Surveying OpenStreetMap in Africa

I’ve had a few inquiries into OSM in Africa recently, put together this brief survey of the action there. If I missed anything, post in the comments.

OpenStreetMap is growing rapidly across all of Africa. Mapping is spreading through local mappers, mappers on vacation, foreign nationals, and remote mapping using satellite imagery. A recent comparison judged that OSM had the most comprehensive coverage of Africa among web mapping services, especially in cities.

Wiki Projects

There are active African wiki projects in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Congo-Kinshasa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia .. and other places no doubt.

Particularly interesting is a project to map the entire Nile.


Bo Robert Pederson of UNICEF has been informally mapping Accra and Nairobi to comprehensive levels, and will be investigating bringing OSM more directly into UNICEF’s activities. There’s strong interest in East Africa in OSM as a component of the East Africa Spatial Data infrastructure.

In cooperation with the UNJLC, Neil Penman and other volunteers from IBM importing UN data sets for Southern Sudan into OSM. We continue to explore opportunies for collaboration there.

Conferences and Mapping Parties

In September 2008, the FOSS4G conference was held in Cape Town. Open Geographic Data and OpenStreetMap emerged
as main themes of the conference. Very successful mapping parties were held in conjunction, including mapping in townships.

Local mappers in Cape Town recently negotiated the release of all street data held by the Cape Town metropolitan region,
to supplement the already stellar OSM coverage there. This link is a quick rendering of the newly freed data.

In July 2008, Wikimania (the Wikipedia conference) was held at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. OSM was presented to great reception. A mapping party was held in Cairo, and over the last six months Egypt’s maps have grown extremely


Already a strong start to 2009, with new initiatives to promote and use OpenStreetMap in Africa.

DC Based technology consultants Development Seed have active humanitarian mapping projects using OSM in Zimbabwe, Somalia, and the DRC; And they are seeking interns to help with the effort.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation will be distributing donated GPS units to mappers in developing countries.

Not yet formally announced, the codenamed “Mappers Without Borders” project will be providing OSM mapping assistance to humanitarian response and development projects, particularly in Africa. (As a still informal entity, we’ve recently been active in mapping the Gaza Strip.)

4 thoughts on “Surveying OpenStreetMap in Africa

  1. Pingback: Brain Off » Surveying OpenStreetMap in Africa :: Mikel Maron :: Building Digital Technology for Our Planet

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  3. Enzinho83

    That’s really great news!

    I’m an intern at GTZ and want to figure out, how we can use OSM for our work. I work for the GIS Unit and we train local district staff members to use GIS. But all the spatial data is unfortunately saved locally and there is no information sharing although that’s an important objective of our program. We have to figure it out.

    I have many questions – could someone help me with further information and contacts? The faster, the better. 😉


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