OpenStreetMap

My State of The Map Africa 2019 Experience

Posted by Sammyhawkrad on 1 January 2020 in English (English)

On the night of October 23, 2019, just close to 10 pm when I was about to go to bed, I received an email notification so I opened it and it read:

Congratulations!

Thank you for submitting your application for the State of the Map Africa2019 in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast. It is our pleasure to inform you that based on the results of the reviews by our scholarship committee team, you have been selected to receive a full scholarship that will…..

I was beaming while I read the mail, I was so happy. I wonder how I managed to sleep that night. It was going to be the first time I left Ghana in so many years, to a place I had fond memories of as a kid and a chance to meet people who share the same interest and are passionate about what they do. You could not blame me for being that happy, could you?

A few days to the conference I booked a bus ticket ahead of my travel from Intercity STC Coaches. Yup! I travelled by road from Accra to Grand Bassam. I was joined by Victor Ezwugu who was coming from Nigeria and we both travelled from Accra to Grand Bassam. I enjoy long journeys but this one got tiring and long for me, maybe I just couldn’t wait to arrive. After about 10 hours we arrived at VITIB (venue for the conference).

Alas! We are here! That’s what I said to Victor. We got to the entrance and I went like “Bonsoir!” and the guys at the gate responded “Bonsoir”. Now what? I had to get my French together, I had to make my basic school French teacher proud and confidently I blurted “Nous venons pour la conference cartographie”. “Aah oui, oui”, they responded. So one of them escorted us to the villa where the scholars were being received. As we headed to the villa, I tried striking a conversation although I was fumbling with the French and our escort trying to communicate in English. It was a whole scene to behold. I learnt his name was Koffi (written as Kofi in Ghana, a name given to any male born on Friday in the Asante ethnic group) and that’s how I made my first friend, he called me ‘brother’ (mon frère).

The next morning we took a bus to Abidjan where the opening day of the conference was being held. It was combined with the closing of the Understanding Risk – West and Central Africa conference so it was some sort of a dual-track conference. The day started with a panel discussion on Open Data in Africa and the main challenges identified with this movement in Africa included:

  • low level of education of the citizenry

  • lack of guidelines or documentation on the generation and dissemination of data

  • decision-makers focused on taking politically motivated decisions rather than data-informed decisions

  • improper management of data in government agencies, with data being left in the care of individuals. Meaning in their absence there is no data.

The recommendations that came out of this discussion were mainly on the prudence in digitalisation of public data and the establishment of data centres by the governments. There was a coffee break after the panel discussions and I went for the Open Cities Africa session after taking my cup of tea. With presentations made by all the participating cities, I got to know more about all the projects being done across Africa as part of the Open Cities Africa Project. At the Development and use of drones in Africa session, a couple of startups showed how they were leveraging drone technology to improve agriculture, assess flood damage, and also to take stock of farm animals. UrbaSEN reported on how they were using drone technology to provide solutions to mitigate flooding in Senegal . Drone Africa Service presented on the drones they are manufacturing in Niger. Taking advantage of local inputs and creating jobs as well. Cote d’Ivoire Flying Labs is also introducing drone technology to high school girls through their Flying Girl Academy. Their work included combating challenges of cocoa farmers through the use of drone technology.

In the two days held at Grand Bassam, I gave a talk on the topic “Open Cities Accra – Building skills, data and networks to support disaster risk management” and as well got to know about the amazing, impactful and life-changing projects that other young people like me were doing across the continent. Dorica Amos Mugusi presented on her mapping project where they were mapping rural communities in Tanzania to help private providers to reach these communities with electricity. P. K. Odame also showed us how they were leveraging digital technology for sustainable agriculture in Northern Ghana. Christian Kabongo and his team were mapping communities at risk of hydropower dam flooding in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I also enjoyed the social events, it was an opportunity to chit-chat with other people. The language barrier (Anglophone-Francophone) was there but the desire to socialise was stronger. After the closing ceremony, the conference was climaxed with a football match between OSM Cote d’Ivoire and Rest of the World which ended in a draw. Those three days spent in Grand Bassam & Abidjan was an enjoyable and educative one for me. And finally, I must admit, the Ivorian food was superb!!!!

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