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Mapping agency awaits reestablishment

  • Agency says labor turnover crippled operations

Established some 70 years ago with the help of the US government, the Ethiopian Mapping Agency (EMA) has requested the Government of Ethiopia for the reestablishment of the Agency and go in line with the fast-changing global geospatial environment.

Five years after it proposed the reestablishment, the Agency is still awaiting the approval of the government to amend the proclamation that established EMA and change the nametag to Ethiopian Geospatial Agency.

Sultan Mohammed, director general of the Agency, in an exclusive interview with The Reporter, said that EMA was first established as a surveying and mapping institute 71 years ago and was then formally reestablished as the EMA in 1973. According to Sultan, that was the only time the organization had witnessed a change in 30 years.

Five years ago, the Agency requested the then Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED), which supervises the Agency, to consider reform measures. The National Plan Commission is the current overseeing entity that is looking into the reestablishment of the Agency.

According to the director general, the geospatial data has become the governing requirement in the current surveying and mapping technologies.  From the fundamental geospatial data, geodetic control, surveying, remote sensing, topographic maps, thematic maps such as aeronautical charts and tourist maps are some of the productions the Agency has been specializing on.

However, the Agency is suffering from an extensive labor turnover. Out of the 600 staff, which Sultan says is the ideal size; EMA is left with 350. The reason for the turnover, according to Sultan, is mostly related to pays and incentives. The likes of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA) and the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, which are tasked with similar jobs, have a better salary scale and employees are flocking to those institutions.

It was the Americans who had helped establish EMA during the mission they carried out to survey the Nile and its sources. The US still extends support for the Agency, which includes the recent GPS sensing reference stations and rural land management system.

Despite the challenging issues, the Agency has been active in representing the country in continental and global platforms. EMA hosted the 4th United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN- GGIM) high-level forum last year. In addition to that, the Agency is the current chair of the Nairobi-based Regional Center for Mapping Resources for Development (RCMRD).