Disruptive Technology for Disaster Risk Management in Africa
Background and context
Cities across Africa are at the center of the continent’s demographic transformation, as urban population centers are rapidly growing. This trend is especially visible in small and medium-sized cities, which have often less urban planning resources available compared to the larger mega-cities such as Lagos, Johannesburg, and Nairobi. This has posed a significant challenge to urban planners who are confronted with data gaps, and limited resources for data collection and analysis, which are essential when identifying the communities and critical infrastructure that are the most at risk from disaster hazards.
Main activities and results
Addressing the gap in quality, actionable data was the objective of this project. It provided urban communities and institutions with trainings, tools, and expertise to collect data and carry out risk assessments to reduce this gap. Through this project, urban stakeholders have learned to use technologies that have improved their data collection capacities including satellite image acquisition, drone-based mapping, survey applications and artificial intelligence. Civil society organizations representing researchers, students, and youth groups were at the heart of the project’s engagement with local urban communities and grassroots approaches. An emphasis had indeed been placed on teaching data collection skills and how to use phones and laptops to facilitate these tasks.
The project’s drone component has also generated significant interest, as evidenced during the African Drone Forum, which was held in Kigali, Rwanda in February 2020. This event convened over 1,000 participants from across the continent and provided an opportunity for knowledge exchange on the use of drones for disaster risk analysis and urban surveys. Through large-scale engagements such as this Forum, and through trainings, and the development of policy notes on the use of drones in urban settings, the ability of stakeholders to harness drone technology for DRM purposes has improved.
This project generated considerable enthusiasm as evidenced by the increase in the number of cities across Africa where risk analyses were produced from 23 to 118. Furthermore, technologies at the heart of the project have had real-life applications as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, as satellite imagery, artificial intelligence, and drone surveys were used to identify outbreaks and hotspots in cities. This resulted in demands for additional investments in digitalizing urban data using remote and satellite-based tools. Several valuable lessons were learned throughout the course of the project, such as the importance of grassroots data validation as a means of community engagement and sustaining the project’s accomplishments.
The drones and risk mapping partners included the World Economic Forum, the Center for Technical Cooperation in Agriculture, the State University of Zanzibar, the Resilience Academy, and the Government of Rwanda.
German Aerospace (DLR) was a key partner in developing the Africa wide satellite services. Implementation and validation was also supported by the Open Cities project network which included local geospatial Civil Society Organizations as well as government counterparts in disaster risk management, urban planning and resilience in participating countries.
A Results in Resilience story about this project is accessible here.
Window of Action
- Window 1
- 08/2019 - 06/2021