GEO Blue Planet 5th Symposium

Accra, Ghana | 24 – 28 October 2022

GEO Blue Planet held its 5th Symposium between 24 and 28 October 2022. For the first time, this signature GEO Blue Planet event took place in Africa, in Accra, Ghana. 181 participants from 16 different countries attended the Symposium. The event welcomed a large number of participants from Ghana and from diverse sectors (academia, industry, regional governing agencies, Ghanaian public authoriest, Earth Observation experts, NGOs and media). We achieved a nearly equal gender balance and high attendance from early career professionals.

The 5th symposium, themed Local Action in Support of Global Traction, was specifically geared towards improving GEO Blue Planet’s engagement with African nations in an effort to expand the Earth Observation community of practice, strengthen local capacity and provide access to resources, tools and services.

The symposium featured:

  • an opening ceremony with high level remarks
  • 3 plenary sessions centered around fisheries, coastal hazards and ecosystem conservation showcasing end-user needs for ocean and coastal observations, tools and opportunities, and inspiring examples relevant for the African context
  • a full day of trainings on coastal and ocean observations
  • an interactive poster forum
  • a session dedicated to Copernicus private sector opportunities with pitches from 20 Ghanaian and European Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) using Earth observation
  • 5 thematic workshops linked to GEO Blue Planet activities on using ocean and coastal observations for National Adaptation Plans, fisheries, monitoring marine litter, Sargassum, and coastline changes.

The symposium was co-organised by the GEO Blue Planet Secretariat (hosted by Mercator Ocean International, NOAA and the University of Maryland) and the Atlantic International Reserach Centre (AIR Centre), and local partners – the University of Ghana and University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) in Ghana. 

The event was funded by the European Union through the EU4OceanObs project, the Copernicus Marine Service and the Copernicus User Uptake Programme.

GEO Blue Planet Symposium at a glance


Opening Ceremony: Introductory Presentations

Opening Welcome note – Dr. Emily Smail (GEO Blue Planet Executive Director (University of Maryland/ NOAA)

GEO Blue Planet Activities – Dr. Emily Smail (GEO Blue Planet Executive Director (University of Maryland/ NOAA)

UN Ocean Decade Roadmap for Africa – Dr. Ir. Zacharie SOHOU (IOC Africa Vice-Chair and Director of the Benin Fisheries and Oceanological Research Institute)

Session co-chairs: Nikelene Mclean (NOAA), Dr. Isa Elegbede (TGER/CEESP/IUCN, Switzerland & Lagos State University) & Dr. Stewart Bernard (South African National Space Agency (SANSA))

User Needs: Keynote presentations from African end-users

Small scale Fishers – Dr. Greg Duggan (Abalobi, South Africa) – pre-recorded presentation Fisheries EconomicsDr. Wisdom Akpalu  (Institute of Management and Public Administration, Ghana)

Tools and Opportunities

Overview presentation on how Earth Observations can be used for Fisheries and Aquaculture – Katie Geddes (University of Miami, ORTA NOAA, USA) 

General presentation of the South African Oceans and Coastal Information Management System  (OCIMS)– Dr Marie Smith (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa)

Inspiring Examples

Earth Observations for Fisheries and Aquaculture site selections – Amine Mohamed Taji (ACRI-EC Space Sciences, Morocco)

GMES and Africa Safety at Sea ServiceBennet Atsu- Foli  (GMES & Africa / University of Ghana)

Earth Observations to support Barbados Fisheries Dr. Shelly-Ann Cox (Blue Shell Productions, Barbados)

Session co-chairs: Dr. Rory Scarrott (University College Cork) and Prof. Isabel Sousa-Pinto (Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON), IPBES, University of Porto/CIIMAR)

User Needs: Keynote presentations from African end-users

Perspectives: What are the priority ecosystem conservation challenges in African regional seas – Dr. Zacharie Sohou (IOC-Africa Vice Chair and Director of the Benin Fisheries & Oceanological Research Institute)

Ecosystem conservation as a foundation for sustainable Blue Economies – Gabriel Akoko Juma (ECOP Africa Coordination Unit, Kenya)

Tools and Opportunities

UNEP-GEMS Ocean: Harnessing multi-stakeholder partnerships to transform data into action – Niccolo Bassan (UNEP-GEMS Ocean & Coasts)

WIOMSA: Developing international and inter-disciplinary research capacity in support of regional ecosystem conservation efforts – Dr. Louis Celliers (Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA))

Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters – Garry Kett (All-Atlantic Youth Ambassador, University College Cork, Ireland), and Sigi Gruber (Active Senior Advisor to the European Commission)

