It is generally agreed that improving Africa’s infrastructure and economy will significantly impact the continent’s long-term viability and, by extension, the well-being of its one billion-plus inhabitants.
However, more and more people are considering how the space sector may help Africa develop. Both the SDGs and Agenda 2063 were created by the United Nations and the African Union to help with global poverty. The organization’s strategic framework for development, democracy, and peace both emphasize the importance of space-based products and services in achieving national and continental agendas.
With this in mind, one of Agenda 2063’s 15 main programs is the African Union’s space policy and strategy. It steers the industry towards growth and serves as the home base for the soon-to-be-functional African Space Agency.
The continental agency aims to enhance human well-being on Earth by applying space-based scientific and technological developments. In addition, it will lead to helping nations that don’t invest much time or resources into space research and technology catch up while also providing a boost of motivation to help strengthen established national space programs.
The dedication of the African Union to space has helped the continent develop a robust space economy. Over the past few years, countries across the continent have formed over 20 separate national space agencies and other space-related institutions.
These days, we can’t imagine living without the goods and services that the space industry provides. For example, satellites for communication and weather forecasting are placed in geostationary orbits 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. They appear to be immobile from this vantage point above the Earth, completing one orbit every 24 hours in the direction of the planet’s rotation and maintaining a steady gaze on the same geographical spot.
They provide a wealth of information that powers the critical but sometimes overlooked services that make up our day-to-day lives in areas like health, education, and the economy.
From their vantage position, satellites in geostationary orbit provide regular weather updates, track climate-related cycles, and facilitate instantaneous worldwide communications for transmitting multimedia, live sporting events, and breaking global news.
This instantaneous connection is crucial for tele-education and tele-medicine, allowing teachers and doctors in metropolitan centers to share their expertise with students and patients in rural areas. Telecommunication satellites are also used in the banking industry, specifically for connecting ATMs to data servers located within a bank.
The role of satellites in disease surveillance
Aside from the geostationary satellites, we also deploy others into lower Earth orbits. Every 100 minutes, on average, these complete one polar orbit around the Earth. As Earth rotates across the plane of rotation, such a satellite will eventually cover the entire planet, making it ideal for use in navigation, positioning, and remote sensing.
Many different goods and services are made possible by remote sensing applications, such as keeping tabs on the condition of our natural resources, keeping tabs on ship traffic in our coastal economic zones, and providing data for precision farming, which can be used to determine when and how much water and fertilizer should be applied to crops.
They can also aid in peacekeeping deployments, ensure public safety, and help detect changes that could indicate the spread of water-borne diseases. Applications that aid with navigation is essential for air and sea travel, while positioning applications are critical for lifesaving purposes.
Another useful application of positioning applications in emerging countries is the provision of geographical addresses for homes in informal settlements that lack postboxes. This paves the way for essential population vector data overlaps on geophysical map underlayers.
Evidence-based decision-making and policymaking rely heavily on the wealth of information provided by satellite imagery and measurements that may be integrated with data collected on the ground. In addition, archival datasets offer a window into the past, allowing researchers to track how demographic and ecological indicators have changed through time.
After policy decisions are made, they can be tracked using the same satellite and on-the-ground platforms. In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics make previously unavailable information instantly accessible, thus increasing data’s value as a decision-making tool.
As a result, it is not shocking to see Africa investing more resources into space research and technology. However, strong national and regional space ecosystems require specific components to guarantee the efficient adoption and use of space products and services.
This is Africa’s chance to become an interplanetary power.
For these ecosystems to be effective, they need four key ingredients: enough people to set up and run the space initiatives; enough businesses to profit from the commercial potential of space; enough physical infrastructure to support the space value chain, and enough international collaboration to ensure that knowledge is shared and spread widely enough that we don’t have to discover the same solutions twice.
Products and services offered by the space industry have virtually limitless potential uses and problem-solving breakthroughs. However, African countries require solid governance and institutional frameworks to take advantage of this.
Key instruments like a space policy (which sectors to focus on and why) and a space strategy (which programs and performance metrics to pursue) are necessary for the development of the space ecosystem on the continent.
Creating an effective and relevant space ecosystem is no easy task, and the African continent lacks the necessary expertise and resources.
Africa may quickly alter the fortunes of its people if it takes a strategic, dedicated, and financially-supported approach to employ space science and technology to support and drive its developmental agenda.