oil potential and the importance of that natural resource, both for oil and natural gas, in a world that keeps urging for better access and control over energy sources? If that be the case, the obvious and pre-eminent question would then be if African countries have put the right systems in place to assess and monitor the resources in their own environment, such as through the use of satellite-based monitoring? Should the rest of the world keep pointing the way to them, right under their noses, in their own backyards?

Posted in Africa, Development, Earth observation, Satellites, Space science and technology, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Africa, Mars, Space and Development- An Interview

Posted by Simon Adebola on June 23, 2009

He conceived and organized the ‘African Mission to Mars’ conference, his research team pioneered the use of space-based technologies for water-borne disease prevention, he is a respected neuroscientist and neurosurgeon. He is also the Chairman, International Institutes of Advanced Research and Training, Chidicon Medical Center located in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. Prince Dr Philip C. Njemanze has been an inspiration to many and here is his interview as conducted by ‘i initiative’.

1. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into space activities?

Prince Dr Phillip C. Njemanze

Prince Dr Phillip C. Njemanze

I must say that I have been fascinated by Space from childhood, right from the time I started reciting ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ with my Dad at about age 5. However, my first real encounter with Space medical research was in the Soviet Union in 1983, as I worked as a medical student researcher at Rostov State Medical Institute Order of Friendship in Rostov-on-Don Russia with the famous physiologist, Prof Danilov of happy memory. It was on cardiovascular research using Sphygmography for Space-based applications, a work that won the All Soviet Students’ Scientific Research of the Soviet Academy of Science named after Academic Orbeli in Erevan, USSR. I continued my student research at the Institute of Neurocybernetics in Rostov-on-Don Russia under Prof Kogan on tracing pain pathways as a means of developing neurocybernetic control systems suitable for space research.

After my medical school in Russia in 1986, I went for postgraduate studies in Germany, and studied neurosurgery which led me into research of cerebrospinal fluid flow dynamics using magnetic resonance imaging.

Njemanze PC, Beck OJ (1989) MR-gated intracranial CSF dynamics: evaluation of CSF pulsatile flow. AJNR American Journal of Neuroradiology, 10 (1), 77-80

The invention of transcranial Doppler about this time by Rune Aaslid meant that I could continue my research on cardiovascular changes associated with brain blood flow specifically the use of Fourier Analysis of the Cerebrovascular System by 1991

Njemanze PC, Beck OJ, Gomez CR, Horenstein S (June 1991) Fourier analysis of the cerebrovascular system, Stroke. Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 22 (6), 721-6

Just about this time I felt that the major problems associated with Space were the cardiovascular effects that manifest in syncopal episodes. However, not much was known about cerebral blood flow (CBF) changes associated with syncope at that time. So in 1991 I published the first observations of cerebral blood flow changes during syncope for aerospace applications

Njemanze PC (June 1991) Transcranial Doppler evaluation of syncope: an application in aerospace physiology. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 62 (6), 569-72

I went further to identify that 50% reduction of cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFV) was associated with syncope

Njemanze PC (December 1992) Critical limits of pressure-flow relation in the human brain, Stroke. A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 23 (12), 1743-7

In these series some had no drop in blood pressure but they fainted, I then identified that there was cerebral syncope which was not associated with blood pressure drop

Njemanze PC (April 1993) Cerebral circulation dysfunction and hemodynamic abnormalities in syncope during upright tilt test. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 9 (3), 238-42

It then raised the question on what was mediating the drop in CBFV if it was not the classical Bezhold-Jarish Reflex, I therefore suggested another mechanism that did not involve cardiac reflexes or cardiopulmonary reflexes.

Njemanze PC (March 1993) Isoproterenol induced cerebral hypoperfusion in a heart transplant recipient, Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology : Pace, 16 (3 Pt 1), 491-5

Njemanze PC (1992) Cerebrovascular dysautoregulation syndrome in heart-lung transplant recipient. Journal of Cardiovascular Technology, 10, 227-232

With these activities and those by others, the Neurocardiology applications for Space were firmly established. Then I established a company called Chidicon Inc. USA in Missouri and in a joint contract with McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company we embarked on research on the CBFV changes associated with use of COMBAT EDGE G-Suit and the water suit Atlantis Worrior

Njemanze PC, Antol PJ, Lundgren CE (May 1993) Perfusion of the visual cortex during pressure breathing at different high-G stress profiles. Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 64 (5), 396-400

The question was now what arose first?, is it the CBFV changes?, or is it the blood pressure changes?, so one would know which sensor would be most effective to use in avionic systems. I then identified that the first changes were associated with CBFV by as much as a few seconds.

Njemanze PC (April 1994) Cerebrovascular dysautoregulation syndrome complex–brain hypoperfusion precedes hypotension and cardiac asystole. Japanese Circulation Journal, 58 (4), 293-7

I then proceeded to invent the Physiologic G-Suit Modulator (US Par 5121744), which senses the impending loss of consciousness and transfers the autonomy decision making to the autopilot to avert an accident.

