The 11th International Conference of the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE2016) kicks off at Hotel Africana, Kampala, Uganda
DSC_0915On 24th October 2016, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda officially opened the 11th International conference for the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) at Hotel Africana, Kampala. Hosted by Makerere University, the conference convened over 400 academics, innovators, policy makers, practitioners, private sector and business people from 43 countries around the globe to the discuss the vital role of geospatial data and information in achieving the new post 2015 sustainable development goals.

The conference that is running for a week from 24th -28th October 2016, will host about 20 researchers and publishers to make presentations on Space and Earth Observations goals (SDG); Management of big Data Infrastructure; From Climate observation to climate change adaptation; Human capital development in Geo spatial science and technology for water and watershed management; and Conflict management , human security and peace building under a theme: “our Earth, Our Heritage : enhancing geospatial technologies for achieving sustainable development goals in Africa.”

Addressing the participants in the Nile Hall at Hotel Africana, the Prime Minister said that the 11th International conference for the African Association of remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) came at a perfect moment when a new Global Development Agenda (2030) had been just adopted by the world on 25th September 2015 at the 70th UN General Assembly, with an eye on “Transforming our world”.
“The AARSE2016 conference is therefore timely and I am glad that it is themed to tackle the contemporary development agenda and direction particularly for Africa. I must also say that even before the UN adopted the Global Development Agenda, Uganda was several steps ahead and had formulated the Vision 2040, with the overall goal of improving livelihoods and the quality of life of citizens,” he said.
He highlighted the need for Africa to embrace science and harness the potential of geospatial technology to solve societal problems and improve human lives. Citing the need for Africa to move from a “continent of tremendous potential” as commonly framed to a “continent of thriving prosperity”, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda said that there is no doubt that geospatial technology and science can significantly contribute to addressing the contemporary development challenges confronting the continent.

DSC_0902“The continent is currently grappling with enormous development challenges including climate change, persistent land degradation, wetland conversions and transformations, avoidable disasters, forestry cover reduction, high urbanization, perpetual conflicts which raise sustainability questions. Most of these stem from unsustainable undertakings by our people in search of livelihood options. As we know, a significant proportion of the African livelihoods are environment and natural resource dependent,” he stated.
In his response to the question; is geospatial science and technology being utilized to the optimum level to maximize sustainability and thrivability in Africa? Rugunda said that Africa is operating at suboptimal levels needed to be moved to a higher level to accelerate development. To him, there have been some highly promising technological initiatives in Africa such as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project in South Africa with the attendant expected economic and social benefits.

“Just this week, Rwanda launched an initiative to use drones to deliver blood and plasma to hospital addressing a direct societal challenge. These examples notwithstanding, we need to increase the utility of space science, earth observation and geospatial science and technology for transformative benefits at societal level,” he mentioned.

Speaking about Uganda’s efforts in the potential usage geospatial technology and science, the Prime Minister said Uganda has a long history of utilizing geospatial technology for environmental monitoring. He mentioned that together with its development partners, the country has produced a range of environmental sensitivity atlases that have eased decision-making on development matters that improve the quality of life of citizens.

DSC_0846“Uganda’s membership to the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and the Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) demonstrates the firm commitment and relentlessness to fully utilize space science, earth observation and geospatial technology to propel sustainability in all its dimensions with a firm eye on positively transforming the livelihoods of our people. We have also recently created the National Emergency and Coordination’s Center (NECOC) under the Office of the Prime Minister to coordinate near real time digital data reception and processing for multi sectoral use across government,” the Prime Minister Mentioned.

He told the participants that Uganda has redirected its strategic position and has now created a full Ministry of Science and Technology policy level to facilitate a heightened utility of geospatial technology for sustainability. He also said that the country has plans to establish a National Remote Sensing Center as part of the strategic direction to transform Uganda into a middle-income country by the year 2021.
He was however concerned of the low rate of Africa’s contribution in the global geospatial industry and business. According to him, the geospatial industry market generates between $270 billion to $500 annually.

“It is projected that “location based service market will be $1.3 trillion industry in 2020, while the use of geo-location data including GPS will generate $500 billion in consumer value. We need therefore to re-orient our exploitation of geospatial technology in Africa and embrace a business and entrepreneur dimension that enables creation of jobs, business and economic opportunities especially for the youth,” he said.
He urged African researchers and scientists to move the geospatial technology from the laboratories to the marketplace to address the development aspirations of the continent. He also encouraged them create a “Silicon valley” that expands the economies; reduce the pressure on environment and natural resources, as a pathway to sustainability.

