Satellite image of Burkina Faso. Captured by Planet Labs on December 24, 2015.

New Maps for a New Millennium

A four-year project to update Burkina Faso’s national mapping for the first time in 50 years has just concluded. Aude Areste Lamendour and Aurélie Milledrogues report.

Jan 12, 2016 · 5 min read

“The project was seen as a real landmark event. It was a result we were all proud to share,” remembers Oumar Sanon, manager of the PC200 Burkina project.

PC200 Burkina was a four-year scheme to create a database and update national maps to a scale of 1:200,000 for Burkina Faso. The reasons for the project were clear. “Our 1:200,000 scale maps had not been updated since the 1960s when they were created by IGN,” explains Patrick Stimpson, IGN France International’s regional director for Western Africa. “There have obviously been deep-rooted changes over the past 50 years: towns have developed, villages have disappeared, moved or been created, new roads have appeared, waterways, river beds and tracks have been modified due to the rainy season or the works carried out amongst other reasons. Agricultural or breeding areas have also undergone significant changes.

“The disparity between our national mapping and the reality of changes that have taken place in the country was the motivating factor behind the EU bid to tender for Burkina Faso. The same observation made in Senegal, Mali and Benin enabled those countries to update their mapping also and to improve the skills in this domain at a local level.”

The project began in 2011 when IGN France International, the export branch of IGN France, was awarded the contract covering the provision of technical assistance in updating Burkina Faso’s mapping database. It had a budget of €1.8m and was financed by the EU through the 10th EDF.

At all stages of the project, the work was carried out by teams combining Geographic Institute of Burkina Faso (IGB) personnel and technical assistance staff from IGN France International. “This was an essential working methodology in order to facilitate the transfer of information and allow both the Institute’s technicians and management to take ownership of the project’s work,” says Laurent Falala, project manager for IGN France International.

The four components

The project was based around four main components. The first critical phase consisted in acquiring RapidEye satellite images with a resolution of 5m over the entire territory, as well as GeoEyedat at 0.5m over the 13 main towns in Burkina Faso. The images were chosen according to pre-determined technical criteria, particularly the requirement for clear skies.

The second concerned acquiring the IT equipment and software necessary for production, creating processes and production workshops, identifying local skills, mobilising teams and giving theoretical training for each stage of the project. Three workshops were created in line with these objectives: one on images, another on databases and a third one on mapping. Two studies trips to France were organised to complete this and included additional training, visits to IGN, the ENSG (National School of Geomatics), IGN Space and to Airbus Defence and Space.

The third, most essential aspect of the project was IGB’s work to create all the products with technical assistance from IGN France International. These were:

DTM and orthoimages

A digital terrain model and orthoimages to 5m were created for the whole of the country and very high resolution orthoimagery was created for the 13 main towns. After a stereo preparation phase out in the field, all the processing work was carried out using Geoview, IGN’s own image processing software.

A national database

This was organised around 10 themes: habitat/infrastructures; road and railroad networks; energy distribution network; hydrography; administrative restrictions; land occupation; orography; toponymy and the main points of interest; and geodesic network.

The database specifications (content and selection criteria) were elaborated with the help of future users during the national workshops. The database was constructed by entering a complete set of information, in 2D format using ArcGIS with orthoimages, and by performing field visits to complete and validate all the information collected: checks on communal infrastructures (schools, police stations, etc) and land occupation; toponymic surveys; localisation of villages; and counts of other infrastructure (bridges, crossing points, etc). Members of the national toponymic commission met together on several occasions to arbitrate and validate all the toponymic information in the database.


A set of 27 maps to a scale of 1:200,000 were needed. This production phase started with the creation of the mapping model (choice of items in the key, layout, cover photos, etc) and then the maps using the database information. All the maps were printed at the IGN printing press in France.

Derived products

Road and tourist maps to a scale of 1:1,000,000, a 1:200,000 scale road atlas, wall posters to a scale of 1:300,000 were also needed.

The fourth and final component of the project aimed to show future users the added value of the work carried out and highlight the use of such a project. Several national and regional events were organised to achieve this objective. These took place throughout the four-year duration of the project and enabled both teams to show the progress they had made.

“This phase was extremely important in order to keep the project’s main beneficiaries interested in the work,” explains the executive director of IGB. “The Burkinabe authorities showed their full support for the programme by participating in great numbers at each of these events.”

An enduring legacy

The PC200 Burkina project officially came to an end in February this year. The commitments made four years previously had been respected. The IGB personnel who were trained up throughout the project are now capable of producing thematic maps on demand or implementing information systems for private or public entities. Burkina Faso now possesses a set of products which constitute the basis of an infrastructure database, a decision-making tool which is indispensable for the development of emerging economies. The administrative bodies using geographical data that helped to build the new maps now have access to the database.

But there have been other benefits, too. Alain Rivas, mapping expert at IGN France International, says: “Over and above the quality of the products created, this project has been a wonderful human adventure. Relationships and strong ties have been made between those who have been working on the project over the last four years, and that wasn’t part of the original project tender!”

This post originally appeared in GeoConnexion and is reposted here with permission of IGN France International.

IGN France International, subsidiary of the FIT Group and the French National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information (IGN), is recognized worldwide as a key player in geographic information engineering. It is involved in the setting up of projects and offers its expertise to foreign policy makers. Its core business — geodesy, metrology, cartography, databases, GIS and web portals — targets the following fields of activity: cadastre — land assessment, environment, agriculture, security, and energy. Learn more at

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