A platform to help develop Africa's mineral wealth
Africa is a treasure trove for mineral resources, but many go under-exploited. This could change with a pan-African online portal providing geological information on the continent's mineral wealth. Devised by EU-funded researchers, the future portal is now being developed further to help African countries exploit their resources in a sustainable way.
While rich in mineral resources, individual countries often lack the needed knowledge and skills to fully reap the benefits. Many minerals sources remain unexplored. And where available, the latest geological surveys, data and other information about these resources are often not as accessible as they could be. This holds back sustainable economic development and jobs for local communities.
To help, the EU-funded AEGOS project designed a one-stop information system to share knowledge on minerals, raw materials, groundwater and geothermal energy in Africa. The proposed multilingual Internet portal will provide access to a network of geological databases held in both African and European geological survey organisations.
“Data and knowledge realise their full potential and value when made accessible – free or at affordable cost – used and disseminated,” says project coordinator Marc Urvois of Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières in France. “Access to geology-related information can have a remarkable impact, especially for business and development opportunities, and enables African countries to make informed decisions.”
AEGOS ended in November 2011. The PanAfGeo project, which brings together geological survey organisations in Europe and Africa, now plans to take AEGOS’ research forward and develop the online resource. This new project will run from 2016 to 2018.
Identify the issues
Urvois says the future online portal will help policymakers, local communities and companies save time and money when negotiating to develop natural resources. It would also help them to identify potential environmental and land use issues, while taking into account local interests.
AEGOS brought together African and European research institutes and organisations involved in collecting, conserving and processing information about geological resources.
Together, the partners developed standards and methodologies for the AEGOS portal and a strategy to develop and implement it. The project also established a network of European and African organisations to promote the concept.
Training programmes for Africa’s IT and geodata professionals were key for the project. These are the types of professionals who would operate and use the portal. The project created the outline of a comprehensive training curriculum based on a multi-stage scheme. Some 15 modules and 24 topics were developed for use by universities and training institutions.
“The sustainable use of resources of geological origin, such as minerals and raw materials, requires skills based on modern knowledge and technology, adjusted to local needs,” says Urvois.
The AEGOS project is in line with action plans by the EU and African Union to establish improved geological and mineral information systems. The objective is to help raise investment for exploration and mine development in Africa.
“The exploitation of natural resources such as minerals and building materials generate employment and financial revenues as incomes to the national economies,” says Urvois. “These geology-related natural resources can be used in an environment-friendly way to boost development in African countries.”
Urvois noted that the online portal and the networks created through the project would ultimately be to Europe’s advantage as well in the framework of the EU Raw Materials Initiative. Surging global demand and volatile markets pose a threat to the continent’s access to raw materials – and the 30 million jobs that depend on them.