The African Union (AU) in 2009 through its landmark Africa Mining Vision recognized the challenges of Earth sciences in Africa and identified a few key factors that favour the success and sustainability of resource-based economic growth. This includes “facilitating and nurturing human resources development, and skills formation in tandem with the development of resources technological clusters through the facilitation of research and development (R&D) and the building of knowledge networks and niches involving academia, industry, the government and other players.” Investing in human resource capacity development in Earth sciences is therefore crucial if Africa is to realize its vast Earth resources potential and to make this sector a key driver of its economic growth. However, Earth science knowledge in realizing this resource potential and in addressing other economic and social issues is not widely recognized at various levels of society.
In response to the shortcomings in Earth science knowledge and capacities in Africa, UNESCO, in 2008 launched the Earth Science Education Initiative for Africa (ESEIA). The initiative is aimed at “the development of the next generation of Earth scientists in Africa who are equipped with the necessary tools, networks and perspectives to apply sound science to solving and benefiting from the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development”. To scope this initiative, a series of regional workshops were organized between 2009 - 2010 to assess regional capacities and needs in Earth science research, education, and industry in Africa. The major conclusions of the workshops include the need for better networking and access to research infrastructure among African Earth science institutions, strengthening collaboration and partnership between industry and universities, fostering a systems approach to Earth sciences in research and education, as well as the promotion of Earth sciences at primary and secondary school level.
Subsequently, the General Assembly of the Geological Society of Africa (GSAf) in 2011 considered the above conclusions, and adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of the African Network of Earth Science Institutions (ANESI), and inviting UNESCO to facilitate the process, culminating in the launch of ANESI in January 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 24th Colloquium of African Geology.