Geospatial Data and Africa

Milsat Technologies
3 min readAug 6, 2021


The primary purpose of many geospatial projects is to provide information that will assist in quick decision-making and effective management. It is considered that a large percentage of the information required for planning and national development is spatial in nature. In essence, geographically referenced data is vital to nation-building.

Geographically-referenced data serve as the foundation for further analysis in the geo-space. Notably, maps and cartographic representations tell stories that would require a thousand words; this explains the consistent use of maps to convey information about locations and occurrences. Today, several developed nations have designed special infrastructures for spatial data management and organization. These infrastructures allow for the coordination and distribution of spatially referenced data in a harmonious manner.

When spatial information is available in designed infrastructures, there is a need for a facilitating framework for data sharing. Geospatial Data Infrastructure (GDI) is the technology developed for geospatial data sharing. Consequently, in developing nations across Africa, there is a lack of a unified system such as a GDI, that collects and stores geospatial data. Thus, in the spatial data acquisition process, the maintenance of databases remains expensive for many countries in Africa. Hence, questions are being asked about the quality and accuracy of data being acquired in Africa.

Challenges of Spatial data acquisition in Africa

· Lack of unified databases

Many of the existing spatially referenced data and cartographic projects in Africa are available in printed paper format. These papers are locked in cabinets and over time, get torn or worn out. This makes it impossible to trace and instantaneously access the required information at the time of need. Also, many of these paper-published data have an estimated spatial reference, this is below the bar of accuracy needed in modern-day cartography and geospatial data acquisition.

· Instrumentation deficiencies

The quality of instruments used in data acquisition processes around Africa is often, old-fashioned, making it impossible to access some terrains, records some peculiar data sets, and observe rapidly changing vital phenomena. Some of these instruments have errors that are independent of human expertise. Although these errors are usually minute on the individual scale, they can cause a great deficit in the outlook of the final information.

· Government policies

In Africa, several agencies are responsible for the collection of data. However, third-party access to these data is very difficult. The stringent process of acquiring data from these agencies makes geospatial data acquisition in Africa inaccessible through the government. This also accounts for the redundant data collection processes carried out by various agencies across Africa. A problem that could be avoided if there was a standard framework for data sharing by the government.

· Lack of Expertise

Until recently, GIS and geospatial database infrastructures were a strange technology in the African ecosystem. Before now, the geo-space in Africa only involved paper-published cartographic maps and printed land coordinates. The lack of GIS-trained experts slowed down the process of data unification and digitalization across Africa. However, things are rapidly changing as many geospatial analysts are focusing on revolutionizing the Africa data space.

Recommended solutions

· Development of Unified databases

With the advent of Geospatial Data Infrastructures (GDIs) and Georeferenced Digital Libraries (GDLs), a link is established between all datasets collected. These infrastructures will serve as a database for all the available geospatial data sets in the African ecosystem. Thus, signaling an end to the repeated collection of data across-board.

· Public-Private Partnership in the Geospatial space

Several private startups are currently exploring the geospatial ecosystem in Africa. These companies have the expertise, instruments, and infrastructure to acquire all available data sets in Africa. Governments should develop policies and sustainable frameworks for a partnership that will benefit all involved parties.



Milsat Technologies

We design and develop geospatial solutions that make data acquisition and access easy for businesses and groups in Africa