Building geospatial capacity in African secondary cities

July 3rd, 2017, Published in Articles: PositionIT


Secondary Cities Africa team representatives from Cameroon, Ethiopia and Nigeria participated in the week-long Secondary Cities South Africa Technical Exchange which took place at Esri South Africa’s offices in Midrand, Gauteng from 26 to 30 June 2016.  The event, which was organised by the American Association of Geographers, EIS-Africa, Esri South Africa and the United States (US) Department of State, aims to build partnerships that create geospatial capacity, enhance understanding through data and mapping, and enable science-based decision making in secondary cities.

Participants at the Secondary Cities South Africa Technical Exchange

The Secondary Cities initiative is a global collaboration of both public and private sector organisations including the Humanitarian Information Unit within the Office of the Geographer of the US Department of State, the American Association of Geographers, Colorado State University, EcoCity Builders, and Kathmandu Living Labs. The partners have varying levels of responsibility including project implementation and project support, coordination and management.

Secondary cities are identified by the project as rapidly growing urban areas in developing countries, which experience unplanned growth and development and as a result are generally poorly mapped and have limited data and information on infrastructure, land tenure, and planning.

The Secondary Cities project continually acquires new partners, with the first three African secondary cities having recently joined the project – Mekelle (Ethiopia), Douala (Cameroon) and Port Harcourt (Nigeria). Other city participants in the project include Cuzco (Peru), Medellin (Colombia), Kharkiv (Ukraine), Pokhara, (Nepal) and Denpasar on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Each of these cities faces different needs as well as natural and social challenges that will impact their future planning, growth and sustainable development. These needs and challenges drive the type of technology that is implemented by the Secondary Cities project as well as the various data generation, analysis and visualisation processes.

Participants at the technical exchange in South Africa were exposed to insights from existing secondary city projects on how best to engage various stakeholders and foster collaboration, and were encouraged to share information regarding the challenges they had encountered. An important aspect of the workshop included training on QGIS software as well as practical and theoretical training on field data collection tools and approaches. Change detection analysis training included exposure to informal settlements in Johannesburg as well as a trip to the City of Johannesburg GIS Centre. Guest speakers included Marcelle Hattingh (City of Joburg), and Lee Annamalai and Andre Breytenbachfrom the CSIR, who provided examples of South African geospatial data applications.

All data collected during each Secondary City project is uploaded to the Secondary Cities GeoNode, an open source data sharing platform, and training was provided to the African secondary city participants on quality assurance and quality control data procedures as well as metadata protocols and naming conventions for data that will be uploaded to the GeoNode.

Building local capacity in using open source geospatial technologies to collect data needed for urban planning and integrated resource management, is intended to help create new data for data-poor and under-resourced secondary cities that lag behind in the provision of infrastructure and essential services. Participants in the Secondary City initiative are encouraged to use an array of appropriate open source and/or commercial mapping tools and technologies which include: GIS platforms (e.g. ArcGIS Online, QGIS); remote sensing software (e.g. Orfeo ToolBox); field data collection software (e.g. Field Papers, Survey123, KoBoToolbox, ikeGPS); data management and dissemination tools (e.g. GeoNode, WorldMap, ArcGIS Open Data); and data visualisation and communication software (e.g. CartoDB, Urbinsight).


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