African space policy: Reaching for the stars

African space policy: Reaching for the stars

The framework for the future development of a pan-African space strategy was adopted by science and education ministers at a recent meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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Few people associate Africa with space exploration. But that may change by 2063. The framework for the future development of the continent’s space strategy was adopted by science and education ministers at a recent meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Several African countries have already launched their first space operations. For example, Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency flies several satellites. South Africa launched its first satellite in 1999, and launched a second from Kazakhstan in 2009. A year later, South Africa established its National Space Agency, SANSA. In the beginning of this year, the Kondor-E satellite built for South Africa in Russia was launched into orbit. It provides all-weather, day-and-night radar imagery for the South African military.

Other countries began to pave their way to space, too. In 2012, Ghana launched its Space Science and Technology Centre. The same year, Kenya, which equatorial position makes it an ideal location to launch geostationary satellites, unveiled its national space programme.

Oil- and mineral-rich Angola plans on launching its first satellite, AngoSat-1, into orbit by 2016. The satellite will be built by a Russian company. Algeria and Egypt are also launching science and military satellites with support of Russia and India.

To overcome financial and educational issues, the African Union Working Group on Space has recently approved a draft African space policy and is currently developing a comprehensive space strategy. It underlines the need of the continental coordination of space projects, and set ups the vision of the continent-wide space agency. However, the implementation of the ambitious vision is still years to come.

It is expected that space exploration will bring significant social and economic benefits to the continent. Space technologies will be used to help find mineral resources, uncover underground aquifers, develop warning systems for such events as floods, cyclones and droughts. However, space endeavours require capital. And for most African countries, capital is a limited commodity.

Photo: The High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) gamma ray telescope operational in Namibia. Source: okayafrica.com

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