Njemanze Philip C. (2005) Asymmetry of Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity Response to Color Processing and Hemodynamic Changes During -6 Degrees 24-Hour Head-down Bed Rest in Men. Journal of Gravitational Physiology, 12 (2), 2005

I then improved on this invention by adding a system that detects CBFV correlates of mental performance (US Pat 6390979). NASA recently funded a system to accomplish these objectives.

In 1995, I responded to a NASA International Announcement of Opportunities for experiments to study the Brain in Space, mandated by the US Congress, called Neurolab. I was successful as one of the NASA Principal Investigators chosen from 8 countries (USA, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Nigeria, Netherlands and Canada). My proposal was on the study of the blood flow of the visual cortex in astronauts. On completion of my involvement in the Neurolab in Houston Texas, an opportunity arose through the Cooperative project of the Center for Health Applications of Aerospace Related Technologies (CHAART) at NASA Ames Research Centre and the Third World Foundation. Though this I became the first international recipient of the award to use Space-based Technology to improve the health of people in developing countries. I wrote an overview of the potential applications of aerospace technologies.

Njemanze PC. (1996) Satellite technology and aerospace related warning systems (STARWARS) for disease control: strategy for disease prevention in developing countries of Africa, South America and Asia-Pacific Region. Japanese Journal of Aerospace and Environmental Medicine, 33, 17-130

To develop this area, I founded the Institute of Space Medicine at Chidicon Medical Center, Owerri, Nigeria. Our specific interest was to develop the application of geographic information system technologies to prevention of water-borne infections in Nigeria. This collective effort of our team led to the development of the first GIS platform for planning water resources.

Njemanze PC, Anozie J, Ihenacho JO, Russell MJ, Uwaeziozi AB (September 1999) Application of risk analysis and geographic information system technologies to the prevention of diarrheal diseases in Nigeria. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 61 (3), 356-60

However, my principal area of interest remains Neuroscience in Space. My major interest is what changes in brain cognitive function in Space, and what might be the gender differences. ¨

Specifically I asked what happens to facial perception, motor processing, and color processing in Space.

Facial perception

Njemanze PC (2004) Asymmetry in cerebral blood flow velocity with processing of facial images during head-down rest. Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine, 75 (9), 800-805

Motor processing

Njemanze PC (July 2002) Cerebral lateralization for motor tasks in simulated microgravity. A transcranial Doppler technique for astronauts. Journal of Gravitational Physiology, 9 (1), 33-34

Color processing

Njemanze Philip C. (2005) Asymmetry of Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity Response to Color Processing and Hemodynamic Changes During -6 Degrees 24-Hour Head-down Bed Rest in Men. Journal of Gravitational Physiology, 12 (2), 2005

2. What are your areas of research interest and which interesting projects are you currently working on?

I am currently developing non-invasive neurodiagnostic methods for detecting neural processes of memory, feeding, and addiction in the Space environment.

3. As an African with an interest in space activities, what were the challenges you faced?

The major obstacle is lack of funding. I had to establish a personal foundation and raise money from personal sources to support the research at my lab for close to two decades, and I have no regrets. The challenges are still persisting but the outcome thus far has surpassed all my initial expectations. Glory be to God.

4. Did you ever feel that space was too impractical for the African setting?

Not at all, in actual fact Africa needs Space research more than the industrialized World, because the solutions for communication, health, agriculture and others will be attained faster with Space-based Research. That was why in 22-23 Oct 2007, I initiated and organized the first Mission to Mars: The African Perspective in Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. This achieved many milestones, such as Cassava Research for Mars Mission with JAXA, Japanese Space Agency, Climate Change Theory, Cognitive Neuroscience for Mars Mission and others. Today Nigeria is planning water resources using Space-based GIS and Advanced Risk Analysis Systems.

5. From your experience in space activities which of the things you have came across do you wish you can replicate back in Africa as being of necessity for development?

As you can see from my descriptions, the initiative for disease control actually has its origins in Africa, and has become one of the most successful Space-based initiatives that are finding applications in Africa and other developing countries. In a recent commentary on ‘Water Contamination: The Way Forward’ in the March 2009 Issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Research, I highlighted that the greatest achievement of the next decade and attainment of Millennium Development Goals will be accomplished using Space-based technologies of GIS and Risk Analysis for prevention of water-borne infections. Which I humbly point out was first implemented in literature by our team in Nigeria in 1999.

6. What advice do you have for young Africans seeking to choose a career path in Space-related activities? How can they keep in touch with you and your activities?

Young Africans must be bold and courageous to choose Space Research. As far as they remain true to their calling and sustain interest with hard work, Space will not even be their limit. For those wanting to read about our efforts in Space research please visits us at http://www.chidicon.com.

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