DSC_0857The Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu commended the theme of the conference saying that it entirely supports the education sector under the sustainable development Goals. He thanked the team for considering providing “knowledge economy”; one of the six most important drivers of a transformed society and influence environment.

“It is gratifying that the Sustainable Development Goals have included education broadly as a proven vehicle for sustainability. We as academic institutions are committed to adapt our training to address these issues related to sustainability,” he said.
“I am sure that we all appreciate that the earth is our home and our heritage. It is therefore a pleasure to have all of you delegates from all over Africa and beyond, here in Kampala, to share research and advances in Geospatial technology towards managing and monitoring our Environment. I am confident that this conference is a good platform to network, share findings, learn from one another and hopefully enable us forge valuable collaborative links,” he added.

Prof. Ddumba-Ssentamu thanked the Government of Uganda through Rt. Honourable Prime Minister, for the tremendous support towards the conference. He thanked the authors who submitted papers to the conference and as well appreciated the keynote speakers for their remarkable contribution towards the success of the conference.

“This conference would not have been possible without the support of the exhibitors and sponsors. I appeal to all of you to visit the exhibition stalls with a view of interacting with the exhibitors and appreciating what they have to offer. To our sponsors, thank you very much. Without you, this conference would not have taken place. Last but not least, I would like to thank the Local Organising Committee for the great work you have put in to ensure that the conference is successful,” he remarkably stated.
The International conference for the African Association of remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) is a biennial conference that aims at increasing awareness of African governments and their institutions, the private sectors, and the society at large, about the empowering and enhancing benefits of developing, applying and utilizing responsibility, the products and services of the Earth Observation Systems and Geo-information Technology.

This year 2016, the conference gathered together over 400 scientists, practitioners, vendors, of products and government officials from over 43 countries around the globe with the objective of promoting the advancement of knowledge, research, development, education, and training in space and technology and their application in sustainable development.
According to the AARSE President Prof. Jide Kufoniyi, the 11th International conference for the African Association of remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE) provided a big platform for different people in the world to share knowledge, experience and opportunities on increasing the utility of space science, earth observation and geospatial science and technology for transformative benefits Africa and the world at large.

“The conference attracted delegates globally, About 330 abstracts submitted for scientific, 20 plenary presentations were made, and we have had 20 organizations exhibiting technologies, innovations, services and products. There are Opportunities for business, opportunities for networking & collaborate with Ugandan institutions, we have trained young scientists; we have carried out five pre-conference training and we hope to have one post conference training targeting young scientists,” he explained.

Prof. Kufoniyi said that the configuration of the 11th AARSE conference depicts a reorientation of the business model with the intention of enabling AARSE realize greater impacts to society via the geospatial technological domain by tapping into various stakeholders. “We are here as scientists, we are here as policy makers, we are here as practitioners, we are here as innovators, private sector, technology developers but we also have a group of young scientists whom we want to nurture through capacity development initiatives,” he said.
Reiterating the significance of the conference, The Chairman Local Organizing committee (LOC) Makerere University who is also the Head Department of Geography, Geo informatics and Climatic Sciences, Dr. Yazidhi Bamutaze said that the 11th AARSE International conference did not only provide a platform for Makerere university to re-affirm her position as one of the leading institutions in Africa, it also convened notable participants that are willing to share business opportunities and experience.

“We have the New Horizons from China; willing to share with us how Africa can cooperate with China to provide satellite imagery. There are also representatives from the European Commission Copernicus programme, representative from the Private Sector ready to share with us on how we can work harmoniously to address the contemporary and futuristic pressing global development challenges covering sustainability resilience, poverty, conflict, urbanization and resource utilization among others,” he said.

He recognized the various groups of individual and organizations, sponsors and partners who provided both moral and financial support towards the conference organization. He also thanked Members of the Local Organizing Committee, Makerere University Administration, the leadership of College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), Office of the Prime Minister, and UNDP for the tireless efforts to make the conference a success.
The Principal of Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Prof. Bernard Bashaasha welcomed participants to Uganda and Makerere University in particular. He introduced his college as a multidisciplinary that brings together foresters, food scientists, geographers, environmentalist, agriculturalists, extensionists and economists under the Department of Geography Geo informatics and Climatic sciences.

“We are therefore open for collaborations and participants interested in any of the fields, you are free to partner with the college,” he said.
The opening ceremony climaxed with the launch of a book entitled, “Disasters and Climate Resilience in Uganda: Processes, Knowledge and Practices” by the Prime Minster; written and edited by Dr. Bob R Nakileza, Dr. Yazidhi Bamutaze and Dr. Paul Mukwaya from the Department of Geography, Geo informatics and Climatic with sponsorship from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
By: Makerere University Public Relations Office.