On the grounds of the newly completed structure for the African Space Agency (AfSA), domiciled within Egypt’s Space City, the African Union Commission and the Egyptian government, represented by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, signed an agreement on 25 January 2023 to formally inaugurate and declare AfSA open and operational. The agreement provides the general framework regulating the relationship between both parties, which will serve as a platform for space research and innovation on the continent.
Owing to the realisation of the importance of space-based technologies to AU Agenda 2063 (Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.589 (XXVI)) and the need for an appropriate institution for the effective governance, promotion and coordination of space activities on the continent, the African Union established the African Space Agency per Article 5 (2) of the constitutive Act. Subsequently, during their Twenty-Sixth Ordinary Session on 31 January 2016 in Addis Ababa, the African Union Heads of State and Government adopted the African Space Policy and Strategy as the first concrete steps towards an integrated, prosperous and peaceful use of outer space.
In 2018, the AU put out a bid to find the most suitable country to host the headquarters of the newly formed continental space entity. In 2019, the Commissioner for Human Resources Science and Technology (HRST), H.E Professor Sarah Anayang Agbor, declared that Egypt, Ethiopia and Nigeria were shortlisted by an independent high-level panel as possible host countries for the Agency’s headquarters. Shortly after, Egypt was declared the host country after fulfilling all technical and political requirements.
In 2021, the AUC conducted baseline studies on the four-space segments and the space socio-economic benefits for establishing and operationalising the AfSA. The study aimed to facilitate the achievement of one of the fundamental aspirations of the African Space Policy and Strategy and to develop a sustainable and vibrant indigenous space industry that promotes and responds to Africa’s needs.
The African Space Agency, upon operationalisation, will be the focal point of Africa’s collaboration with Europe and other non-African partners. Furthermore, according to the Agency’s establishing statute, the African Space Agency Act, one of the agency’s objectives is to strengthen “space missions on the continent to ensure optimal access to space-derived data, information, services, and products.”
Several stakeholders have lauded AfSA as the most important achievement for Africa in space, which will stop duplication and redundancy in space activities. In addition, AfSA is expected to properly implement the African space policy and strategy and achieve continental goals as the official space body tasked with coordinating and implementing Africa space policy.
With AfSA in full gear, it will promote technology development across all member states, helping to transition from a resource-dependent industry to a knowledge-based one that intensely leverages digital technologies at its core. The agency will also design an intra-African registry with universal guidelines for countries intending to create space agencies in Africa. This Pan-African guideline would be useful in adopting and regulating the use of space across the continent to ensure the inclusion of every region.
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