The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) initiative is the crystallization of the longstanding cooperation between Africa and Europe in the area of space science & technology, which is one of the key priorities of the long-term EU-Africa Joint Strategy. The Maputo Declaration of October 2006 provided the necessity for the EU-Africa partnership to confirm the commitment to avail European infrastructure and facilities, under the Copernicus programme to Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries.
This commitment led to the launch of GMES & Africa process in Lisbon, Portugal, on 7th December 2007 during the 2nd EU-Africa Summit. The rationale of this long-term and strategic cooperation is to address the growing needs of African countries to access and use Earth Observation (EO) data for the implementation of sustainable development policies on the continent through the integration and deployment of African requirements and needs in Copernicus Services. This will, in the long run, enable the two continents to jointly solve and address global challenges and contribute to the attainment of their overarching development goals that include the AU agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The longstanding cooperation between Africa and Europe in key priorities of the long-term EU-Africa Joint Strategy has also been quite productive in the area of EO. The continuing long-term cooperation in EO has been evident through the implementation of the Preparation for Use of MSG in Africa (MTAP /PUMA) project (2001-2006), the African Monitoring for Environment and Sustainable Development (AMESD) programme (2007-2013), and the Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) project (2013-2017).
In the context of this Lisbon process, the European and African Union Commissions established a Coordination Team tasked to develop an Action Plan for the GMES & Africa and an EU-Africa Space Troika to oversee the overall evolution of this initiative. The Action Plan initiated a long-term structured dialogue between Africa and Europe on EO systems to response to global needs, to manage the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security by providing information to policymakers, scientists, businesses and the public on a real-time basis. GMES & Africa will promote the development of local capacities, institutional, human and technical resources for access to and exploitation of EO-based services on an operational basis for sustainable development in Africa.
Nine thematic chapters were identified and agreed on for the Action Plan: (i) Long term Management of Natural Resources; (ii) Water Resource Management; (iii) Marine & Coastal Areas Management; (iv) Food Security and Rural Development; (v) Climate Variability and Change; (vi) Disaster Risk Reduction; (vii) Health; (viii) Conflict and Political Crisis, and (ix) Infrastructure and Territorial Development. The following cross-cutting areas were also identified: (a) Policy and Institutional framework (b) Infrastructure framework (c) Capacity Development framework (d) Financial issues, and (e) Monitoring and Evaluation.
In order to rollout the implementation of GMES and Africa initiative, three thematic areas were agreed upon and prioritized through consultations with African stakeholders. The two Commissions expeditiously launched an Identification study in the course of 2014 for the formulation of a program based on these three thematic areas, namely, (a) Long-Term Management of Natural Resources, (b) Marine and Coastal Areas, and (c) Water Resources Management, funded under the Pan African Program. Expert workshops were held for each of these three thematic areas and their respective chapters were developed and consolidated by a validation workshop in 2013 that issued a ‘Call for the implementation of GMES & Africa.’ A Cooperative Arrangement was signed by the two Commissions in the margins of the 4th EU-Africa Summit in Brussels on 1st April 2014, thereby providing clear way forward for the programme. The Identification study resulted in a project formulation report that recommended the implementation of these three thematic areas under two services, namely, Natural and Water Resources; and Marine and Coastal Areas, with 23 applications. These first two services will build upon the achievements of predecessor programmes which include the MESA, AMESD and PUMA projects across Sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, GMES & Africa will be coordinated with other actions foreseen in the Joint Africa-Europe Strategy (JAES) Roadmap 2014-2017, aimed at contributing to Climate Change and Environmental Management under Priority 5 of the JAES as agreed by the EU-Africa Summit in 2014.
On the other hand, African Member States developed the African Space Policy and Strategy which were adopted by the African Union Heads of State and Government in January 2016, as the first step towards the formalization of an African Outer Space Programme under the AU Agenda 2063 framework, focusing on creating a well-coordinated and integrated African Space Programme and a regulatory environment that promotes and supports an African agenda, and ensures that Africa is a responsible user of outer space. This programme will be premised on developing African Space capability and coordinating various space activities in the continent in (i) Earth Observation, (ii) Satellite communication, (iii) Navigation and positioning; and (iv) Space Sciences and Astronomy. GMES and Africa will immensely contribute to the African Space Programme, in particular in EO mission and infrastructure, and in addressing cross-cutting areas.