Inspiring Examples

The Sargassum Information hub: Exploiting satellite data to support Sargassum monitoring and forecasting – Dr. Shelly-Ann Cox (Blue Shell Productions, Barbados)

MANCOGA – Using data and co-design approach in understanding the role of mangroves in sustaining fisheries – Senyo Adzah (The Development Institute)

The issue of microplastics, and the potential role for satellite data – Dr. Ebenezer Nyadjro (Mississippi State University/NOAA)

Session co-chairs: Dr. Fifi Adodo (Mercator Ocean International), Dr. Lisa-Marie Rebelo (Digital Earth Africa) & Tânia Li Chen (AIR Centre)

User Needs: Keynote presentations from African end-users

Keynote on coastal zone risks assessment and capacity building needs – Prof. Kwasi Appeaning Addo (Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies- University of Ghana) 

Perspectives on Capacity Building Needs of the Ocean Sciences Stakeholders in Africa – Early Career Ocean Professional (ECOP) – Dr. Temitope Sogbanmu, (University of Lagos, Nigeria)

Tools and Opportunities

Copernicus Marine and the coastal zone monitoring & forecastin– Dr. Pierre-Yves Le Traon (Mercator Ocean International, France)

Demonstration of Copernicus data access & visualisation servicesFabrice Messal (Mercator Ocean International, France)

Digital Earth Africa coastline monitoring service   – Dr. Lisa-Marie Rebelo (Digital Earth Africa)

Inspiring Examples

Examples of addressing coastal hazards challenges using space technology applications: Caribbean/Latin America oil spill project – Dr. Emily Smail & Dr. Xiaofang “Bonnie” Zhu (NOAA, USA)

Coastal erosion at regional scale – Dr. Donatus Angnuureng (ACeCOR/ University of Cape Coast, Ghana)

Using remote sensing and modelling for coastal detection – Dr. Babette Tchonang (JPL/ NASA)

Coastal monitoring and flooding risks mitigation – Anne-laure BECK (ARGANS Ltd.)

The training sessions were geared towards introducing ocean and coastal observations to a wide audience. Sessions included a review of the basic principles of Ocean Observations (e.g., fundamentals of oceanography, introduction to satellite and insitu observations,
modelling), common tools and strategies for analyzing observations, and exploring the availability and capacity of data products for informationbased decision making.

Click on the titles to acces the pdf of each presentation.

This side event to the Symposium highlighted private sector opportunities using Copernicusbased products in support of a sustainable blue economy. About 20 Ghanaian and European Small and Mediumsized Enterprises (SMEs) gave a 5minute pitch to present their companies/services/products relevant for the African context, as well as needs and ideas for collaboration.

This session was hosted by the Atlantic International Research Centre (AIR Centre), together with the Portuguese Space Agency as part of the activity “Copernicus SMEs Atlantic Ocean Interactions” funded by the European Union through the Framework Partnership Agreement on Copernicus User Uptake.

The profiles of the speakers of the SME pitch session are provided below:


Welcome remarks by Joanna Drake (European Commission Directorate-General for Research and Innovation)

GEO Blue Planet 5th Symposium coverage by Ghana Broadcasting Cooperation

Dr. Ebenezer Nyadzro (Mississippi State University, NOAA NCEI)

Dr. Temitope Sogbanmu (University of Lagos)

Ivy Akuoko (University of Cape Coast)

Dr. Fifi Adodo (GEO Blue Planet/ Mercator Ocean International)



About GEO Blue Planet Symposia

GEO Blue Planet hosts symposiums every one to two years in different regions for the purpose of increasing regional linkages, promoting linkages between stakeholders and the observing community and gathering community feedback on the focus of GEO Blue Planet activities. 

The inspiration behind the design language for this year’s Symposium

The visual identity for the GEO Blue Planet Symposium for 2022 was inspired by Kente fabric, the regal cloth of Ghana. Given that Kente fabric is made up of individually woven strips that are then joined together,with each telling its own unique story; the overall visual language comprises a mosaic pattern style that incorporates elements that represent the ocean, the coast and aspects of Ghanaian culture like some of the weave patterns in Kente and Adinkra symbolism. The symbols iincluded generally bear meaning towards unity, collaboration, wholesomeness and innovation. Collectively, each square tells its own unique story. The background also has hints of the ocean/water bubbles further emphasing GEO Blue Planet’s work to use EO towards conversation of marine environments and life.

About the graphical designer

Fungi Dube ( is a Brand, Visual and Webflow Web Designer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is an ardent Pan-Africanist who is passionate about Elevating African Narratives through Modern Design and Cultivating Afro-positive Sentiments.