Enhance Your GIS Opportunities in Africa

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Geographic Information System (GIS) as a course is yet to gain dominance across institutions in Africa, this has led to students being skeptical about their chances of getting employed after school, or getting a placement for internships. Apart from creating awareness and programs about the relevance of GIS and its tools, it is also important that GIS enthusiasts or students have a knowledge of possible organizations or sectors that require their services.

This article will provide you information on career choices as a GIS enthusiast or student, and a curated list of organizations in Africa that employ the services of a GIS practitioner. 

Career Choices as a GIS Student or Enthusiast 

Do I stand a chance in carving a career niche for myself in GIS? This is what comes to the mind of many progressive students of GIS. Interestingly, GIS poses a lot of career paths to all and sundry – creating sustainable problem-solving mechanisms to global problems.

GIS as a field is known to be wide and versatile, as it could be draining for one person to dominate in every aspect of the field, thus the need for division of labor. 

Below is a table showing the basic career path in GIS and their obligations.

S/NCAREER PATH IN GIS OBLIGATIONS 
1GIS Developer/ ProgrammerDevelopers in GIS create and modify GIS tools, applications, programs, and software.
2Cartographers Cartographers review geographic data to design, create, and update maps 
3GIS ManagerGIS Managers leverage location technology to plan, assist, and improve their cities. 
4GIS Analyst GIS analysts use geospatial tools to analyze data and present their findings. 
5GIS Specialist GIS specialists build and maintain GIS databases, and use GIS software to analyze the spatial and non-spatial information in them.
6GIS Software engineerGIS Engineers design, build, update, upgrade, maintain, and modify GIS applications or more specialized geographically-oriented utility programs
7Urban PlannerUses GIS software to visually interpret geographic and demographic information for planning purposes.
8GIS TechnicianGIS Technicians make maps, customize GIS applications and manipulate data to serve a variety of purposes. They read and interpret maps, understand digital land data and manage data entered into a GIS database.
9GIS ConsultantsGIS consultants advise individuals and businesses on the use of GIS and geospatial systems and technologies for a wide range of industries, including technology, transportation, law enforcement, and construction.

Skills to Boost  Your Career Chances as a GIS Enthusiast

 The programming skill among others has proven to be the skill of the 21st century as it is used to automate tasks, for a more desirable result. An astute programmer stands a chance to access many job opportunities even in the GIS sector. Other skills required to thrive in the GIS sector, depending on your niche include;  

Technical skills

  • Competence with ArcGIS, QGIS, and other GIS software.
  • Strong data management skills.
  • Working knowledge with databases like PostGIS.
  • Working knowledge of the principles and practices of GIS analysis
  • Working knowledge of the methods and techniques of designing and maintaining GIS databases
  • Knowledge of cartographic practices
  • Working knowledge in transforming various types of data into georeferenced layers in ArcGIS (e.g., raster data, CAD files)
  • Working knowledge in creating and updating metadata in ArcCatalog.
  • Working knowledge in the research, creation, manipulation, and maintenance of spatial data to support geospatial analysis of database information related to the specialized GIS industry.
  • Working knowledge in interpreting database information by utilizing spatial analysis and other evaluation tools.
  • Working knowledge in writing and executing database queries using SQL. Programmer positions require an additional knowledge base on various programming languages, depending on the type of job and whether the positions require desktop GIS customizations, web development, or both:
  • Python
  • Javascript
  • Go
  • HTML, PHP, CSS, JavaScript etc

Non-technical skills 

  • Strong ability to work effectively in a team structure, (teamwork).
  • Strong ability to complete tasks in a timely fashion, (time management)
  • Design and Creativity
  • Storytelling; though not compulsory for all GIS practitioners 

Those that are just starting a career in GIS must carefully select a niche that suits their interests in the field and then position themselves to learn the necessary skill set to achieve maximum success in the field. They could start by examining the descriptions and requirements for different GIS careers with respect to their ability.

Organizations in Africa That Need the Services of a GIS Practitioner

We have designed a Google sheet containing a curated non-exhaustive list of organizations in Africa that offer GIS services or use GIS tools in their tasks. This list would enable prospective interns and job seekers in the GIS field in Africa to know which organization to seek for employment and also the basic requirements of the said organizations. The curated list can be found on the Google sheet here and on an interactive map here.

Conclusion

There are great opportunities in the GIS field, as almost all sectors demand its services for the progress of their tasks. Competent GIS personnel can also create employment opportunities in the form of a startup, or freelance in his or her specialty. There is no limit to how far you can go with the GIS career as long as you are skilled, and also there is a need to upskill to be at the top of the game.

REFERENCES 

History of GIS. (2021, January 11). https://www.esri.com/en-us/what-is-gis/history-of-gis

GIS for Africa. (n.d.). Esri. https://www.esri.com/content/dam/esrisites/sitecore-archive/Files/Pdfs/library/brochures/pdfs/gis-for-africa.pdf

Departments of geography and related subjects at African universities. (n.d.). AAG. https://www.aag.org/cs/programs/international/developingregions/africa/departments

Dempsey, C. (2018, June 1). How much do GIS jobs pay? GIS Lounge. https://www.gislounge.com/much-gis-jobs-pay/

Top 11 Geospatial Start-UPS in Africa. (2021, February 14). Geoawesomeness. https://geoawesomeness.com/top-11-geospatial-start-ups-in-africa/

Author

Olufemi Damilola for Africa GeoConvo Podcast

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