AWC GeoMapping Server


Available African Data Sources (Open Source)

Locations of Interest to LtCol (Dr) Michael L. Thomas

Geospatial Information and Services provide the basis for situational awareness on the battlefield. Geospatial data also provides military members with the framework and background for displaying the location of friendly and enemy forces, and the location of critical features on the battlefield. Geospatial data provides insights on how the physical environment will impact combat operations.

The Department of Defense’s current Geospatial Information and Services (GI&S) are inadequate to support current operations or contingencies that may arise in the near future. Existing geospatial data is limited for geographic areas that could become international problem areas; is outdated (in some cases, more than 20 years old - for example, at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) did not have an existing inventory of current geospatial data available for immediate use); and is not readily reusable with other models, simulations, training devices, or command and control (C2) systems. Technology is always improving and quick access to data and tools to review and build custom geospatial products is necessary for immediate situational awareness. NGA cannot be expected to do it all - the resources are just not present. What can augment the warfighter's reliance on NGA for geospatial products is an awareness of what data sources are easily available and how they might be manipulated quickly.  Individuals getting smarter on the technology (becoming geo-literate) is going to be necessary for the future.

The Whitehouse has stated AFRICOM, "will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa."

The U.S. Department of State has stated AFRICOM is, "The U.S. military’s new command center for Africa, Africa Command (AFRICOM), will play a supportive role as Africans continue to build democratic institutions and establish good governance across the continent. AFRICOM’S foremost mission is to help Africans achieve their own security, and to support African leadership efforts."

USAFRICOM's Proposed missions

The focus of USAFRICOM's missions will be diplomatic, economic and humanitarian aid, aimed at prevention of conflict, rather than at military intervention, according to Theresa Whelan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs. Steven Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees that the new command holds potential well beyond military oversight. Rather, its mission will be defined by an interagency mix, focusing the efforts of intelligence, diplomatic, health and aid experts. Since the mission will be supportive to the governments of the continent across many agency and national boundaries (as well as NGOs), the need for open source information and GIS support to partners makes it necessary to operate openly than is typically perceived by the Department of Defense. This website is designed to allow for the quick turn of geospatial products (with an emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa) by exposing the individual user without a deep Geospatial background to the knowledge and availability of:

There are steps to take to make your own maps and do a good analysis:

  1. Download a copy of software to use - you may need to experiment a bit to make sure you have the one that best serves your needs. Be aware of local requirements to be able to install downloads.

  2. Download the dataset you're interested in. This might be vector data or a raster image.

  3. Look at the history and culture of the region for a better understanding of the underlying issues and for context.

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