Several African nations are launching satellites. Just last month, Kenya launched its first operational satellite to space onboard a Space X rocket, developed by nine Kenyan engineers, with the goal of collecting agricultural and environmental data, including on floods, drought and wildfires, that authorities plan to use for disaster management and to combat food insecurity.
At the beginning of the year, Djibouti announced the construction of the first African spaceport. Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh signed a technological cooperation agreement with the Chinese company Hong Kong Aerospace Technology to build a $1bn satellite and rocket launch site. Given Djibouti’s location near the equator, it is an attractive destination for the satellite launching while taking advantage of the Earth’s rotational speed. As Temidayo Oniosun, managing director at the consultancy Space In Africa, says, “none of the 54 satellites launched by African countries were launched from Africa,” …“Hopefully, this move will enable the launch of the first Africa-made satellite from African soil. This project, if successful, will also positively affect the industry across several countries and segments, lead to the establishment of new enterprises and new spinoffs, and would ultimately play a vital role in implementing a continentally driven space program.”
In January, Angolan President João Lourenço inaugurated the country’s first satellite control center. Its main task is to monitor the activity of the satellite “ANGOSAT 2“, launched in October with the help of Russia. The inauguration took place at Funda area within Luanda, the capital city of Angola and fully equipped with technical and technological means.
The same month, the African Union inaugurated the African Space Agency based in Cairo to highlight the importance of the space industry among all the goals for development of the continent.
Uganda and Zimbabwe launched their satellites last November. The satellites named PearlAfricaSat-1 for Uganda, and ZimSat-1 for Zimbabwe, were launched aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft, which lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Africa has long been considered a latecomer in the space area. There are enormous needs across the continent, particularly in communication, education, agriculture, and science, thus reinforcing the need for Africa to quickly develop its space industry. The African space industry is expected to top $22 billion by 2026. In 2022, countries allocated a total of $539 million to their respective space programs.
The report says satellites could address agricultural challenges by measuring crop health, improve water management by monitoring drought, and track tree cover for more sustainable forest management. In a continent where less than a third of the population has access to broadband, more communication satellites could help people connect to the internet.
We applaud the amazing work, however how will the little countries in Africa benefit from these bursts from the neighboring countries? Is this a joint effort or just individual countries? We, as Africans, should unite! The enemies are too numerous for one to do it by itself. Will this not bankrupt some, and lead the projects to fail? All this brings to mind all the efforts Kadhafi had put in place to have a continental spaceport, space program and satellites to benefit the entire continent. Africa is ready: united we stand, divided we fall, and we need to unite for our efforts to have real impact the way Kwame Nkrumah and Muammar Gaddafi (Kadhafi) envisioned.