SANBI hosts sixth GBIF Africa Regional Meeting

09 November 2016

mediumFrom 18 to 19 July, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) hosted the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) African Nodes and managers. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure cohesion and coordination amongst endeavours at the African level; to review the status of the Nodes such as their highlights, achievements and challenges; to develop the 2016–2018 GBIF Africa Work Plan to align it with the new GBIF Strategic and Implementation Plan 2017–2021; and to solicit inputs from the meeting participants for the upcoming GBIF Governing Board meeting.

The GBIF Africa Regional Meeting was attended by participants from institutional partners such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the National Museums of Kenya, the University of Ghana, the University of Abomey-Calavi, the University of Lome and Ecole Normale Supérieure de Nouakchott. In total seven African countries were represented: Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Mauritania, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.

The meeting was set in motion with an official opening by SANBI CEO, Dr Tanya Abrahamse, who welcomed the national and regional delegates: ‘SANBI is pleased to be hosting the 6th meeting of the GBIF-Africa network. We want to take this opportunity to coordinate the various activities that have been happening on the continent from our delegates and GBIF regarding the very exciting Biodiversity for Development (BID) Initiative, which is making a significant financial contribution towards data mobilisation and capacity development on the African continent.’

Each of the GBIF-Africa Node Managers gave feedback regarding their Node highlights, challenges and achievements. Highlights included the implementation of the biodiversity curriculum in Benin; the Nodes’ involvement in broader projects; collaboration with and amongst African countries; commitment to ongoing data mobilisation activities, training and capacity building; practical engagement, tips and discussions amongst those present at the meeting regarding current and future funding streams; citizen science engagements; biodiversity informatics mainstreaming efforts into policy and across value chains in certain institutions; as well as the increase usage and innovation of  new tools, applications and technology in the mobilization of biodiversity data.  

Challenges such as capacity gaps, Africa’s biodiversity data being housed overseas, limited government support to the Nodes, overcoming communication and language barriers in the Nodes, the increased usage and reliance on virtual meetings due to resource constraints, data agreements, overcoming data gaps, and data and licensing were identified and deliberated upon in practical terms.

Michelle Walters from the CSIR presentated around possible GBIF involvement in the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), as there are approximately 40 African countries who are IPBES members, and who are anticipated to contribute to the IPBES Regional Africa Assessment. However, she emphasised that a challenge remains in obtaining biodiversity data especially from North, West and Central African countries.

The Senior Programme Officer for GBIF Node Development, Dr Mèlianie Raymond, was also in attendance. ‘I would like to thank SANBI for its leadership and hosting it provides in this work,’ she said.

Dr Raymond shared and discussed the key GBIF work programme and activities that have taken place over the past year. During the course of the two-day meeting she also presented an overview of data mobilisation trends for Africa, and the GBIF Strategic Plan and Implementation Plan update.

In preparation for the 23rd GBIF Governing Board meeting, which is set to be held on the 24th of October in Brazil, participants at the meeting discussed and identified key messages and governance matters on which to engage the Head of Delegations. This Sixth GBIF Africa Regional Meeting proved to be of tremendous value as perspectives, project progress and innovations were shared amongst the African Node managers.

For more information contact Fatima Parker-Allie on f.parker@sanbi.org.za

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