“Africa Must Collectively Collaborate on Infrastructure Rather Than Duplicating it across the Continent.” – Dr Valanathan Munsami

To celebrate the 2021 edition of Africa Day on May 25, South African Space Agency (SANSA) organised a webinar themed “African Day – Expanding Africa’s Space Data Currency”. The free webinar showcased some of the innovative solutions and impactful partnerships shaping Africa’s future.

The webinar featured a keynote address from the CEO of SANSA, Dr Valanathan Munsami. He spoke exhaustively about the importance of space science and technology to the African continent, the development in various regions and cooperation between African countries.

According to him, there is an urgent need to analyse countries’ budgets to advance space technology in Africa. He also explained that out of the 40 objectives that the African Union is currently focusing on, 35 require space application. He also discussed the regulatory framework which ensures that Africa remains responsible in their space exploration and how the growth in the African space agencies would lead to the launch of 140 new satellites by 2024.

Dr Munsami also mentioned the need to determine developing nation work with emerging nations and developed nations where he highlighted several cross-cutting points, including:

  • Ensuring financial resources for space programs;
  • Technology readiness and technology maturity;
  • Human capital development; and
  • Infrastructure- how to collectively collaborate on infrastructure rather than duplicating it across the continent.

The second speaker at the event, Dr Mpho Tshisaphungo, delivered a presentation on “Space weather solution for the African continent”, where she focused on how space technologies continue to play an ever-increasing role in our society and the potential of space weather to affect our daily life especially as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

She also addressed how various technological infrastructures, including the power grid, satellites used for communication and navigation, and the Internet of Things (IoT), are especially vulnerable to space weather effects caused by the sun’s variability.

Abani Ahmed Ali also presented on “Improving disaster resilience through the Satellite and Weather Information for Disaster Resilience in Africa (SAWIDRA/RAARS) project.

He explained how the SAWIDRA project, development cooperation between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP-EU), are leveraging space technologies to improve resilience to natural hazards in Sub Saharan African countries. He also discussed how the RARS (Regional Advance retransmission Service) network was utilised for advanced observation and monitoring in Africa by installing four X/L Band antennas in targeted countries – Niger, Kenya, South Africa and Gabon. 

Jonathan Ward delivered a session on “Expanding Africa’s Data Currency – The African instrumentation Network”. He spoke extensively on SANSA’s instrumentation network facility in Hermanus houses approximately 80 instruments across 20 sites that produce 6-10 TB of data per year.

The fifth speaker, Phoebe Oduor, gave a presentation centred around “AfriGEO Initiative, Earth Observation making an impact for societal benefit”. She explained how AfriGEO strengthens the connection with the current GEO principals in national government agencies in Africa, including the African Union, Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS ), Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), Common Maker for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Community for the Sahel Sahara States (CEN-SAD), East African Community (EAC), Economic Communities for the Central African States (ECCAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Nosiseko Mashiyi delivered a session on “GMES and Africa project: Wetland Monitoring and Assessment service for Transboundary Basin in Southern Africa (WEMAST).”

She discussed how the project was birthed to develop an Earth Observation-based system to support decisions in sustainable wetland management in the four transboundary basins in southern Africa, namely: 

  • Cuvelai Basin, which covers part of Angola and Namibia
  • Limpopo Basin, which covers part of Botswana, South Africa and Angola
  • Okavango Basin, which covers part of Botswana and Angola 
  • Zambezi Basin, which covers part of Namibia, Malawi and Zimbabwe

The last speaker, Dr Stewart Bernard, delivered a session on “GMES and Africa: Marine and Coastal Operations for Southern Africa (macro-south)”. He explained that The Marco south consortium is focused on developing marine and coastal services in southern Africa, utilising earth observation tools (the Copernicus- Sentinel) to promote and sustain the growth of the blue economy.

The seminar concluded with a Q&A session. The audience had the opportunity to ask questions regarding the Space technology application in Africa.

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