Ocean Observation and Prediction for Coastal Sustainability in Africa

UNON, Nairobi, Kenya
4 – 7 March 2024

The GEO Blue Planet workshop entitled “Ocean Observation and Prediction for Coastal Sustainability in Africa”, held in Nairobi, Kenya from 4-7 March 2024, was a collaborative effort with UNEP, the African Union Commission, the IOC Sub Commission for Africa and the Adjacent Island States (IOC Africa), Mercator Ocean International and other partners. The workshop specifically aimed to explore how Earth observation (EO) data and derived services and applications can be used to meet the needs of different stakeholders on coastal and marine challenges, aligned with African Union’s Blue Economy Strategy and the UN Ocean Decade Africa Roadmap. Participants discussed policy considerations, economic factors, and the importance of EO for managing Africa’s valuable marine resources and supporting sustainable development.

Dr. Richard Munang, Head of Global Environment Monitoring Systems and Early Warning for the Environment Unit at UNEP opened the workshop, followed by Dr. Audrey Hasson, the GEO Blue Planet European coordinator. To set the stage, the first session included speakers Dr. Jacqueline Uku (Ocean Decade African Task Force), Ashok Adicéam (the United Nations Ocean Conference 2025 organizing committee), Titus Leetapo (GEO Indigenous Alliance), Dr. Bachir Saley (African Union Commission) and Dr. Muriel Lux (Mercator Ocean International).

Dr. Richard Munang, Head of Global Environment Monitoring Systems Early Warning for the Environment Unit at UNEP speaks about the potential of digital twinning applications for informed decision making for a sustainable development and economic growth, coastal resilience and healthy marine ecosystems in Africa.

The second day was opened by Pauline Mwangi from the Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) with a presentation on the Early Career Ocean Professionals Decade programme African regional node and the importance of youth in addressing ocean challenges and sustainable coastal development. Session two focused on presentations from policy and decision makers on existing initiatives and legal frameworks on national and regional level working to safeguard coastal ecosystems, and support sustainable marine spatial planning, the blue economy and resilient coastal communities in the face of climate change. On the regional level, this session included speakers from the Abidjan and Nairobi regional seas conventions, IOC Africa, CORDIO East Africa, HEREON and the IUCN. National perspectives were provided by Linda Etta (Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy in Nigeria), Alberto Armando (Mozambique National Emergency Operations Center – CENOE), Abou Bamba (Cote d’Ivoire Office of the Prime Minister), Emmah Akware (Kenyan Senior State Council).

On day two, the first part focused on the role of ocean observations for decision making in addressing climate change, coastal hazards, and blue carbon. This was followed by featured flash talks by scientists and service providers identifying challenges and marine data gaps. They also showcased the data services, tools and ongoing developments in EO, both public and private-sector driven, that can be used to address these issues, specifically for African coastal waters.  This also included new EO-driven solutions such as digital twins of the ocean.

The last session was dedicated to unpacking needs and limitations for Early Warning for the Environment in Africa, moderated by Dr. Munang with panelists from University of Ghana/GMES and Africa, Digital Earth Africa, HEREON and EUMETSAT.

A key part of the workshop involved working sessions centered on four themes:

  • Shoreline changes and seabed mapping
  • Coastal flooding and inundation
  • Coastal water quality
  • Ecosystem mapping

These sessions brought together scientists, service providers, and policymakers to discuss the technical, political, economic, and social challenges associated with using EO data for each theme. Teams also worked collaboratively to identify what an implementation process might look like and where EO data is most needed.  They then connected these discussions and findings into proposed pilot solutions for challenges impacting these specific coastal themes.

The workshop served as an invaluable platform where scientific experts alongside regional and national stakeholders converged to exchange invaluable insights and best practices. It facilitated the identification of crucial information gaps and promising opportunities while fostering collaborations aimed at harnessing Earth observation to bolster coastal sustainability efforts across Africa. The next steps are to integrate the feedback collected in the GEO Blue Planet coastal working groups agenda and develop a white paper on the pilot-EO solutions developed during the workshops.

The programme committee involved representatives from UNEP/GEMS Ocean and Coasts programme, IOC Africa, the African Union Commission, GMES and Africa, HEREON, EUMETSAT, Fugro and the Atlantic International Research (AIR) Centre. The workshop brought together over 50 participants from 17 countries and diverse sectors (research institutions, government agencies, international and regional bodies, the private sector and universities). This workshop was funded by the European Union via the EU4OceanObs project, which supports the GEO Blue Planet European Office.

Visit the event web page for more information and other resources: https://geoblueplanet.org/ocean-observation-and-prediction-for-coastal-sustainability-in-africa/

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