GEO-MIK Consultants Africa Ltd - Geo-Information Consulting
“I am a Ugandan by nationality and the pioneer founder of GEO-MIK Consultants Africa Ltd (GEO-MIK), an integrated, innovative and multi-disciplinary development consultancy company headquartered in Uganda and professionally delivering cutting-edge geo-information technology, land and spatial development solutions in Africa. I have worked as the Regional Programs Coordinator at GEO-MIK from 15 April 2020. Prior to that I had served as GEO-MIK’s Managing Director from 2008. I also sit on the Board of Directors.
Having graduated with a degree in urban planning at Makerere University, I have over 15 years of applied experience in land, spatial planning, geo-information and consulting. I have since acquired other practical industrial skills in entrepreneurship, business incubation, conceptualisation and development, leadership, establishing partnerships , administration and strategic management. I have attained additional training and skills in UAV mapping and 3D modeling, entrepreneurship, information technology and spatial decision support systems from ITC, Netherlands.
I have co-authored an article published by MDPI titled ‘A Simplified Spatial Methodology for Assessing Land Productivity Status in Africa’. Through GEO-MIK, I have coordinated the RCMRD GMES and Africa Land Productivity Assessment Project for the 10 East African Countries under phase one and currently coordinating phase two of the program running in 14 countries. Through GEO-MIK, in 2017 I participated in the research project (science, innovation, and infrastructure theme) organised by the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, Queen Mary University of London’s Department of Research Services and the Ugandan National Academy of Sciences to build the research capacities of Parliament to address its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also, on behalf of GEO-MIK, I established several partnerships and built synergies with world-class industry leaders from Africa, the USA, Europe and Asia.
Through GEO-MIK, I have implemented projects and programs covering different organisations and institutions in Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Somalia, Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles, South Sudan and Sudan. Altogether, for 15 years I have presided over strategic operations and championed business start-ups, conceptualised and developed portfolios, spearheaded transformations and growth within new markets as well as coordinating GEO-MIK’s domestic and foreign policy.
Besides GEO-MIK, I have practiced elsewhere too. In 2007 I began working professionally at Eco Shelter and Environmental Consultants on a World Bank-funded project, and in 2008 worked on another World Bank-funded project at Infrastructure Design Forum. In 2009 I worked at UNDP/UN Habitat as an associate individual consultant on the PSUP program for Uganda and then at Geo-information Communication Ltd. I also worked at the Makerere University’s Department of Geography as a part-time teaching assistant from 2007 and at Ndejje University, among others.
How have you seen GEO-MIK develop in the past year?
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and a competitive industry, GEO-MIK grew its footprint within new markets in 15 countries – namely Uganda, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire. GEO-MIK also implemented work for some of the world’s iconic brands, multinational organisations, intergovernmental organisations, UN Agencies, regional and international bodies, academia and other research institutions. In addition, we attracted and sustained synergies and partnerships with some of the global businesses and world-class industry leaders.
Internally, to adapt and entrench in the industry, we launched new products and services by deeply anchoring geo-ICT and geospatial solutions core to our mainstream product portfolios. These efforts and transformations improved our returns and strategically repositioned our domestic, regional and international competitiveness. Initially, by 2014, 75% of our revenues were accrued from spatial development sector. For example, by 2021, the geospatial sector yielded 81% against the 19% posted by spatial development. This trend is expected to continue.
In what ways have you witnessed the GIS sector in Africa change during your time in business?
The industry is rapidly evolving even while there are still some challenges such as policy gaps, internet connectivity, access to credit and capital, human resource, institutional capacities, access to national spatial data, duplication of GIS data and inconsistent spatial data sets.
The Africa Space Industry Annual Report of 2021, for example, indicates that space technologies continue to be instrumental to Africa’s development agenda, with an increasing number of space application projects being implemented across the continent.
At the continental level, the Africa Union continues to support the industry through policy, establishment of the African Space Agency, and supporting and implementing different earth observation and geospatial development programs in line with the Africa Union Agenda 2063. In my view, this is a fundamental shift and an indicator that technological innovations are being considered key to spur development and uplift the living conditions of people on the continent.
