Africa’s Crossborder Conflicts on Google Earth

This post is an update on the Humanitarian Information Unit’s (HIU) crisis map of crossborder conflicts in Africa. Dennis King at HIU kindly shared with me the shapefiles for the static conflict map so we could create a Google Earth layer from the data. When I write “we”, I actually mean my colleague Lela Prashad who is the co-Executive Director at

NiJeL is a member of CrisisMappers and they are doing some phenomenal work in the mapping space. In fact, they have two excellent projects in the Top 15 of USAID’s Development 2.0 Challenge. When Dennis King agreed to share the HIU data, I therefore turned to Lela to create the Google Earth layer.


The main conclusion to draw from this little exercise is that time matters. Not exactly earth shattering news but let me spell it out nevertheless. Because the underlying data is static, visualizing the data on Google Earth is not as compelling as mapping dynamic event-data, such as HHI’s Crisis Map of Kenya’s Post-Election Violence. That said, the Google Earth layer at least provides the user with far more “spatial freedom” than the PDF version.


The Google Earth layer is available here for download. The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and I hope to collaborate with NiJeL again in early 2009 to create a dynamic (space-time) crisis map of the recent Georgia/Russia conflict. In the mean time, many, many thanks to both Lela and Dennis for their time and kind support.

Patrick Philippe Meier

8 responses to “Africa’s Crossborder Conflicts on Google Earth

  1. A very interesting KMZ, thanks for this !

    Greetings from Africa
    Henri Willox

  2. Patrick,

    Great work….thanks for doing this.

    At the end of the year, I will release a final 2008 Affrica Conflicts database, this one with a temporal component indicating the duration of conflicts (months) in 2008. For example, some conflicts will be 12 months-all year long, while others will be defined durations – Kenya Political Violence Jan-Mar 2008.

    Looking forward to working with you on this collaborative project — I have started my holiday, but will be back at work on Dec. 29

    Dennis King
    Humanitarian Information Unit
    US Department of State

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