Geo Week News

May 29, 2024

AfriGIS Develops Verified Geospatial Data for Africa

Unique geospatial dataset helps to drive business growth and development across sectors
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AfriGIS is among the first geospatial solutions companies to offer verified and validated geospatial data on administrative boundaries linked to postal codes throughout Africa. Expanding the company’s geospatial datasets to cover the continent, AfriGIS has developed a polygon dataset (a collection of shapes defined by closed lines that represent geographical areas) for 21,600 localities (towns), including 475,000 sub-localities (suburbs), over the past three  years.

There are numerous attributable data overlays that can be used to enrich the dataset  via API, including points of interest, administrative political boundaries, cadastral, deeds, and census data, street centrelines, postal code regions, sectional schemes, gated communities, built-up coverage, aggregated suburbs and more.

Geospatial data is vital for many industries

Retailers such as fast-food franchises use geospatial data to position outlets and improve their profitability. Couriers use it to improve first time delivery success rates. Banks and financial services use it for compliance, to understand their customer segments, position products and services. Governments use it for elections, service delivery and tax collection. Almost every industry and sector has a use case for geospatial information and analyses.

Until recently, however, finding verified and validated geospatial data on Africa’s administrative boundaries and postal codes has been a major challenge for organisations. Diverse administrative structures and terminology across countries make standardisation almost impossible, while frequent political and administrative changes often lead to outdated or incomplete data.

Many African nations also face limited resources for accurate data collection and maintenance. Plus, accessibility issues arise from restrictions on data distribution and lack of centralised data repositories. Quality concerns, coupled with political and security sensitivities, further complicate the availability of reliable and detailed geospatial information, essential for various developmental and logistical applications.

How AfriGIS built the dataset

AfriGIS took a bold approach to collecting, updating, and standardising geospatial data to ensure it meets the necessary criteria for validity and reliability in various applications, from urban planning and resource management to logistics and governance.

This ambitious project, completed over a span of three years, required the meticulous collection and integration of regional data to address specific logistical challenges faced by various industries in Africa.

“Our focus on Africa is driven by the demand for better solutions from African countries that have been left behind by technological development, and face significant challenges in accessing modern digital tools and infrastructure,” says Charl Fouché, COO at AfriGIS.  “We recognised the critical need for more accurate and comprehensive data to solve the unique challenges of parcel delivery. Logistics companies struggle when there are no detailed postal codes or reliable administrative boundaries, which are crucial for the precise distribution of goods. AfriGIS’s new datasets have enhanced the granularity and accuracy of information available, extending beyond street mapping to include detailed local knowledge gathered from communities.”

Administrative levels vary across the continent. For instance, South Africa’s jurisdictions include provinces, district councils, and municipalities, whereas regions in Namibia are subdivided into constituencies and the DRC has provinces, territories, and cities which are subdivided into sectors, chiefdoms, and groupings in rural areas, and communes in urban settings.

Now, administrative levels and localities have been linked across all 54 African countries, and the data is maintained to ensure it is up-to-date and accurate. To develop a system that could individually address the needs of each country required an in-depth understanding and a tailored approach to ensure the accuracy and usability of the data for both logistics and administrative purposes.

“Our task was to align our APIs to international standards and ensure they are adaptable across various administrative levels,” says Fouché. “The project took three years to conclude and involved collecting and integrating data from various sources to map out all cities, towns, and villages and their corresponding administrative structures. We now have generic APIs that link postal codes to villages across Africa, making our database unique and extensive.”

How geospatial data drives business

Business takes place where there are people. Knowing the locations of people and business activities is crucial; understanding what else takes place at these locations provides a significant advantage in accelerating and unlocking business opportunities. This is something many organisations in countries across Africa have been eager to access, but it has been nearly impossible to achieve until now.

With attributable data business stores and locations can be represented visually. When you overlay deeds data onto that, with income and other demographic data, plus traffic and weather patterns, it enables sophisticated modelling for retailers and other enterprises. They can use this information to time special promotions related to holidays, weather patterns, and heavy traffic due to large-scale sporting events, for example.

By addressing the digital and physical infrastructural needs of different African countries,  people and public and private sector organisations can also access and order products online, even in remote areas without physical infrastructure. This has the potential to enable countries and enterprises  to make significant leaps forward throughout the continent.

“In South Africa, we take online shopping for granted,” says Fouché. “But finding and ordering products online significantly enhances quality of life for people in more isolated African communities. It offers greater convenience, wider selection, and more competitive pricing. For those in remote or underserved regions, e-commerce eliminates the need for lengthy and costly travel to urban centres for goods and services. This reduces the everyday stress that comes with buying basic necessities. Online shopping also introduces people to products and technologies that may be unavailable locally, contributing to improved living standards.”

AfriGIS has demonstrated that physical infrastructure limitations can be mitigated through digital solutions, Fouché adds. “By setting a precedent in the logistics and mapping industry, we are confident that our detailed, tailored data solutions will contribute to improving the efficiency and reach of services across a continent as diverse as Africa.”

About AfriGIS

AfriGIS is the leading Geospatial Information Science company in Southern Africa that specialises in location-sensitive data and solutions. It provides customers across the board with a suite of web-based tools and APIs to connect to, enhance, and enrich their own data with location intelligence, insights, and trusted data. The organisation was founded in 1997 and celebrates more than 27 years in business. It is a level 1-certified broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) business, with more than 100 employees, in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, Dublin in Ireland, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Source: AfriGIS

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