Republic of Côte d'Ivoire


Disaster Prevention and Preparedness

Type of Investment


Project Stage


Length of Investment


Investment Overview

PLACE provides detailed, timely mapping data for urban and coastal areas to governments in the developing world at a cheaper price.


The Development Challenge

In today’s digital world, maps (including location data) power much of the modern economy. Governments use maps (through modern geographic information systems) to route police, fire, and ambulance services to people and communities in need. They use maps to plan smarter cities, to determine tax rates and bills, to identify public infrastructure needs and investment opportunities, or to conduct environmental clean-ups. Increasingly, governments must decide how best to upgrade public infrastructure, including housing that is resilient to today’s growing climate impacts. Africa is urbanising at a rate of 20% per year. This rate outpaces the availability of resources to manage it. Governments on the African continent lack staff and resources to map the areas. Africa has 3% of its total mass mapped and currently 80% of urban development in Africa is happening blindly without technologically informed approaches.

Ultra-detailed, up-to-date maps are an essential foundation for planning and implementing climate resilience and adaptation measures for urban areas (note that African cities will swell by three quarters of a billion people by 2050, according to the UN World Urbanization Prospects). For instance, mapping the exact populations and infrastructures that are vulnerable to floods, and under what conditions, is critical to building resilience into the massive urban expansion now underway throughout the developing world. That requires topographic maps that are accurate to centimetres, not metres; that show the current condition of roads and drainage, not a 10-year-old snapshot; and that show dwelling density and conditions down to the house level.

The problem is that this kind of data is not available for public use in the developing world. To maximise social benefit, detailed mapping data should be provided at the marginal cost of making a copy: essentially zero. But of course, the data must be financed in the first place. In the absence of public funding, however, private companies will not make this data optimally available for public purposes and may not even invest in it. Donor-funded mapping is sporadic and inconsistent. Cash-strapped mapping agencies in developing countries that receive donor-funded data may not make it readily available. As a result, many cities in the developing world lack current base maps.


The Innovation

PLACE solves this market failure. PLACE provides detailed, timely mapping data for urban and coastal areas to governments in the developing world at a cheaper price. PLACE employs interconnected innovations. First, an institutional innovation in the form of a data trust that accords data ownership to governments, while facilitating access and ethical use of data by private companies, NGOs, and academics. Secondly, a financial innovation via a sliding scale of payments for access to the data. Commercial users finance data collection and have the right to build their own data products on top of the base maps. NGOs and researchers pay a nominal fee. PLACE is also a technological innovation. It uses low-cost, high-performance drones to provide georeferenced images at 5cm resolution together with topographical accuracy (elevation) to 6cm. Finally, PLACE is a market innovation. PLACE builds capacity, and creates demand, for locally run organisations to operate the UAVs and supply imagery on a regular basis.


Our Investment

GIF awarded PLACE a $460K grant in March of 2022 to support PLACE in establishing a legal data trust model for data collection in emerging economies, validate this model by mapping two populated urban areas in developing economies, and demonstrate the use of the data by government entities and the PLACE Community.


Progress to Date

PLACE has established the PLACE Trust for the collection and storage of mapping data in emerging economies and has generated high quality mapping data from both government partners and members in Africa and small island nations. Formal relationships with governments of critical markets like Nigeria and Malawi signify growing interest in Africa for PLACE’s work. Governments and partners are now using PLACE data to address flood mitigation, identification of informal settlements, and land valuation & taxation.


Why we invested

Impact at scale: PLACE’s addressable market consists of urban areas in the developing world, with a total population of 1.7 billion. PLACE’s data could provide the foundation for a range of public and private services.

Climate adaptation focus: PLACE strengthens the public sector effort to operationalize climate resilience and adaptation agendas. This approach is aligned with GIF’s climate resilience and adaptation agenda.

Team: Senior management (‘partners’) have excellent experience in property rights, land mapping, and development, and bring strong networks in the private and public sector. The team also has experience launching and scaling similar ventures.

Additionality: PLACE needs to build its database of cities, so that it can start charging commercial members, and from there the flywheel for scaling can start. Grant funding from GIF to map cities will catalyse membership (and potential match funding).

Learnings: Our partnership with the Adaptation Research Alliance encourages stakeholder-engaged, action-oriented learning. There are possibilities to work out learning activities with groups such as the Spatial Collective ( and Radiant Earth.


PLACE in numbers


Of urban development in Africa is happening blindly without technologically informed approaches

Only 3%

Of Africa's total land mass is currently mapped


GIF grant


Innovating for Climate Resilience

PLACE provides mapping data for urban and coastal areas, strengthening governments' and stakeholders’ climate adaptation and resilience efforts. The non-profit received a $460,000 grant. Ultra-detailed up-to-date digital maps are essential to planning and implementing climate resilience and adaptation for urban areas. Topographic maps accurate to centimetres, rather than metres, that show the current condition of roads and drainage, as well as dwelling density and conditions down to the house level, will be a critical contribution to urban resilience amidst the vast urban expansion already underway.