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WEF report shows Earth Observation data could boost Africa’s economy

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in collaboration with Digital Earth Africa recently published a report on Unlocking the Potential of Earth Observation to address Africa’s critical challenges. Digital Earth Africa is an initiative that provides freely accessible mapping data for the entire African continent, for the first time in the world.

The report lays out how Earth Observation data could play a key role in harnessing Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies for the public good. EO data can provide a billion-dollar opportunity for economies on the African continent, helping create jobs and build new resilience after COVID-19.

According to the report, the impact of Digital Earth Africa for the African industry could be higher than $2 billion a year. The report provides, for the first time, the potential impact of DE Africa in three key areas:

  1. Accelerated growth of the EO industry, an extra $500 million of yearly sales with consequent externalities on employment and fiscal revenues.
  2. Boosting agricultural productivity with water savings, productivity gains, insurance benefits, and reduced pesticide usage in agriculture worth at least an extra $900 million a year.
  3. Effective regulation of gold mining activity, with savings of at least $900 million from reduced environmental damage and fiscal evasion.

EO data can help governments make more informed decisions regarding water, agriculture, food security, and urbanization. Advancing new collaborations between public and private efforts can incentivize data sharing to develop EO industries on the continent even further.

Dr. Adam Lewis, Managing Director of the Digital Earth Program welcomed the findings of the report as the first of its kind to quantify the potential benefits of the program. He said, “Through collaboration with key partners both within Africa and across the globe, we have made significant progress in turning this potential into a reality. Over the last 12 months, the program has met a number of milestones in improving access to data and services within Africa. Working with Amazon Web Services as well as international space agencies and the private sector, we have been able to provide access to locally stored analysis-ready satellite data within Africa.”

“We are proud to support Digital Earth Africa’s efforts to make Earth observation data more easily accessible to African nations,” said Ana Pinheiro Privette, Lead for Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative. “Through the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative, Amazon is making available petabytes of Earth observation data, which provide valuable insights for communities to manage climate impacts including increased floods and droughts.”

Valuing the impact of EO is an emerging practice globally, with recent reports covering the Asia Pacific, Australia, the European Union, and the UK, but this is the first such report for Africa. The report was developed following examination of the readiness of African countries to effectively and efficiently grow their geospatial capabilities, integrated with a study of the potential economic benefit of EO data adoption on specific sustainable development focus areas.

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