The Department of Science and Technology has appointed two leading space women, Andiswa Mlisa and Lulu Makapela to represent South Africa in the Programme Board of the Group on Earth Observation (GEO) for a three-year stint (2022-2024.
The two women are highly regarded within the space environment having contributed and served the sector in different capacities. Miss Mlisa is the managing director of Earth Observations at SANSA. She has taken numerous roles in GEO, including establishing and co-ordinating the AfriGEO Initiative, the first regional GEO initiative, based at the GEO Secretariat, and co-chairing the Programme Board.
Building from the scratch
Before joining the GEO the Miss Mlisa worked for Umvoto, an earth sciences consultancy where she was the programme director and head of Geo Informatics for nine years. There she established a dynamic Geo-informatics unit from scratch and increased the company’s profile and credibility. As the current senior science and technology representative for the GEO she provides technical and scientific support for capacity building activities in Africa and is also working on AfriGEOSS – the Africa focused GEO initiative.
As the co-chair of the Programme Board, Mlisa is proud of her involvement in the GEO Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) subgroup, which developed the GEO EDI Statement and organised community consultations to address these issues.
Broad area of expertise
Similarly, Lulu Makapela has been professionally in the field of aerospace for over a decade. She is the strategic programmes contracts manager for SA-GEO, a national Earth observations and space initiative within the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). She is also a long-term participant in GEO and its initiatives. Her area of expertise include such strategic areas as project management, legal, policy and space treaty implementation focus in broader areas , particularly highly complex areas such as telecommunications, aerospace and space, earth observations and science .
South Africa, under the leadership of the DSI, currently serves as one of four co-chairs alongside the United States, China and the European Commission, and continues to play a significant role in GEO, since being one of the founding members in 2005.
Coherence of activities
The two women will join a team of experts drawn from international community who will streamline activities of the GEO and align them with its priorities. The role of the Programme Board is to oversee the formation and implementation of the GEO Work Programmes. This is to ensure there is coherence of activities with GEO’s strategic objectives. The members of the Board report to the GEO executive committee and plenary.
Creating innovative solutions
GEO is an inter-governmental global network that connects government institutions, academic and research institutions, data providers, businesses, engineers, scientists and experts to create innovative solutions to global challenges. This is necessary particularly in the context of the increasing data growth, human development and climate change that transcend national and disciplinary boundaries. Most importantly, GEO strives to maximise diversity in all governance structures of GEO, including meetings and events.
The appointment of Miss Mlisa and Makapela to the Programme Board of the Group on Earth Observation is vital and strategic in positioning South Africa as a critical player on Earth observations. It is also important as it will help South Africa to lead regional and national initiatives such as the Digital Earth Africa to be hosted and managed by the SANSA and AfriGEO initiative.