Cabinet has approved the Ghana Space Policy and Implementation Plan that will enable the full operationalisation of the Ghana Space Agency next year.
Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia announced this at the opening of the plenary session of the Group of Earth Observations (GEO) Conference in Accra on Wednesday.
The policy, he said, would support efforts by the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute to explore and harness the space industry for accelerated growth.
Space applications are essential tools for security, environmental monitoring, communication, disaster prevention and risk reduction.
Ghana is hosting a five-day GEO 2022 Week titled “Global Action for Local Impact” to explore ways to use accurate and timely data, technology and services to address environmental challenges.
The meeting was organised by the Group of Earth Observations Secretariat, in collaboration with a local organising committee, comprising the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ghana Statistical Service and the University of Energy and Natural Resources as well as the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute, ahead of the Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 27) in Egypt next week.
The GEO is a global partnership that works to make Earth observations tools and services openly available around the world for better policy and investment decisions.
Vice President Bawumia noted that investments in Earth observations capabilities were growing and enabling the widespread application of environmental intelligence to tackle environmental challenges.
Despite the increased data availability than ever before, the Vice President said, many low- and middle-income countries were lagging in infrastructure, capacity, and expertise to tap into advances made in Earth Observations technologies.
“The Africa Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, the continent’s blueprint which is aligned with the post-2030 Agenda, seeks to transform Africa through inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development.
“Fundamental to Agenda 2063 are the African Outer Space Programme and African Space Policy and Strategy that reinforce the continent’s vision to not only be a consumer in the global space arena but to become a producer and regulator of space products,” he said.
Dr Bawumia noted that through those initiatives, the AU was working to address the growing needs of African countries to harness space technologies and services, including Earth observations to drive policies and decisions to attain the agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He observed that recent heatwaves and wildfires in Europe and severe storms and floods unleashed in some parts of Africa, the Americas and Asia had contributed to severe destruction and displaced thousands of people.
“These events reinforce our resolve to continue working collaboratively to find innovative solutions to build resilient economies, secure food, and water systems, and ensure the sustainable management of our planet,” Dr Bawumia added.
The Vice President stated that the meeting presented a unique opportunity for Africa to renew her unequivocal commitment to deepen international collaborations and develop national EO capabilities to support socio-economic transformation for the achievement of the “Africa We Want” and the “World We Want”, as articulated in the agenda 2063 and post-2030 Agenda respectively.
Dr Bawumia said the intra north-south and rural-urban migrations contributed to urban sprawl and expanding informal settlements. Unplanned spatial expansion of big cities threatened economic efficiency, increasing social and environmental costs for urban commuting.
More also, natural resource depletion heightened by unsustainable mining, inadequate waste management and sanitation, make Ghana extremely vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation and threaten resilience and economic growth.
Therefore, he said, earth observation systems could easily be used to track, and in some instances minimise the negative impact of these environmental problems.
“In Ghana, for example, we are applying the products of the Digital Earth Africa programme to monitor landscape changes because of illegal mining activities.
“Developing an interoperable data ecosystem that combines Earth observations data with other data, including socio-economic data, citizen data, and statistical data, among others would be more meaningful and impactful,” the Vice President stated.
He stressed government’s development priorities with focus on economic transformation through value-addition to create jobs, reduce poverty, and enhance social inclusion while sustaining the integrity of the environment.
“Our medium and long-term development plans are underpinned by the “Ghana Beyond Aid” vision to change the mindsets of our citizens towards an increased reliance on internal resources plus private sector investment to lead economic transformation,” he said.
He was of the belief that application of digital technologies was fundamental to the achievement of the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda, with emphasis on the maximisation of resources, investments in agriculture, improved health, and industrialisation, enhancing critical skills and education as well as promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“We are almost finalising a new Digital Economy Policy and a Digital Transformation Blueprint to position Ghana as the leader in ICT innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
The ongoing Ghana Digital Acceleration Project, he said, was expected to increase access to mobile internet and broadband services by encouraging private sector investment in last-mile connectivity in underserved and rural areas, with particular attention to women, persons with disabilities and the youth.
He observed that the fight against poverty, hunger, natural resource depletion and efforts toward a clean environment, and to achieve economic prosperity posed a serious risk without a safe and secured planet.
“We believe that this gathering offers Ghana and the rest of Africa the opportunity to catalyse increased use of Earth observations data, tools, and services to inform decisions for accelerated climate and sustainable development action,” he stated.
The government, he said, was working through bilateral and multilateral partnerships to put in place concrete actions to boost resource efficiency, establish a circular economy, mitigate, and adapt to climate change, mitigate disaster risks and halt biodiversity loss.
“We are also actively pursuing improved ways to harness the power of earth observations to support planning and decision-making in weather forecasting, measuring land-use change, monitoring coastlines, and monitoring and responding to disasters, including fires, floods, and earthquakes.
The Vice President called upon the GEO community to continuously invest in capacity development in low and middle-income countries to acquire the necessary technologies, knowledge and skills to access and use EO data effectively.
The Vice President said it was imperative that the GEO community continue working together to create the enablers for nations not only to access GEO data and services but use them to address identified development challenges.
“Ghana reaffirms her commitment to being an active member of GEO. I remain hopeful that the outcomes of this meeting will maintain the momentum and reassert the global call to leave no one behind,” he stated.