Ocean observation and prediction to support coastal sustainability and resilience

14 June 2023

The GEO Blue Planet workshop on ocean observation and prediction to address coastal sustainability in Africa took place online on 6 June 2023. The 3-hour workshop brought together 44 participants from 14 countries, representing UN bodies, regional organisations, coastal stakeholders, and practitioners and national groups working on coastal monitoring and management.

This workshop is the first of two events, supported by GEO Blue Planet’s Working Group on Coastal Geomorphological Changes, to explore the potential role of ocean observation and prediction in addressing stakeholders needs aligned with the Africa Blue Economy Strategy and the Ocean Decade Africa Roadmap. This preparatory workshop served to provide an overview of Earth observation (EO) based tools and solutions for monitoring coastal challenges. Different stakeholders also shared their needs and priorities for EO-based data, tools and services to inform policy, support sustainable coastal development and management, and coastal resilience in the face of climate change and increasing human activities.

Some existing tools, services and initiatives

The workshop featured keynote presentations from the UNEP/ UN Habitat GO Blue Project and CORDIO East Africa, followed by a brief panel discussion.

Ahmed Mohamed (UNEP) key note on the Go Blue Project: Connecting People, Cities and the Ocean: Innovative Land-Sea Planning and Management for a Sustainable and Resilient Kenyan Coast. www.goblue.co.ke

David Obura presents CORDIO East Africa, an African hub for marine science and conservation in the western Indian Ocean, with focus on climate vulnerability, marine ecosystem research, including monitoring coral reefs and sea level rise


This was followed by flash presentations from ocean data and prediction service providers, showcasing information, tools and services from Digital Earth Africa, GMES & Africa MARCONOWA, Copernicus Marine, EMODnet and the Copernicus Coastal Hub.

European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet)


Provides in situ marine open and free data from coast to open ocean, covering 7 thematics, including bathymetry, human activities and covering the global ocean. In terms of specific coastal services, on top of data layers available, EMODnet produces data products, such as composite maps, digital terrain models for bathymetry, increasingly high resolution for the coastal region and for seabed habitats.

Copernicus Marine Service


Provides free and open satellite, in situ and modelled data (e.g. sea level, waves) and products on coastal zones in high resolution, ocean health indicators, data visualisation tools (MyOcean Viewer) and use case applications.

The products can also be used by boundary conditions for regional or high-resolution coastal models to be able to make own predictions. Also opening soon a call for satellite bathymetry to improve coastal area knowledge

Digital Earth Africa


Implements a Coastline Monitoring Service, using satellite data combined with tidal modelling to map the location of coastline for entire African continent, about 60,000km over past 20 years. Interactive maps interface, visualise and translate years of satellite imagery into information on growth and erosion of coastlines across the continent. Also provides access to global mangrove watch data and a suite of analytical tools and workflows.

Copernicus Coastal Thematic Hub


Provides open and free access to a selection of coastal Earth observation data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites and all Copernicus Service for European coastal zones.

GMES & Africa | Marine and Coastal Areas Management in North and West Africa (MarCNoWA) Consortium


Provides services and tools on ocean monitoring, safety at sea, fisheries (IUU, potential fishing zones), coastal monitoring & mapping, oil spill monitoring

Understanding needs and priorities

In the second part, superusers and stakeholders of earth observation data and derived products and services, presented their needs for data and information, including Mika Odido from the IOC Sub Commission for Africa and the Adjacent Island States, Mahaman Bachir Saley from the African Union Commission, Bathelemy Batieno and Nathan Majwa, from the UNEP Abidjan and Nairobi conventions respectively, Anne Laure Beck from Argans/World Bank, Joanna Akrofi from UNEP GEMS Ocean, and Phoebe Oduor from AfriGEO. The event also featured a networking virtual space via Kumospace and interactive polls to continue discussions and gather feedback.

Key points

Some challenges raised include accessing data, where to find the data and knowing how to interpret it and use it to guide decisions and actions. Closely linked, is the need for capacity building on evidence-based decision making, so that decision makers can effectively use the data in formulating policy, strategy and implementation plans. Linked to this is communication and awareness.

The development of sustained in situ observations and networks in Africa, especially for coastal zones, was also a recurring point.

Some other suggestions included the need for central data portals at least by region where countries can share their data on, as well as services to transform data in actionable information. This would catalyse the uptake of data in decision-making.

The second panel discussion with AfriGEO, IOC Africa, GMES & Africa MarCoNOWA and UNEP GEMS Ocean and GEO Blue Planet focused on user needs, co-design of services and tools, collaborative and consultive development process, communication, need of capacity building and role of international cooperation.

It is crucial to understand the needs of different categories of users and stakeholder and also assess the landscape of existing services and products out there to avoid poor user uptake and duplication of efforts. The community needs to move away from designing and developing products and services without getting  input from users and stakeholders along the process. Co-design, co-development and continuous feedback on user experience is essential to ensure that products respond to user needs in an evolutive way. This needs to be accompanied by dissemination of information to ensure users and stakeholders are on board from the start, and also that they understand the scope of the solutions presented. Capacity building to ensure the maximal uptake of EO-based derived services and tools. International cooperation is vital for knowledge transfer and technology transfer but also to bridge science and policy.

Next steps

The outcomes of this workshop will inform future actions of the Coastal Geomorphology Working Group and help prepare the in-person event to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in the second half of January 2024, to continue discussions on elaborating stakeholders needs and priorities for EO-based services and tools to support coastal sustainability and resilience. This event will be accompanied by a day of training dedicated to using EO-based solutions to respond to coastal challenges with demonstrations of existing tools and services. The gathered input will be compiled in brief/white paper providing recommendations on the need for ocean and coastal observations and priority topics supporting coastal sustainability and resilience in Africa, targeting national and regional decision makers.

For more information and to access the workshop presentations, click here: https://geoblueplanet.org/ocean-observation-and-prediction-for-coastal-sustainability-in-africa/