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Subject area/Theme

Capacity building

Short summary of Best Practice:


AfricaArray (AA) is a pan-African initiative to promote coupled research and training programs for building and maintaining a scientific workforce for Africa’s natural resource sector. AfricaArray was launched as a long-term initiative in July 2004 by the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, the Council for Geoscience (aka Geological Survey) of South Africa, and Penn State University, USA, and is supported by IRIS (Integrated Research Institute of Seismology) where AfricaArray datasets are stored and distributed. The primary goal of AfricaArray is to address the problem of limited human capacity in Africa in the geosciences in general and geophysics in particular.

AfricaArray promotes capacity building in Africa by building an Africa-to-Africa training and research support system that is linked to a newly established and expanding geophysical observational network. The AfricaArray network is connected to national seismic networks of participating countries, and can be used for earthquake monitoring; natural hazard mitigation; and oil, gas and mineral exploration. One of the principle research questions that AfricaArray seeks to address is to better resolve the structure of the Earth’s crust and mantle below southern and central Africa. Details about AA can be found on the AA website ( and in a number of news articles (Nature, v433, 2005; Geotimes, Oct. 2005; Petroleum Economist, special issue WPC Aug. 2005).

Explain why is there a need for this Best Practice?

Geophysics education has been selected as the initial focus for AfricaArray, because geophysicists are in high demand in the strategically important fields of oil and gas exploration, mineral exploration, geothermal energy development, water resource development, and earthquake hazard mitigation (including mine tremors). Geophysicists receive broad training, and can, therefore, work in many areas of Africa’s natural resource sector. A recent survey of select mining and oil companies indicates that as many as 20 new geophysics graduates are needed every year by industry in sub-Sahara Africa; additional geophysics graduates are needed in government agencies, particularly to work in water resource development, and in academic institutions. There is currently no capability within Africa to provide high quality geophysics training for this number of students.


Provide an example application(s):

  1. AfricaArray is implemented in 4 phases over a period of 20 years. During the first phase of AA development (years 1-3), the disciplinary focus has been on solid Earth geophysics. To support this focus, a permanent network of broadband seismic stations for recording earthquakes in sub-Saharan Africa has been established (27 stations have been installed; data recovery 70-80%; data retrieval: SA–daily, elsewhere–monthly; data can be accessed through In addition the training programme in geophysics has been grown, an annual international field school has been established and research projects started (in Nov. 2007 AfricaArray supports 8 honours, 6 MSc, 8PhD and 5 post-doctoral researchers from 11 countries). Results from AfricaArray activities are presented in an annual AfricaArray workshop (4th annual workshop was held in mid-June 2008).

  2. Application B 

How widely deployed is this practice(if applicable)


AA has grown quickly and been successful largely because of grass-roots support from many people within a variety of African institutions that are committed to AfricaArray's capacity building goals (currently 17 African countries actively participate in AfricaArray in collaboration with 11 private companies and many organizations outside of Africa).

Owner (Originator) Contact Information:

Submitter Contact Information:

M. Grobbelaar - Council for Geoscience -

Detailed Description of Best Practice

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AfricaArray, geophysics, capacity building

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