Africa’s Space Endeavors Yield No Results as AUC Seeks Assistance from Europe

Despite 13 African nations launching satellites with taxpayers’ money, the continent is still unable to independently collect space data for climate change mitigation. The African Union Commission (AUC) has recently announced a partnership with the European Meteorological Satellite Agency (Eumetsat) to make up for the shortcoming. This collaboration aims to allow African environmental and meteorological services to access Eumetsat’s data from its next-gen satellite systems and to provide education to maximize the impact of the satellite data.

Satellite data is vital, particularly in Africa, which has been significantly impacted by climate-related disasters. Space technology could potentially solve about 60% of Africa’s problems, according to Samuel Nyangi, an astronomer and the team lead at the Amateur Astronomical Society of Kenya. However, the satellites launched by countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda have had little success in gathering meaningful data.

The annual global value addition from earth observation satellite data is estimated to be $266 billion, which is projected to increase to over $700 billion by 2030. To tap into this burgeoning industry, Africa needs to invest in space infrastructure. Wanjiku Chebet Kanjumba, a Kenyan aerospace engineer and co-founder and CEO of space infrastructure firm Vicillion, suggests that Africa’s proximity to the equator makes it an ideal location for satellite launch pads.

However, despite this potential, Africa’s public spending on space programs was just over $500 million last year, the lowest worldwide. Only 20 African countries currently have an active space program. Experts argue that capacity building is key for the growth of Africa’s space industry.

In contrast, the European Union spent an estimated $2.8 billion on space programs last year, with individual countries like France, Germany, and Italy also spending between $2 billion and $3.5 billion. The European Council is also making efforts to attract more private sector investments to boost the competitiveness of its space industry.

In a move to develop its space infrastructure, Kenya is planning to build a state-owned spaceport. The Kenya Space Agency (KSA) aims to have this completed by at least 80% by 2027, according to their recently published 2023-2027 Strategic Plan.

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