At an international level, individual governments are also developing infrastructure and policies that facilitate technological innovation. While the pace might vary from one country to another, some governments have moved faster and developed data standards, integrated geospatial information, provide policy guidelines, and recognise spatial data as an asset for development. For example, the government of Uganda is working through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovationwith the support of partners to spearhead numerous efforts including the recent launch of the PearlAfrica Sat-1 satellite in space in November 2022, adding to the already existing satellites in the obit owned by other African countries.
The industry is also evolving and rapidly moving away from traditional GIS mapmaking practices to a wide range of methods, software, analytics, robust tools, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other agile applications. I think different business enterprises and institutions are increasingly realising the need to harness the capabilities in geospatial technologies for their work by adopting spatial databases, software apps, dashboards, smartphones, tablets, drones and cloud computing and consuming lots of satellite data.
Despite competition in the industry, I really think there is increased collaboration amongst the industry players in the entire space and GIS ecosystem right from the upstream to manufacturing, downstream, governments, other Pan-African state institutions and the rest of the world. More African enterprises are collaborating through partnerships with other global industry players – which in my opinion is necessary to grow the entire space and GIS ecosystem, fuel enterprise competitiveness, spur technological transfer and develop the operational capacity of indigenous SMEs and startups.
At user and consumer level, hundreds of industry players are utilising geospatially driven data and products for their day-to-day operational work and decisions; producing and sharing millions of maps daily, telling diverse stories, trends and relationships, but also as means of sharing information products for decision-making.
I believe there is also a fast-rising uptake of open-source tools and applications. A lot of data and user-friendly tools are available to enable professionals and users to gain access for their operations at zero cost. Commercial players in the GIS and satellite industry have also revolutionised the science of data acquisition and delivery to the end user. This has improved greatly user experiences and enabled access to data at low cost.
Do you foresee any specific trends emerging in the near future?
The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects profoundly disrupted the way managers, entrepreneurs and decision-makers in the industry view the geo-ICT space. The pandemic shut markets and some organisations without geospatial capabilities operationally struggled to sustain their projects and field activities.
I think we are seeing a magnified demand and uptake for geo-ICT platforms and tools for institutional work beyond the traditional practices. With the internet of things, for example, there will be deeper integration with real-time information, analytics and dashboards, etc. Governments have to strengthen policy and legislation to regulate (but also adopt) geoinformation science to bolster development in all fields from planning to oil and gas, environment, agriculture, climate forecast, defence and security. The private sector and academia will dive deeper into innovation and develop more applications and user-friendly tools for different user cases.
In terms of your career to date, what obstacles have you overcome to get where you are today?
GEO-MIK’s journey from the beginning through initial operations and into the development stages has been an uphill task for several reasons including access to capital and credit. At an early stage, I needed to defeat a common stereotype; that you can never start and succeed with your innovation, idea or any original business venture unless you are from a privileged family or supported by powerful connection in an organisation or government. Later, I realised it is never essentially so.
For example, I was compelled to operate from home for the first seven months of registration. I only leased the first operational office in October 2008 at Suite C, Katatumba Suites, Coleville Street, Kampala. However, it closed within first three months. I was pushed out of the industry temporarily and went back to the labour market. I got a job at Geo-Information Communication in January 2009, and at the same time I established a side commercial enterprise for stationery service and a cafe as a complementary and fundraising drive to capitalise the start-up. Unfortunately, it also closed within the first seven months of operation.
In August 2009, I secured a one-year part time offer at UNDP/UN Habitat and, six months later in January 2010, re-established the firm at the garage belonging to the Church of Uganda. Right there, everything started. Inspired by the vision, I immediately began to document, incubate and innovate the business concepts, crafting content, originating templates and scoping services and product portfolios and forming the initial team. After competitively securing the first, second and third government tenders in 2010, 2011 and 2012, things started slowly to look up. I moved operations to a more spacious office in 2013 and later in 2015 because there was a growing need to upscale and restructure our operational capacity.
Six years later, propelled by the quest to reinforce and effectively consolidate GEO-MIK’s growth and reposition our business for the regional and international agenda; it became necessary to relocate the office to a strategic city: Entebbe, the host of Entebbe International Airport. It also demanded upscale and holistic value addition to the business, evolving GEO-MIK from a firm to a limited liability company and realigning our product and service portfolios to the emerging domestic and foreign markets.
