MadMappers makes history for the African Continent!

In an unprecedented move, MadMappers has become the first web provider of free African topographic maps.
The question which comes to our mind is: who else is providing free maps in the world? We do not know of many: USGS in the USA, then … well, not many more, and for sure no-one without a multimillion dollar budget. We feel in good company, why spoil the moment with budget matters!

It all started on Tuesday 3rd September 2002 when a group of friends attended in Johannesburg a symposium at the World Summit titled “Global Mapping - SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION”.
Between many notable speakers, Derek Clarke, Chief Director of Surveys and Mapping of South Africa stood out. He highlighted the importance of easy access to mapping information, more so in less developed countries than in developed ones.
Then he spoke about the common perception that development creates the resources needed for compiling good maps while the opposite is in fact true: good, easily accessible maps are the foundations of development. On the African continent, politicians constantly search for ways to stimulate development but too often overlook the need for maps. NEPAD is the perfect example: maps are mentioned no-where in the economic programme: what kind of renaissance are we supposed to achieve?

With a few exceptions most African maps were compiled in the colonial years. “Why need new maps when there are old ones?”, Simply because the world changes and so do maps. And the few old available maps are too often regarded by government departments as confidential information, not only almost inaccessible to the general public but also not shared between government departments. Similarly the private sector is unwilling to share information, with a sort of satisfaction at the prospect that others, including their own Governments, will be unable to make informed decision.

It was quite astonishing to hear these words: a few days earlier we had received a quote of about R20.000 (almost $3.400) for the set of South African maps scale 1:250.000 in electronic format (which are the same set we are now offering for free download).

A few months after the World Summit, the South African Government took the decision that maps had to become freely accessible to everyone.

But how could this be achieved in practice? Simple: MadMappers!
Actually not that simple, as we found out later. But where there is the will, there is a way and finally an idea has become reality.

All this would have not been possible without the support  of the Chief Directorate - Surveys and Mapping (CDSM) of the Republic of South Africa. Thank them before thanking us.
And then thank Louis Cretier (Turin, Italy; mail:, who made it technically possible, and Mike Childs ( who, not only is the developer of a brilliant piece of GIS software, but who has also put at our disposal his web servers.

This is the first real step of MadMappers. In the next few days MadMappes will be releasing more than 2000 maps of South Africa scale 1:50.000 in electronic format province by province. So watch this space for news on the release.

And if your web connection is not so fast, do not despair: MadMappers South African collection scale 1:250.000 on CD is only R 100 ($17) plus postage. Check the mapsets on CD section for more details.