Over a decade, GEO-MIK has seen sustained domestic growth and expanding territorial footprint from project work to 15 countries. We are happy to see the progress we have made since 2008 amidst the difficulties. Initially, it demanded making bold tradeoffs at a personal level. Beginning as early as 2011, I needed to confront three competitive choices; i) taking up early postgraduate study; ii) staying in employment or iii) chasing the dream. Ultimately, I had to forgo long-term employment and called off early opportunities for postgraduate study multiple times. In 2017, for example, I enrolled for a Masters of GIS at Leeds University but eventually also dropped out later.
When I reflect, I am hesitant to regret the tradeoffs. Think of it: 15 years ago, GEO-MIK was an idea, mere dream; but today, we are excited and privileged to see visibility of our work at the forefront in the industry supporting land, agriculture, oil and gas sectors at a national and regional level.
What would you say is your most important achievement so far?
Transitioning GEO-MIK from a humble garage in 2010 to a fully-fledged innovative and integrated brand in Uganda with a competitive regional and international focus. We transformed and diversified GEO-MIK’s product portfolios amidst competitive markets and expanded our territorial footprint from project work to 15 countries in Africa. In addition, we attracted and sustained synergies and partnerships with some of the world-class industry leaders.
The positive fidelity we take from the market and the brand recognition to our work is imperative to our team and key to our strategic industry positioning. It therefore motivates us to see our earth observation-based land productivity assessment tool for East Africa secure an international nomination to the Geospatial World Award 2023. Equally, making it to the shortlist notification for the CEO Today Magazine Africa Awards 2023 is profoundly humbling. Much more fulfilling was getting to know we were nominated for and eventually scooped the CEO Global 2023 Award.
Do you have a particular creed or philosophy that motivates your work?
Work with urgency and commitment to be successful from individual and organisational perspectives. Act with integrity and professionalism; be reliable, accountable and responsible in your work and listen to every team member. Respect each other when working together to achieve mutually beneficial results. Always look to do things differently better and understand that “vision is destiny, reflect to it”. With God, everything is possible!
What would you describe as your favourite part of your role?
It is important to me that our day-to-day work at GEO-MIK is driven by our strategic plan, budget, quality control process and documentation of operations performed. I am passionate about building and sustaining beneficial synergies, relationships and strategic partnerships through a balanced score of mutual benefit between and among stakeholders. We also know that meeting our clients’ and partners’ strategic goals and objectives is essential to the attainment of our own.
Is there a piece of advice that you would give to a less experienced executive looking to emulate your success in management?
It is necessary to adopt a management style that is driven by vision and a strategic plan, policy, budget, innovation and critical thinking. It is also important to remain professional, reliable, responsible and accountable, and to act with integrity when executing duties. Knowledge and information is power, so keep abreast of emerging technologies. Read; seek new knowledge and skills to enhance performance and productivity. Always remember to involve God.
What does this award mean to you?
First, I thank the CEO Today team and all those who nominated and voted for me and GEO-MIK. This award is an acknowledgement of our contributions to the industry in Uganda, the wider region and beyond. It demonstrates confidence in our work and goes a long way to assure our clients and partners of our valued commitment to the vision. It is also a strategic promise and encouragement to our team that, with consistence and persistence, we can achieve whatever we set to do. Equally, it also means work has just started.
I believe the award will inspire young and ambitious Ugandan and African youth to believe in themselves regardless of where they come from.
Can you share anything about your plans for the further development of GEO-MIK in 2023?
In the short-to-medium term, we will grow GEO-MIK through strategic planning, budgeting, processes, policies and innovation aligned to our vision. We will also integrate and deeply entrench ICT to drive operational processes, workflow and protocols while strengthening the capacity of our human resource function both at operational level and management. To bolter our local and international competitiveness in the industry, we will entrench our services domestically and consolidate new territories but also build and sustain existing synergies and partnerships with local, regional and world-class industry leaders, governments and international agencies.
In addition, we will scale up and domesticate the uptake of our existing geospatial services and products while developing others targeting precision farming and agriculture in general. Agriculture remains the single most important economic activity in Africa, employing a huge working population and contributing a great deal to GDP for many countries